2011 record: 1-1
2010 record: 9-3 (7-1 in MEAC, lost in first round of FCS playoffs)
2010 Sagarin: 192 (IU was #98)
Conference: Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
Series: First meeting
TV: 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network
After two disappointing losses, Indiana seeks its first win of the season over FCS team South Carolina State in what, on paper, appears to be the Hoosiers' most winnable game of the season. Still, I do not expect the Bulldogs to be a pushover. SCSU, which is a historically black college, has a long and proud football history. The Bulldogs have been named the Black College National Champions in 1976, 1977, 1981, and most recently in 2009. Coach Buddy Pough,has never had a losing season and has lost four or fewer games in every season from 2003 to present. SCSU has qualified for the FCS playoffs in each of the last three seasons as the MEAC champ, losing in the first round each time. In 2009, the Bulldogs made a run at FCS power Appalachian State in the FCS playoffs, losing by 7. Still, while quite losable, this is not a game that the Hoosiers should drop. SCSU has not defeated an FBS team in the last 25 years and has never made a serious run at beating a team from a major conference. One other historical note: while South Carolina State has never played IU and has rarely left the south, the Bulldogs have played in Indiana before: SCSU beat Tennessee State 30-13 in the 2004 Circle City Classic, and beat Jackson State 34-33 in the Classic in 1993.
The Bulldogs' trademark over the years has been the quality of the defense. SCSU ranked #2 in FCS in total defense last season, and in the top 4 in all major categories (pass defense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, and scoring defense). This has been borne out in the Bulldogs first two games. SCSU lost 21-6 to Central Michigan in the season opener, but CMU converted only 3-14 third downs and punted 8 times. CMU could get nothing going on the ground (2.5 yards per carry, 88 yards, and of the Chippewas' 256 yards of total offense, 112 yards came on two big pass plays, both of which went for touchdowns. The bad news for SCSU is that against a MAC defense, the Bulldogs mustered only 137 yards of offense. In week two, while SCSU defeated its MEAC rival Bethune Cookman, the story wasn't much prettier for the offense. The Bulldogs gained only 211 yards on offense and turned the ball over 5 times. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, although Bethune Cookman outgained SCSU by nearly 200 yards (397 yards of total offense, including 245 passing), the defense forced five turnovers as well, and points scored by the defense (an interception return for a TD and a safety) provided the margin of victory.
Junior Derrick Wiley is in his first season as starting QB for SCSU, and he has struggled. Wiley has competed only 19 of 45 pass attempts for a total of 124 yards, no TDs, and 2 INTs. Freshman QB Richard Cue stepped in briefly against Bethune Cookman, and completed one of two pass attempts for the Bulldogs' only TD pass of the season. Wiley also is the Bulldogs' leading rusher, with a total of 89 yards. Top running back Asheton Jordan has gained 67 yards on 22 attempts.
Frankly, it will be disappointing if this is not a very comfortable win for IU. The SCSU offense has struggled against MAC and FCS opposition, and even the typically strong defense was not very good against Bethune Cookman. On the other hand, SCSU has shown a propensity for forcing turnovers, so this may be a good test for Edward Wright-Baker's decision-making progress. The win is the most important part, but hopefully this game will provide plenty of opportunity for improvement and spreading around some playing time. Indiana 38, SCSU 9.