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Pivotal year for Wilson, Hoosiers


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The contract on the construction of the Indiana University football program probably was locked at four years, which makes this a very interesting season for head coach Kevin Wilson.

This is, indeed, the fourth year of his tenure, and it might be put-up or shut-up time for Wilson, who has, at the very least, made Indiana more watchable.

The Hoosiers score a prolific amount of points, which would be ideal for Wilson if his defense didn’t resemble mushy pasta. Consider that the Hoosiers put up 47 on Michigan last season and lost by 16.

In Wilson’s three seasons at the helm, the IU defense has ranked 103rd or worse nationally. Wilson’s accompanying 10-26 record is the result. It is a scary thought that the record is an improvement from past seasons.

Although last season’s defensive coordinator, Doug Mallory, was the human sacrifice offered to the alumni gods, Wilson has been an up-front guy about taking the blame for Indiana’s woes. Of course, the buck has to stop with Wilson, because no one else seems to be able to tackle it.

IU Athletics Director Fred Glass has said he wants to stay with Wilson and give him plenty of time to build a respectable football program. Supposedly, his job doesn’t expire with the fourth year of his contract. Then again, expect Glass to get weak in the knees if Indiana does a face plant to the tune of 3-9.

Glass will be between that proverbial rock and the hard place if Indiana doesn’t build on its forward trend. When is enough really enough? Four years? Six years? Eight years?

The fact is the Hoosiers could be an improved team this season and have a worse record than last season’s 5-7. A bowl certainly is a much harder proposition.

Indiana had eight home games last season, including the first five. This season? Indiana has six home games.

The nonconference schedule is very similar in that it faces Indiana State, Bowling Green and Missouri, all teams it played last season. It doesn’t matter that the Missouri game is on the road, because Indiana isn’t likely to win that one anyway.

The Bowling Green game is on the road, and that could offer more of a challenge; but if you’re a Big Ten team and you can’t beat Bowling Green, you’re in trouble anyway.

Indiana figures to go 2-1 in those repeats from last season. The new nonconference game is against North Texas, a team that beat Indiana 24-21 in 2011 when Indiana went on the road.

North Texas went 9-4 last season, but its history against those in the BCS automatic qualifying conferences is not good. If Indiana can’t win this one, it’s time to go shopping for a new coach.

It was a loss to Navy last season that kept Indiana out of a bowl game, and that loss lands right at Wilson’s doorstep. It was a horribly blown opportunity.

If Indiana does anything similar against Indiana State, Bowling Green or North Texas, it’s over. Well, in terms of a winning season or a bowl game anyway.

If you put Indiana at 3-1 after the nonconference schedule, then you’ve got to get three conference wins to reach the promised land. Purdue is a mess and figures to be the one sure thing, even if it is a rivalry game.

Then there are forget-about-it games against Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State. Doing the math, it brings us to 4-4.

It would appear the season will be decided by the home games against Maryland and Penn State and the road games against Iowa and Rutgers.

Those games are mostly about coaching. Both staffs have comparable talent, so the games become a chess match. Want to win us over as fans? Win those games.

Indiana had a chance to pull out of the abyss last season with all those home games and some great offensive talent. The Hoosiers generated a lot of interest early in the season and might have turned the corner with a big year.

So if the fans have a bit more pessimistic outlook this season, guess whose fault that is?

In a perfect IU world, Wilson’s new defensive coordinator, former Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brian Knorr, works miracles, and we all pack Memorial Stadium.

That would be great news and great fun for the fans. Unfortunately, history tells us something completely different.

That at the end of the season, Indiana will be shopping for a new contractor.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at jheater@therepublic.com or 379-5632.

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