For the second year in a row, the Indiana University football program finished the nonconference portion of the schedule with a 3-0 record.
Three opponents up, and the Hoosiers have kicked down everything that has gotten in their way, trash cans included. As is the case with every season in Bloomington, things are about to get much more difficult.
With Big Ten play now looming, we take a look at what we’ve learned about this 2018 edition of IU football as they attempt to secure bowl eligibility for the third time in the last four seasons.
PEYTON RAMSEY SHOWS US WHY HE EARNED THE STARTING JOB
IU had one of its better starting quarterback competitions in recent memory this summer. That seems like a distant memory now.
Through three games, Ramsey has completed 56 of 76 attempts (74%) for 479 yards and five touchdowns. He set the program season completion percentage mark last year at 65%, and he’s on pass to shatter that in 2018. Ramsey is also second on the team with 121 rushing yards.
The major question on Ramsey coming into the season was his arm strength. While we haven’t seen Indiana throw the deep ball, Ramsey’s first quarter throw to Donavan Hale down the seam for a touchdown against FIU eliminated a lot of doubts. With the competition now stiffening, Ramsey and the Hoosiers are likely going to have to take shots over the top to get conference wins.
For his part, true freshman quarterback Michael Penix is also showing Hoosier fans why he deserves to be on the field. Penix is 12 for 15 (80%) for 125 yards and a touchdown. With a strong and accurate arm, Penix looks poised to push Ramsey for years to come.
The duo is getting it done with a deep and diverse receiving corp. Seven different receivers have at least five catches thus far, making it difficult for opposing defenses to key on anyone.
THE DEFENSE IS SHOWING POTENTIAL
Football is a bottom line game, and the bottom line with IU’s young defense is that they are getting it done. Giving up just 18 points per game with a Big Ten best pass defense through three weeks, this Hoosier unit is more than doing its part. With Tom Allen at the helm, we should have known.
The concern coming in to the 2018 season was that only four Hoosier starters were returning on defense. The solution has been a rotation of as many as 30 players seeing the field. The new and improved depth that the coaching staff referred to throughout the spring and summer is showing out in the fall.
Several new faces are seeing the field for IU, and they are doing more than just play — they are making an impact. T.D. Roof is fourth on the team with 11 tackles. Thomas Allen is sixth with eight.
Several other new faces have played in every game and are contributing including Juwan Burgess, Micah McFadden, Devon Matthews, Bryant Fitzgerald, Jaylin Williams and Cam Jones.
Indiana has averaged two takeaways a game thus far, but the recipe for Big Ten success might just hinge on getting more pressure on the quarterback. IU has just five sacks on the season, with three of those coming Saturday against Ball State.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE IS AS GOOD AS ADVERTISED
Freshman running back Stevie Scott is justifiably earning high praise for his efforts through the first three weeks. With 69 carries for 390 yards (5.6 average), Scott is poised to end up in the IU record books. He’s already become the first Hoosier freshman runner to put up two 100 yard games in his first three college appearances.
Like any good runner, Scott is putting up his impressive numbers behind a strong offensive line. Scott rarely encounters a defender in the backfield, and he is typically a few yards past the line of scrimmage with a full head of steam before opposing defenders have a clean shot.
While offensive lines can often be difficult to quantify in statistics, consider this — the Hoosiers have only allowed one sack through three games. That’s good for a tie for the fourth best in the country and the best such total in the Big Ten.
In addition to the running game, Indiana is top five in the country, completing 75% of its passes. That has contributed to a lot of long drives — and it simply isn’t happening without a clean pocket.
J-SHUN HARRIS IS BACK (AGAIN)
You can’t talk about J-Shun Harris anymore without mentioning his history with knee injuries. He has had three season ending ACL tears during his time with the Hoosiers. He doesn’t care. He just keeps moving forward — literally.
Harris tied the program record (Tim Wilbur) with this third punt return touchdown at Indiana on Saturday against Ball State. If teams keep punting the ball to him, it feels like a matter of time before that record is broken. If Indiana breaks through in the Big Ten East, it would come as no surprise if Harris plays a big role.
REESE TAYLOR TRULY IS MR. FOOTBALL
When he has the ball it feels like something big is going to happen. Wide receiver, cornerback, running back, H-back, kickoff returner. Are we missing anything? You know the former high school star quarterback is going to throw the ball a few times this year as well. It is just a matter of time. As good, if not better than advertised, this is going to be a fun four years watching Taylor.
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