BY JEFF SLADE
As football season inches closer, we take a look at the early preseason previews of every team for the 2015 Big Ten Season, ranking numbers 14 through one until we finally hit September 3rd.
2014 Record: 4-8 (1-7)
Key games: at Wake Forest, Rutgers, at Purdue
Players to watch: QB Nate Sudfeld, RB Jordan Howard, DT Nate Hoff
2015 is set to be a crucial year for Indiana football.
Not because they have high hopes or a prayer for contention in the Big Ten, but because if things continue to go poorly it could very well be the end of Kevin Wilson's time in Bloomington.
2015 was supposed to be the year the Hoosiers finally put the pieces together, figuring things out in Wilson's fifth year rebuilding a depleted program.
After showing improvement in 2013 with a 5-7 record, they regressed in 2014, going 4-8 with only a single win in the conference.
The past two seasons have been a tale of two weaknesses.
In 2013, they boasted a much-improved offensive attack in a hurry-up spread system, racking up over 40 points on six separate occasions and ranking 16th in the nation in scoring. However, they couldn't stop a soul on defense, ranking 116th in points against.
2014 was a different story entirely. They were able to slightly improve the effort defensively, but weren't able to match the production on offense, dropping to 90th in the nation in scoring.
If they had been able to match their 2013 offensive scoring average of 38.4 points per game, they would have gone 7-5 in 2014.
This wasn't the case, though, and the Hoosiers were left out of bowl season for the seventh consecutive year, never having gone bowling in the Kevin Wilson era.
Heading into 2015, the outlook in Bloomington doesn't seem to be improving at the rate it needs to.
The offense already took a step backward last season, and it has now lost its star.
Running back Tevin Coleman, rushing for over 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns last year, established himself as one of the greatest Indiana football players of all-time.
He's now gone to the NFL (drafted by Atlanta in the 3rd round), leaving an impossible void to be filled as he found holes that didn't exist and ran away from defenders with ease.
He'll likely be replaced by transfer Jordan Howard, who rushed for over 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns last season with UAB.
Conference USA, however, is not the Big Ten, and his transition to Power 5 competition may play a large role in the success of the running game.
There is also some good news - the return of quarterback Nate Sudfeld.
Sudfeld threw for over 1,100 yards and six touchdowns last season before going down with a shoulder injury on Oct. 11. His absence led to quick offensive struggles for the Hoosiers who almost completely relied upon Coleman to carry the team.
Sudfeld has prototypical size for the position and a strong enough arm, but will be counting on a very unexperienced receiving corps on the other side of the coin.
Indiana will likely depend on the passing game far more this season than last, and Sudfeld will play a major role in its success or failure.
On the defensive side of the ball, Indiana will hope for even greater improvement this season, with an experienced unit especially among the front seven, which could be the backbone of the defense.
On the not so good front - 2014 safety and leading tackler Antonio Allen was arrested in June on charges of dealing cocaine and heroine, both level 2 felonies. He faces 10 to 30 years in prison, according to the Indy Star.
Without Allen, the unit is very thin at both the safety and cornerback positions and could be in line for long afternoons against elite quarterbacks such as Michigan State's Connor Cook and whoever starts for Ohio State.
The defense could well be great against the run, but it will only go so far if they can't slow down the passing game.
Ultimately - they'll need strong improvement on both sides of the ball if they want to end the bowlless streak, which will be hard to do having lost their best offensive and defensive players.
Kevin Wilson's master plan has appeared to gone off-track; and he might not be around long enough put it back on.
Prediction: 3-9 (1-7); last in Big Ten East