(As always, if you want more info on Indiana football or basketball, SBN has a great resource in The Crimson Quarry, so be sure to check out our Hoosier friends over there.)
Momentum. We talk a lot about it in sports, and almost entirely in a reflective sense. Causation equals correlation. A team strings together a few plays or wins and they are bestowed this ineffable quality, a driving force that pushes like an invisible hand.
It is tempting, then, given the strides made by Indiana a year ago to look for the trace elements of momentum at work. The Hoosiers, a team that in Kevin Wilson's first year as head coach won just one game, that being against FCS South Carolina State, jumped to four wins in 2012. Two of those were Big Ten victories. One against a more talented but completely inept Illinois team, the other against an Iowa team with an offense that had almost completely committed itself to lateral movement.
What's more, Indiana nearly beat Ohio State in a shootout. The two teams combined for 101 points and Indiana scored 35 of its 49 in the final two quarters to give the undefeated Buckeyes a serious run for their money. This was a week after jumping out to a big lead against Michigan State only to falter in the second half.
So there is trace evidence of this thing we look for, this gust of wind driving a program in the right direction.
There is also reality. Indiana's defense in 2012 was abhorrent. Indiana gave up 40 or more points three times, 50 or more two times, and 60 or more once (courtesy of recent tormentor Wisconsin). The Hoosiers were last in the conference in rush defense, total defense and scoring defense. The only team to allow more than six yards per play, more than five yards per rush, and more than 35 points per game.
That Indiana was able to pull out four wins was based entirely on a pass offense that was 17th nationally and first in the conference (by a mile) thanks to 311 ypg. Is this a function of Indiana being a great pass offense or a team constantly clawing back from deficits thanks to a moribund defense? You watched Michigan play football in 2010, so you've seen this movie before. As always, the answer is somewhere in between.
But that momentum that seems to be there as Indiana goes from one win to four wins to ? is lopsided. The Hoosiers couldn't beat Navy or Ball State despite scoring 30 and 39 points in those two games. Those Big Ten wins from last year might not be there as Iowa stabilizes after a down year in 2012 caused by replacing both coordinators and Illinois finds out if there really is nowhere to go but up when you've hit rock bottom.
If Indiana has any plans to continue to build on the momentum that has seemed to build with the jump from one to four wins between year one and two, the Hoosier defense will have to deal with a momentum problem of its own: namely stopping that of the opposing team's ball carrier over and over again on the field in 2013, lest the Hoosiers get run all over again and end up on the wrong side of someone else's momentum.