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IU football: Hoosiers returning second most production in Big Ten East in 2021

With a wealth of returning talent, Indiana is set up to have another big season in 2021.

ESPN college football analyst Bill Connelly’s released his returning production numbers this week for every FBS college football program.  The developer of the highly-regarded SP+ ranking system, Connelly uses a team’s returning production as one of the key components of his analytics-based predictive model.

The headline for Indiana is that the Hoosiers have the second most returning production in the Big Ten East division, and are tied for the third most returning production overall in the league.

Connelly’s returning production formula looks at the most predictive personnel stats that have the most impact on improvement or regression from season to season. The weighting for the offensive and defensive returning production formula in 2021 is as follows according to Connelly:


  • Returning QB passing yards: 29%
  • Returning RB rushing yards: 5%
  • Returning WR/TE receiving yards: 34%
  • Returning OL snaps: 33%


  • Returning tackles: 56%
  • Returning tackles for loss: 6%
  • Returning sacks: 7%
  • Returning passes defensed: 31%

Indiana is projected to return 80 percent of its offensive production, and 81 percent of its defensive production according to Connelly’s analysis.

Key losses on the offensive side of the football include running back Stevie Scott, receiver Whop Philyor and center Harry Crider.  Indiana is hoping that Sampson James, D.J. Matthews and Zach Carpenter are able to replace or even enhance the production from those positions.  According to Connelly, transfers are included in the model.  And of course IU expects to have a healthy Michael Penix back at quarterback for the season opener at Iowa on Sept. 4.

The key defensive losses include Jerome Johnson, Jamar Johnson and Jovan Swann.  The successors aren’t as clear on the defense, although Indiana does have several reserves with significant experience and will have Marcelino Ball back at his husky position.

Up and coming Big Ten East foe Maryland leads the way with 85 percent of its production expected back for the 2021 season, while Wisconsin is the top team in the West at 83 percent.  Indiana is tied with Minnesota for the third most returning production in 2021.

Here is how Indiana’s 2021 schedule stacks up from the most returning production to the least:

  • Maryland – 85%
  • Minnesota 80
  • Purdue 78
  • Penn State 78
  • Cincinnati 77
  • Michigan 73
  • Iowa 72
  • Michigan State 69
  • Rutgers 64
  • Western Kentucky 62
  • Ohio State 50
  • Idaho – FCS / not ranked

Now before you get too excited about that Ohio State figure, it is worth noting that the Buckeyes returned just 56 percent of its production in 2020 and reached the national championship game.  Ohio State doesn’t rebuild, it reloads.

After gathering itself midseason, Penn State appears to be a program that will look to battle once again for the top of the division, while Michigan and Michigan State may continue to face challenges.

Connelly is expected to release his overall SP+ rankings, which also factor in recruiting and historic success, in the coming days.

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