My Two Cents: Are People Undervaluing Indiana Football By Leaving Them Out of Top-25?
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Preseason polls really don't mean anything, but it at least gets your curiosity up. So when Pro Football Focus released its way-too-early college football top-25 on Thursday, Indiana wasn't in it.
So that raises the question. Should we be upset that Indiana isn't considered a top-25 team? Do they have the talent to do so? Will they be ranked during the course of the 2020 season, and at the end of the year?
All good, reasonable questions.
PFF, which knows the college game well, had Clemson as its preseason No. 1, with Ohio State close behind at No. 2. They have Penn State at No. 9, Michigan at No. 11 and Wisconsin at No. 13. All four of those teams are on Indiana's schedule this season, with only Penn State coming to Bloomington.
Iowa (No. 17) and Minnesota (No. 22) are also ranked. The Hoosiers avoid them, with Illinois and Purdue as their other two Big Ten West crossover games besides that Sept. 4 season opener — hopefully — at Wisconsin.
Let's answer those questions then and, please, feel free to jump in with your comments.
1. Should we be upset Indiana isn't ranked?
Maybe upset is the wrong word, but I guess I get a little disappointed when I don't see Indiana ranked. And here's why. I don't think there's any question that Indiana turned a corner last year, winning eight games for the first time since 1993 and being ranked — albeit for just one week — for the first in in 25 years, ending the longest drought in the nation. (Purdue has that now.)
Ranking teams in 2020 often has something to do with 2019's results, and I'm guessing that a different outcome in the Gator Bowl against Tennessee might have affected perceptions of this Indiana team. Indiana had the Vols beat, and let that game — and an all-important ninth win — slip away late in the fourth quarter.
As I said, preseason polls don't mean diddly, but it's always better to be there than not be there, especially out on the recruiting trail. Tennessee, by the way, is probably getting a boost from that bowl win. The Vols are ranked No. 19 in that PFF poll.
Here's one more "build off a bowl win'' nugget. Tennessee has the No. 2-ranked recruiting class in the country right now, with 23 commitments. (Indiana is ranked No. 58, with seven commitments, according to the 247Sports composite.)
2. Do they have the talent to do so?
I don't think there's any question that Indiana is going to be a very competitive team this year. The defense should be better with so many starters returning at all three levels, and I liked what they've added. Getting a consistent pass rush is my only real concern.
Offensively, I love their weapons at the skill positions, starting with Michael Penix Jr. at quarterback. The running back tandem of Stevie Scott and Sampson James will be dynamic, Peyton Hendershot should be an all-Big Ten tight end if all his legal problems go away and Whop Philyor leads a young but threatening receiver corps. There are questions along the offensive line because of so many graduation hits, but I think all the answers are there, too.
Those four games against ranked opponents certainly will be difficult, but Indiana should be favored in the other eight, though not by much in a few of them. A lot, obviously, depends on Penix staying healthy, because he hasn't been able to do that his first two years in Bloomington. But the potential is certainly there.
3. Will they be ranked in 2020?
If you win the eight you're supposed to — and there's no guarantee of that — and lose to those four ranked teams, 8-4 at the end of the regular season probably does have you ranked, because the losses aren't bad losses.
If it goes status quo and Indiana loses the opener at Wisconsin but then wins six straight against Western Kentucky, Ball State, Connecticut, Maryland, Rutgers and Michigan State — all games they will be favored in — I would certainly expect Indiana to be ranked heading into that Oct. 31 game at home against Penn State.
And if you want to really dream big, who's to say they can't win at Wisconsin in the season opener, especially if it's played with no fans and the home field advantage — maybe the best in the Big Ten — isn't there for the Badgers? And then, if they're 7-0 heading into Penn State, the question isn't IF they are ranked, it's HOW HIGH?
One of my Sports Illustrated colleagues at Michigan, in his bold predictions for the year, even thought the Indiana's long losing streak to the Wolverines could end this year.
So, beat Wisconsin in an empty Camp Randall in September. Beat Michigan in Ann Arbor in November, beat Penn State at home on Halloween night on national TV and host College GameDay that day after nearly beating them in Happy Valley last year?
Tom, Tom, Tom!!! Wake up!!! Sorry, was day-dreaming there for a minute. What was the question?
Oh yeah, back to the question. Will Indiana be ranked in 2020?
Of course they will.
Related stories on Indiana football
- PLAYERS WILL SEE CHANGE WHEN THEY RETURN: It will be safety first when players come back to campus for voluntary workouts, with the emphasis on keeping everyone healthy. CLICK HERE
- NCAA APPROVES JUNE 1 LIFT ON BAN: The NCAA announced Wednesday that football and basketball players can return to campus for workouts. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA ADDS TIGHT END DEPTH: Khameron Taylor, a graduate transfer from South Alabama who has a lot of upside, has signed with the Hoosiers. CLICK HERE