Ed note: Welcome to the first weekly installment of MOST THINGS ARE FINE, our college football roundup from the weekend that was. I'll probably forget to write these by roughly Week 8, but, hey, you didn't come to this website for reliable, timely reporting on college football.
Should you be excited about this particular Indiana football yet?
Hell, I don't know. Maybe. Maybe not. There's evidence here to make your case that Indiana Is Good Now if you'd like. Tom Allen's brand new 4-2-5 defense has surrendered all of 26 points in two weeks. Devine Redding's leading the Big Ten in rushing yards. Richard Lagow hasn't thrown a pick in either of his first two collegiate starts. Indiana's fourth in the nation in turnover margin. These are good things, and things to be excited about. Ben's already talked about that.
Of course, those two wins have also come over FIU and Ball State -- two programs not expected to provide a ton in the way of offense in 2016. Other blogs and fans will selectively look at the box score interpretation that most supports the argument that Their Team Is Better Than Indiana. They trailed FIU in the fourth quarter, look what Maryland did! They only beat Ball State by ten! Playing the margin-of-victory game over inferior early-season opponents is often a horrible predictor of future success, but, sure, die on this hill if you wish.
The reality? Just wait three more dang weeks before we start espousing opinions. Wake Forest and Michigan State are hardly offensive juggernauts themselves -- neither Kendall Hinton nor Tyler O'Connor will be taking the top off the Indiana defense when each team comes to Bloomington on September 24 and October 1. But those are winnable tests for this Indiana football team -- yes, Michigan State, too. If they're able to get past both of those, you can feel safer hitting the hype button before heading to The Shoe on October 8.
Injuries to Simmie Cobbs (ankle) and Dan Feeney (concussion) are certainly concerning. Cobbs is likely done for the season, and Wilson has already said Indiana's very sensitive in handling player concussions. He might play against Wake Forest in two weeks. He might not. But Kevin Wilson's Play Literally Everyone system creates depth and allows players to be replaceable. It's why Indiana didn't skip much of a beat when switching from Stephen Houston to Tevin Coleman to Jordan Howard to now Devine Redding at running back. It's why J-Shun Harris' injury before last season was mitigated with Mitchell Paige's emergence. Indiana will miss it's leading receiver, but Kevin Wilson will find someone to catch passes -- he always does. Right now, that looks like it's going to be Nick Westbrook. He's fourth in the Big Ten in receiving yards over the first two weeks. Good enough.
Despite the pall of the injuries and the optimism of the defense, this Indiana team is just fine, for now. Let's wait just a bit more to call it anything more than that. It's fine. Indiana is fine.
Other things in the Big Ten that were pretty fine
Hey, Maryland might be good-ish! I'd still like to see more from Maryland Quarterback/Local Municipal Golf Course Perry Hills to indicate that he can actually throw the football when needed, but it's hard to fault much they've done over the course of the first two weeks. FIU might still be a bowl team, and the Terps dispatched them quickly.
Oh, and Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa all look like legitimate contenders. Wisconsin followed up the win over LSU with another win over Akron at home. There are six Big Ten teams in the AP Top 13. That is decidedly fine.
Things in in the Big Ten (and contiguous states) that weren't fine
Northwestern! Northwestern's not fine at all! Northwestern might even be very bad!
Pat's Cats followed up the season-opening loss to PJ Fleck and Western Michigan, with, oh, no, nooooooooooooo
This was a close game all game. And right down to the very last second. https://t.co/MEjJ9z4HKh— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) September 10, 2016
Yes, that's Northwestern -- a 10-win team a year ago that finished the regular season ranked 12th in the country -- scoring 7 whole dang points against an FCS opponent. And, like, sure Illinois State's now a regular FCS playoff participant under former Purdue assistant Brock Spack, but that's still a Big Ten offense scoring 7 whole dang points against an FCS defense after losing to a MAC school the week before.
Might Northwestern just be all kinds of assy and bad? Here it from friend of the blog and former InsideNU writer/Northwestern alum Ben Goren!
Northwestern is abjectly terrible. They lost three of the five players that made their defense so great last year (both starting ends Deonte Gibson and Dean Lowry plus All-B1G corner Nick Van Hoose), the replacements have been "eh" at best and "trash" at worst, and Anthony Walker looks slow. The offense is a trash fire, but a super boring trash fire that just like smolders without any pretty flames. We're going to go 2-10 but it's ok because I went to the Medill School of Journalism.
Northwestern's bad. If they're unable to to knock off an equally odious Duke team this Saturday in Evanston, there's a decent chance they'll be 0-6 when Indiana comes to town on October 22. APR score is excellent, though.
Speaking of Wildcats, STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPS.
Kentucky lost to Florida for the 30th straight time on Saturday, and Mark Stoops has two of his seven yearly losses out of the way early. Matt Jones is miserable as hell, and thus, this is all very good.
UK Football fans have hit a level of frustration that may be the highest I have ever seen. After decades of supporting the team at levels far above any natural reward, Kentucky fans have collectively just about had it and the miserable experience Saturday caused many to reach their wits end. After years of rationalizing every explanation in the book as to why Kentucky football is not successful, a stark realization is upon us. The time for excuses is over as Mark Stoops and Mitch Barnhart now must either produce or face the consequences.
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, yeah, yeah. That's the good stuff. Give me more. Let's go to West Lafayette, where they're trying to raise money to buy out Darrell Hazell in the second week of the season after getting drubbed by Cincinnati!
This last point is just a coach bailing out on players that he has already failed to develop. People can talk about a lack of talent across the board, but it is year four. Hazell recruited the majority of these players. He and his staff have also failed to develop them in meaningful ways. As we can see above, the same mistakes that were there in year one are still here in year four. This is before you address things that aren’t statistically tracked, such as missed blocks, missed tackles, missed assignments that lead to big plays, incorrect routes, and poor reads. Those are still there too.
At some point it is not a talent issue but a coaching issue. The fact that these problems have persisted for 38 games have made it pretty clear it is a coaching issue.
Indiana might be down a star wideout for the season, but it could be worse.