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Indiana football 2008 season in review: the pre-conference.


It won't be much fun, but this is the first in what will be a series of posts reviewing the 2008 season.  As I said last fall, IU's 2008 was was not a bump in the road or a minor setback: IU drove off a cliff last season.  Here's a repost of what I said about the Hoosiers' point differential last season:



In all games, IU scored 246 points and allowed 423 for a margin of -177. IU was -187 and -211 in 2002 and 2003, Gerry Dinardo's first two years, and -239 in 1997, Cam Cameron's first year. Before that, it's necessary to go back to 1970 to find a worse point differential. For what it's worth, the 11 game schedule and the eight game Big Ten schedule began in 1971. One might argue that it's not fair to compare a point differential in a 12 game to an 11 game season. I disagree. IU's numbers this year are bad despite a +60 differential in games against I-AA Murray State and essentially I-AA Western Kentucky. The 1997 nonconference schedule included a Mack Brown-led North Carolina team that finished 11-1 and a mediocre Kentucky team. The 2002 schedule, while not murderer's row, included road trips to Utah (5-6) and Kentucky (7-5). The 2003 schedule included road trips to Connecticut (9-3) and Washington (6-6). In other words, the 12 game schedule, which included two functional exhibition games in addition to two good MAC teams, made IU's point differential look better than it should, not worse.

A review of IU's Big Ten performance confirms this. In the eight Big Ten games, IU scored only 116 points and allowed 328. In other words, IU was outscored by 212 points in Big Ten play and the average score of a Big Ten game was 41-15. Here are the Big Ten point differentials for other bad seasons since the eight game schedule was introduced in 1971 (although the Big Ten did play a nine game schedule in 1983 and 1984):

2008: -212
2005: -148
2004: -99
2003: -175
2002: -168
2000: -116
1999: -86
1998: -105
1997: -207
1996: -87
1995: -175
1985: -124
1984: -112
1983: -163
1981: -115
1974: -81
1973: -132
1971: -108

Again, even with the win against Northwestern included, IU's average Big Ten game was a 26 point loss.  IU's conference point differential in 2008 was 100 points worse than that of the 1984 team, Bill Mallory's first, a team that went 0-11 and played a nine-game Big Ten schedule.  I don't mean to reopen old wounds, or to suggest that point differential is the ultimate means of comparing teams.  Teams score more points these days, so my guess is that blowouts are uglier than they used to be.  Still, this remarkably uncompetitive season came against what Sagarin ranked the #83 schedule in Division I.  No BCS conference school played an easier schedule.  IU has a long, long, long way to go. 

Still, IU opened the season in fine fashion last season, albeit against less-than-overwhelming competition.  IU's first two opponents were Western Kentucky, nominally a I-A team but in its first year of competition, and full-fledged I-AA team Murray State. 

Indiana 31, Western Kentucky 13.  IU didn't dominate on the scoreboard, but did in the stat book:

WKU quarterback KJ Black completed 19 of 31 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown. IU's two QBs combined for a similar completion percentage but managed only 153 yards in the air, albeit with two touchdowns. The difference was on the ground. IU ran for 297 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per carry. WKU ran for 63 yards and only 2.0 yards per carry. Even setting aside Kellen Lewis's two long TD runs, for a combined 137 yards on two carries, IU still averaged a solid 4.1 yards per carry.

Perhaps a less than overwhelming margin of victory should have been a red flag.  Instead, my biggest concern was Marcus Thipgpen's 8 carries/18 yards performance.  Of course, Thigpen ended up as one of IU's few 2008 standouts.  Ah, hindsight. 

Indiana 45, Murray State 3.  IU played much better in game 2, and committed zero penalties, which seemed like a big deal at the time but was a harbinger of nothing.  While most of the standout performances were by the departed, Ben Chappell was 6-7 passing in this game, and Demetrius McCray managed 45 yards and a TD on 8 carries.  All of the scoring and all of the competition was over by the end of the third quarter.

I hope you enjoyed that brief recap of 66.6 percent of IU's 2008 wins.  It only gets uglier from here.