Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Southern Illinois Salukis (FCS) v. Indiana Hoosiers (#81 Projected F/+)
When? 4:00 PM, Bloomington, Indiana
Channel? ESPN News
Vegas? haha are you kidding
Football has, at long last, returned to us. This Saturday marks the 124th season of the Indiana Hoosiers football team, a season seen by many as a make-or-break year for Kevin Wilson and company. In fact, that's the title of Bill Connelly's season preview of the Hoosiers! If you haven't had a chance to read it, I highly recommend you do.
Indiana starts their season the way many fine college programs do: cutting a check to an FCS school to come up the road and get pounded into the dirt for a few hours. Though it should be noted that the season opener hasn't always been kind to the Hoosiers under Kevin Wilson:
2014: INDIANA 28, Indiana State 10
2013: INDIANA 73, Indiana State 35 (this was fine)
2012: INDIANA 24, Indiana State 17
2011: Indiana 20, BALL STATE 27
Granted, Indiana only lost one of these games (the first game under Kevin Wilson's tenure) and the 2013 opener was the football analog of speedballing, but each game seemed to highlight concerns that would magnify as the season went on. Last year, it was the inability of the receiving corps to separate and catch the ball, 2013 was an inability to consistently get stops, 2012 was an inability to tackle, and 2011 was an inability to do literally anything correctly for any great length of time.
It seems almost too simple, but there is some anecdotal evidence suggesting that if Indiana struggles to do something in a season opener against an FCS team, they'll likely struggle to do it as the competition stiffens.
It's the Southern Illinois Salukis! Saluki is a dumb word. Salukis must be dumb and lame. What is a dumb Saluki anyway?
OH YOU'RE NOT DUMB AT ALL. YOU'RE ADORABLE AND MAJESTIC AND I WANT TO FEED YOU SNACKS AND RUN THROUGH MEADOWS WITH YOU.
Southern Illinois profiles like a lot of FCS team, a lack of standalone star power but a system that retains its identity and effectiveness in spite of the revolving door of collegiate arrivals and departures. That said, even the best FCS programs should have a very tough time against any team in a Power 5 Conference.
s h o u l d.
Bill Lynch was the interim coach for the game, and say what you will, but this guy knew how to make an entrance.
Granted, this was nine years ago, which qualifies as ancient history by college football standards. Neither team is being coached by the same guy and the term I-AA isn't even used anymore. Remember Kellen Lewis? He started that game! James Hardy missed it because of a suspension! Whatever happened to those guys? Anything memorable? SIU isn't quite the FCS-powerhouse they were in the first decade of the new millenium, and have turned in their share of mediocre seasons the past few seasons.
The Salukis do return their quarterback from last season, a fifth-year senior from Eastern Michigan, Mark Iannotti, who chucked 22 scores last season against only eight interceptions. He is one of only nine returning starters from last year's 6-6 (3-5) campaign that saw double digit losses to Purdue and Indiana State. That's, well, that's not very good. Losing to Purdue under Darrell Hazell puts SIU in very elite company, along with Western Michigan (barely), Indiana State (barely), and Illinois. In fact, the Salukis are only one of two teams to have been beaten by Hazell's Boilermakers by double digits, the other being Tim Beckman's Illini, of course.
Perhaps a fair bit of roster turnover isn't the worst idea, given those circumstances.
The Hoosiers come into the season, as always, with plenty of unanswered questions as well. Nate Sudfeld returns after missing most of the season with a shoulder injury, but many of his weapons do not. Shane Wynn (graduation), Tevin Coleman (NFL), Nick Stoner (graduation), D'Angelo Roberts (graduation), J-Shun Harris (injury), Myles Graham (transfer), accounted for 30 of the 32 touchdowns the offensive skill players scored last season, and none of them will be on the field for the Hoosiers this year. Devine Redding and Jordan Fuchs are the only returning skill players to cross the goal line last season, with one apiece.
It's hard to get too worked up about the offense, though, as Kevin Wilson never struggled to get the ball in the endzone until he was forced to task a true freshman to do it. Much like ever preceding season, particularly under Wilson, the Hoosiers biggest concerns lie with their ability to prevent points. Scoring 42 points is only fun when you don't give up 45, particularly to MAC teams and ahhhhhhghakdhjlkjfsdkuoiewuroidfasdf
This is probably the most talented front seven Indiana has seen in some time, but there's lot of things about the secondary to, uh, wonder about.* The unit will field four redshirt sophomores, including Chase Dutra, who snagged three picks last season and has the most experience to build on in the secondary. Tony Fields and Noel Padmore didn't play much last season, but both were highly touted recruits out of SEC COUNTRY and Saban missed out on a couple gems 'cause he got caught seein' stars ah tell you what.
*That's the nicest way to say: be absolutely horrified of.
Hoosiers should dominate in every phase of the game against the Salukis, and as discussed above, any particular area of struggle will be red-flagged as a potential season-long issue. I think Kevin Wilson and company will buck the trend of struggling with the first opponent of the year and run away with this one early, let's say 45-14. Should I be wrong, I desperately hope that #SIUTwitter rises up and shares this link with the caption "STUPID BLOGGER DIDN'T BELIEVE IN US BUT WE HERE" and I also just hope that #SIUTwitter exists, period.