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Indiana football is in neutral. What should come next?

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After two straight 5-7 seasons and Bucket Game losses, the Hoosiers can’t afford to be stagnant this offseason.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Yogi Berra would have love this year’s Bucket Game, as it was déjà vu all over again.

Last year, Indiana lost to Purdue 31-24, in a game that sent 5-6 Purdue to a bowl game and ended 5-6 Indiana’s season. The seven-point final score was not as close as the score indicated, as Purdue was the more explosive team, and controlled the game throughout.

This year, Indiana lost to Purdue 28-21, in a game that sent 5-6 Purdue to a bowl game and ended 5-6 Indiana’s season. The seven-point final score was not as close as the score indicated, as Purdue was the more explosive team, and controlled the game throughout.

One thing is clear from yesterday – Indiana is a football program stuck in neutral, and the Hoosiers need to make changes from within to be more competitive next year.

I don’t think this means Tom Allen needs to go. Yes, I was critical of his hire and lack of coaching search to begin with, and I’ve criticized him so much by now that he’s blocked me on Twitter. But I don’t want Indiana to completely pull the rug under from Allen, either. Doing that after two years at a historically cursed football program like Indiana is not a wise decision, and the recruiting setbacks would be brutal and turn the Hoosiers into Rutger or Illinois.

That being said, Allen needs to take a strong look at what’s keeping this program from trending upward. And he needs support from the administration as well.

Here are three things I think IU needs to do going forward with the football team.

Treat Allen like a Big Ten head coach, in terms of a financial commitment

Right now, Allen is the lowest-paid coach in the Big Ten, and is paid on the level of AAC and Mountain West coaches. If you’re the university and you think Allen is the guy, you gotta pay him like a coach in his conference, and also make a financial commitment towards assistants. Allen’s also picked up a couple nice recruiting classes, which IU might not easily make up if these players transfer. So, keep Allen around, but with the recognition that he needs a staff shakeup, and that IU will financially commit to new staff hires. Such as...

Thank Mike DeBord for his time and hire a new OC

The offense has been anemic this season, to put it lightly. DeBord’s conservative playcalling does IU no favors, and there’s no offensive philosophy other than throwing short of the sticks on third-and-long. Sometimes this is a run-first team, other times Ramsey throws a ton of short passes. And like with Simmie Cobbs last year, DeBord never really utilized big-bodies receivers Nick Westbrook and Donovan Hale enough. The holding back of Mike Penix at the beginning of the season was frustrating as well. Indiana’s offense has been on the downswing since Kevin Wilson’s final season, and the Hoosiers have fallen back even further under DeBord, who was criticized for similar reasons at Michigan and Tennessee. And this was nowhere more prevalent than in the Bucket Game, when Purdue did a great job of opening up the offense and getting Rondale Moore in space. It’s time for a change from DeBord, and if Allen can’t see this, then maybe we need a full restart.

Hire a full-time DC and defensive playcaller

The defense for Indiana regressed in 2018, falling from 26th to 87th and giving up at least 28 points in every game post-Rutger. Some of that has to do with attrition from last year’s class, but it’s uncharacteristic for Allen, who’s made his name on good defenses. Allen hinted in his final presser that he might give up defensive playcalling duties, and I think it might be time to turn that side of the ball over to an assistant who he trusts, and have him focus on head coaching duties.

Looking forward to 2019, things will just get harder for the Hoosiers. Purdue and Minnesota — two programs that did coaching searches around the time Allen was hired — are improving and both made bowls. Maryland’s about to get a new guy. Nebraska is gonna get a lot of hype this offseason. The blue bloods in the B1G will still be on the schedule next year. Indiana can’t afford another tepid season like this one was. It’s time to make some changes within the program.