Tom Allen’s calling card has been defense for the Hoosiers. Since his arrival, he’s turned a defensive unit that was one of the worst in all of Power 5 into a top-25 defense in all of college football. This year’s no different so far - the Hoosiers rank 22nd in defensive S&P+ through five games.
The trouble, however, resides on the offensive side of the ball. And a shaky performance against Rutger makes the rest of the Big Ten season a more daunting task.
Since Nate Sudfeld left, there’s been a dropoff in efficiency for the IU offense. It started during Kevin Wilson’s last year, when the S&P+ fell from 19th to 67th. It continued in Allen’s first season, finishing at 97th. Now after 5 games, the offense rates 89th. This comes after facing one really good defense in MSU, a solid one in UVA, and three that rank in the bottom half of college football: Rutger, Ball State, and FIU.
The struggles come mainly in the running game. Indiana ranks 99th in rushing marginal efficiency, and 83rd in marginal efficiency on standard downs (defined here as “first downs, second-and-7 or fewer, third-and-4 or fewer, and fourth-and-4 or fewer”). Morgan Ellison is back practicing with the team, but he’s still suspended indefinitely and it’s questionable when he’ll see the field. Meanwhile, Stevie Scott started out with a bang, but got bottled up against Sparty and Rutger in the first two Big Ten contests of the season.
Meanwhile, the passing game isn’t bad! Peyton Ramsey is completing a whopping 71% of passes, and the marginal passing efficiency ranks a respectable 43rd. On passing downs (defined here as “second-and-8 or more, third-and-5 or more, or fourth-and-5 or more”), Indiana ranks 50th. That’s not terrible either.
However, it’s the explosiveness on passing plays where IU struggles. The passing marginal explosiveness ranks 121st out of 130 FBS teams. And on passing downs, this ranking falls to 122nd. Not good!
So, I’m afraid teams that play IU might already be onto something. They know that the Hoosier offense won’t challenge them deep, and are content to stuff the box and sto pthe run game, and let Ramsey dink and dunk passes for short gains. Thus, I think Indiana needs to switch up their offensive playcalling philosophy if they want to make noise in the B1G going forward.
Luckily, they’ve got a decent opponent to try this out on.
IU is almost certainly not beating Ohio State. So let’s nip that in the bud right away. However, if the Buckeyes are bad at one thing, it’s defending explosive plays. They rank 127th out of 130 in this metric. So if there was ever a week where IU should get creative and try something new on offense, it would be this one. And it doesn’t get any easier - between OSU, Iowa, and Penn State all coming up in the next three weeks, the Hoosiers face three top-25 defenses.
Let’s hope the Hoosiers give it a shot, because they can’t be complacent with the offense right now, even with a 4-1 record on the season.