Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Hoosier Report Visits IU Hate Week

In an effort to get the down and dirty on Indiana University, OTP decided to chat with bloggers that cover Indiana. Today's edition is courtesy of John from The Hoosier Report. It's a fantastic site, and for the Indiana fans who read this one and not that one as well, you're missing out. This week, hate the Hoosiers, love the Hoosier Report.

This is the set of questions we posed to John. Our answers to him, reeking of unabashed homerism and unadulterated awesomeness, will be up at THR soon. Read on, Card fans, for the brain droppings of a Hoosier fan.

1.) OTP: Indiana has played Murray State and Western Kentucky, neither of which provided any real competition for the Hoosiers. How worried are you about playing a decent team, albeit a MAC school, and one who has never beaten a BCS conference team?
John, THR: I suppose I'm worried in that this is the first game that IU has a reasonable chance to lose, but I don't think the schedule has much of an impact. Ball State transitioned from beating an overmatched Northeastern team to beating respectable Navy, for instance. I expect IU to be ready and to be full of respect for the Cardinals.
You mention Ball State's failure to ever beat a team from a BCS conference. That makes me nervous. Ball State's long losing streak against BCS conferences and IU's 30-year, 20-game winning streak against the MAC seem due to end sometime soon. It's long been my theory that IU is successful against MAC teams because IU, unlike other Big Ten teams, has been in no position to overlook MAC teams. In that sense, I think the hype from Jason Whitlock and others may be counterproductive for BSU. MAC teams are always motivated to play Big Ten teams, particularly in-state Big Ten teams, but the Hoosiers can't help but notice all of the Ball State talk.

2.) OTP: Kellen Lewis. He's good. What's his weakness? What sort of teams does he struggle against?
John, THR: Lewis's main weakness last season, particularly in the second half of the season, was fumbling. Also, this game will be his first major test without James Hardy. Ultimately, the teams that have contained him most effectively have been really physical teams such as Wisconsin and Michigan State, teams that dominate the line of scrimmage.

3.) OTP: Aside from Lewis, who are the playmakers Ball State fans need to know about?
John, THR: While it's not a pleasant memory, I'm sure that you remember Marcus Thigpen, who got IU back in the game in 2006 by returning the second half's opening kickoff for a touchdown. Many IU fans, including me, question whether Thigpen is capable of running between the tackles against a good team, but if he gets past the line or to the outside he is very fast and very dangerous. Bryan Payton and Demetrius McCray also get a decent number of carries.
The absence of James Hardy from this year's receiving corps is well known, and James Bailey transferred. Still, Andrew Means and Ray Fisher return, and sophomore Terrence Turner has played a role after missing most of his freshman season with injury. Most intriguingly, Demarlo Belcher, a 6-5 freshman from Fort Wayne (sound familiar?), caught a patented Hardy fade in the end zone against WKU. While Belcher isn't likely to replace Hardy's production overnight, I expect him to be an important weapon in the red zone.

4.) OTP: Your coach, Bill Lynch, used to coach at Ball State. As someone who watched him run up the nation's longest losing streak, how comfortable are you with him at the helm?
John, THR: My writing from last November shows my ambivalence about the decision to elevate Lynch. Ultimately, I think IU made the right decision, but clearly, IU almost certainly would not have hired Lynch in an ordinary coaching search. His overall record is mixed, although he did bring the Ball State program back from the abyss after the 21-game losing streak (and still has a higher BSU winning percentage than Brady Hoke, for what it's worth). He was the most successful coach that Butler has had in the last 100 years, and had a nice year a DePauw, and led IU to its first winning season in 13 years. I don't begrudge Ball State fans their dislike of the guy, or at least their lack of respect for his coaching ability, but his middle years at Ball State really are an outlier in his overall record. Again, I'm far from sold on the guy, and I'm not guaranteeing great things, but I think it's a reasonable possibility that Lynch will be successful at IU.
One thing that is important to remember about 2007 is that nearly all of the pundits were predicting that Terry Hoeppner's death would lead to a disastrous season for the Hoosiers. Instead, IU went 7-5 in the regular season and went to a bowl game. Now that it has happened, everyone credits the "Hep factor," but virtually no one was prediciting such an effect before the 2007 season. It easily could have been a disaster, and it was far from it. Bill Lynch deserves some credit for that.

5.) OTP: What is the matchup that worries you the most? Dante Love against the secondary? MiQuale Lewis against the front 7? Kellen Lewis against the BSU linebackers?
John, THR: Despite the excellent performance of Sean Baker against Akron, I'm much more worried about Ball State's offense than about the defense. Stopping the run, namely Miquale Lewis, is important, but he's been outstanding over the last two years, including against Nebraska last year. That matchup could have a huge impact on this game in either direction.

6.) OTP: You can have one player from BSU switch sides. Who is it?
John, THR: I was going to say Nate Davis. I wouldn't play him over Lewis, but he couldn't win the game for you guys while sitting on IU's bench. To answer the question semi-seriously, I would take Darius Hill. A big target like Hill would be in Kellen Lewis's comfort zone and would complement IU's able but relatively inexperienced receiving corps.

Our answers to John's queries can be found here.


John M said...

I tried to register for a ID to respond to this there, but I presume they aren't approving new "Hoosier" handles this week. In any event, while that part of my post was tongue-in-cheek, I would indeed start Lewis over Davis if they were on the same team. Even if I were to concede that Davis is the superior passer (and I don't think it's obvious, but I'll concede it for the argument), I still think that Lewis's running ability makes him more dangerous overall. The only thing that is certain that having those two guys on the same team would be a good problem to have.

And of course, to further engage in mental gymnastics, I suppose one could argue that it would be stupid to have a QB like Davis on the bench when you could play Davis at QB and have Lewis on the field in other roles.

Alan said...


I concur with your answer completely. And to be honest, Davis doesn't really fit the personnel or style of play at Indiana. He's a pocket passer who isn't fond of the run.

For the style, system, and conference, Lewis is the man.

And to echo your comments... what a great problem to have.