As head coach Tom Allen wraps up his fourth and final set of forearm curls at the Bloomington LA Fitness to which he belongs, he notices a BTN feature playing silently on the flatscreen above the ellipticals. The feature is about Penn State football. Gerry DiNardo looks positively orgasmic as the chyron reads “Is Saquon Barkley the Best Player in America?”
Allen shakes his head and sits back down on the bench for a fifth set with the 35s. Beads of sweat form on his taut forehead. As the head football coach, he can use the weight room in the IU practice facility whenever he wants, and begrudges no employee of the program who takes advantage of the perk. But Allen shuns this privilege. He prefers the public experience at LA Fitness. He wants to be among le peuple, a fixture of the Bloomington community–a townie. He is, after all, a hoosier and a Hoosier.
Tom Allen wants the IU fans and the residents of Bloomington to beam with pride at the mention of his name or the boys in Cream & Crimson. He knows he can’t turn IU into a football school, but he hopes to hold fans’ attention a couple weeks past those preseason, voluntary, player-directed basketball walkthroughs — “the good stuff,” as they’re known in Fort Wayne.
Nodding to himself, he contemplates that he has the talent on both sides of the ball to do it. Lagow, Cobbs, Westbrook: these are all-conference players. Scales, Fant, Ball: same deal. Allen starts thinking about winning eight games, and his manhood becomes engorged. The blood is throbbing through his body. Just then, Allen realizes he’s been curling the dumbbells for four whole minutes. He’s done hundreds of reps when he was only supposed to do 10.
Blood streaming from his shredded palms, Allen smiles and shrugs at a few horrified lifters as if to say, “This is the price of elevating Indiana football.”
Allen excuses himself from the free-weight room and helps himself to a couple gently used towels from the hamper, wrapping each hand to halt the drip-drip-drip of blood onto the floor. His erection is firm. His mind is focused. His vision is clear: eight wins.
Snapshot memories of his days — not so long ago — coaching high school football flash before his eyes. He sees Gary Shields, his starting left guard, and a tear wells in his eye as he remembers the tractor crash. It’s almost like deja vu, the sensation is so strong, so real.
Allen returns to the present day. The LA Fitness is a buzzing hive of average bodies. He looks around for a moment before dropping both blood-stained towels and screaming, “WE OPEN WITH OHIO STATE.”
Confused gymgoers stop for a couple beats to bear witness to this man’s public confession before returning to their workouts. Allen is satisfied. Indiana football is on the minds of at least a quarter of these people. And eight wins are attainable.
Best Case Scenario
RB coach Mike Hart teaches Tyler Natee to play, in the words of Fred Jackson, “like Mike Hart with size,” and Indiana makes the Big Ten East race interesting with wins over two of Penn State (away), Ohio State, or Michigan (at home). Or they win one of those, and beat Wisconsin. Avoiding catastrophe in six of their other eight games means going 9-3 with a who-cares-what-happens bowl game, the kind of season IU fans have been dreaming of since they began reading this preview.
Worst Case Scenario
Continuing its tendency to lose winnable games, Indiana blows fourth quarter leads to Virginia and Maryland, and salts away an upset of Michigan…again. QB coach Nick Sheridan teaches Richard Lagow to play exactly like Nick Sheridan, and the Hoosiers go into the Purdue finale needing a win to make a bowl. But Jeff Brohm’s innovative offense clicks into place just as Mike Debord’s has fully ossified, and the Boilermakers put on a show through the air — the show Indiana should have been putting on all year. A Hoosiers squad that deserved to do better goes 5-7 and fans who still care enter a long offseason wondering, what now?
Most Likely Scenario
Saying eight wins is likely of a team that hasn’t had a winning season in a decade and eight wins in a quarter century risks one’s credibility. But LB Tegray Scales and S Rashard Fant are the class of the league, and Richard Lagow is throwing to two of the most gifted wide receivers in the conference. We see Tom Allen bringing out the best in his players while never resorting to the worst in himself, while some of those close, painful games start to fall Indiana’s way. Be the first in your friend group to predict a 7-5 record and insist that any bowl can be won.
Did You Know?
Former Hoosier Bernard Vonnegut, brother of author Kurt, discovered a method of cloud-seeding using silver iodide.
Fantasy-wise, Richard Lagow had a statistically successful first season as the Hoosier starter. This year, bigger things would have been expected from Lagow in Kevin Wilson’s offense, but as mentioned above, new coach Tom Allen imported Michigan vet Mike DeBord, whose offensive philosophy veers toward the radically dull. Redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey seized the backup job after a great spring, and he’s one to keep in waiver-wire mind in case Lagow throws too many picks or takes too many licks.
Don’t waste an early pick on an Indiana running back. There are six players with legitimate chances to be the “feature” back, and a more than likely chance of the fantasy deathtrap known as RB by committee. The contenders are Mike Majette, Devonte Williams, Tyler Natee, Cole Gest, Alex Rodriguez, and Ricky Brookins. Reports are Majette will get the call at the beginning, but who knows how long that lasts.
When Simmie Cobbs went down with a season-ending injury early last year, it could have spelled disaster for Indiana, but Nick Westbrook emerged with a great season and is now your returning league leader in receiving yards. At 6’4” and 6’3” respectively, Cobbs and Westbrook are imposing outside threats and probably very easy to see. Both guys could collect 900+ yards and 6-8 touchdowns. Turning the Paige on the Mitchell era, the slot or secondary receiver roles now fall to some combination of Luke Timian, a finally healthy J-Shun Harris II, and Donovan Hale.
Danny Friend and Ian Thomas sound just nice. In an offense this DeBoring, they may even be worthy fantasy contributors, especially the über-athletic Thomas.
Griffin Oakes is back after a strangely down season, and we think he’s more than ready for a rebound. He could be a top four kicker.
When Indiana fired Kevin Wilson and went all-in on defensive coordinator Tom Allen, they were sending a message that defense was finally a priority for Hoosier football. Allen cut Indiana’s national defensive rankings in half last year, and with great players like Tegray Scales, Marcelino Ball, and Rashard Fant returning, he will be expected to bring this unit even further along. It’s still not one of the conference’s best, and they have to play against Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State, so don’t waste a fourth rounder on the Hoosiers, but maybe think about a fifth or sixth, depending how fast defenses are coming off the board.
Indiana’s win against Purdue
Their loss to Michigan
Shine on You Crazy Diamont