Inside Indiana: 'A game they have to win'
Our conversation with Dustin Dopirak, the Bloomington Herald Times and Hoosierscoop.com beat writer
Is there a sense that this offense might be better without Tre Roberson at quarterback?
There definitely isn’t that sense among the fan base. In fact, our columnist Andy Graham has argued that Indiana would be 4-3 or 5-2 with the benefit of Roberson, and many of the fans have agreed. But I can’t say for certain that that perspective is right because imagining Roberson as quarterback virtually requires the construction of a parallel universe. Every what-if situation does that, but I think this one is particularly unique.
But, Indiana couldn’t be in a much better situation for a team that’s lost its starting quarterback. Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld have both had their bad moments, but it’s quite obvious they can throw the ball, and the Hoosiers are the best passing team in the country. The loss of Roberson’s athleticism costs the Hoosiers an element of their running game. Bottom line, you could spend a lot of time arguing what would have happened if Roberson never broke his leg, but you can’t argue that IU’s quarterback play has been subpar overall.
If the Indiana basketball team played at Memorial Stadium would it fill the place?
For conference games and the North Carolina game, no question. For the other non-league games, it would at least be more full than the football games. And I think if Indiana and Kentucky had come to an agreement about playing at Lucas Oil this year (that’s a long story, obviously) they could have filled the joint for that, too.
Even though they haven’t been winning, is there any belief that this program is headed in the right direction?
Honestly, there’s lots of belief in that regard, but I’d also say that if every rebuilding effort is analogous to pushing a big rock up a hill, Indiana is still at the point where it sort of rolled the rock back, took a running start on a flat surface and is now making upward progress with some momentum. But it hasn’t yet reached the point where the last administration lost its ability to maintain forward progress, which was right at the brink of a winning season. It’s evident that this team has bought in to the philosophies of Kevin Wilson, who is a much more demanding coach than Bill Lynch. There is evidence that there’s some talent there. The offensive system appears to be one that can score a lot of points. The chemistry is night and day compared to how it was a year ago when there were a number of player defections. In addition, the Hoosiers are putting together the best recruiting haul they can imagine. There are three four-star recruits in the mold, and there is a chance they can get a number of other highly ranked in-state players. There is a lot of positive momentum going. The question is whether Indiana will be able to sustain that and break through the barriers that others have been felled by. They haven’t reached those landmarks yet.
Does the team view the Illinois game as one of the most winnable on the schedule?
Whether the team says that or not, the numbers suggest that’s pretty evident. I mean, I think in the places in their hearts and minds that the Hoosiers are smart enough not to commit to public record, they realize that if they don’t win this one, it’s going to be hard for Indiana to beat anyone else. This week, the Hoosiers get a team that’s been outscored 111-21. They know Illinois is much more talented than that, and Nathan Scheelhaase destroyed them last year. I think they know it’s not an easily winnable game, but it’s a game they have to win.
Give us a prediction.
I’ll go with Indiana 31, Illinois 24. I just think the Hoosiers get one. It’s not going to be easy, and they could actually get crushed if Michael Buchanan goes crazy and the Illini bring a mean pass rush, because that killed IU last year. Illinois is going to score points because this Hoosier defense is still very much finding itself (It’s making gradual improvements). But I think IU just wills this one to happen for once.