Image courtesy of IU Athletics
IUSC Editors Drew LaMontagna, Jordan Jackson, Cody Harner, Will Chukerman and Jimmy Cavanaugh cover four of the biggest questions in the world of IU sports. This week, the guys try and figure out what went wrong with the football team, ready themselves for basketball season, and try to determine whether Eriq Zavaleta is human.
IU hung tight with a Michigan State team that absolutely waxed them last year (55-3 final score). Is that a product of the Hoosiers’ improvement or MSU’s regression?
Drew: At first glance, I thought it was a little bit of both. However, after taking a deeper look – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – I think Indiana has got to take the majority of the credit here. It’s not as if Michigan State is all of a sudden a scrap team. Sure they lost Kirk Cousins to the draft, but they nearly beat No. 12 ranked Ohio State last week in a 17-16 contest, so they are still right up there with the pack. The big thing for me is the fact that with such a young Indiana squad, IU still need to learn how to play 60 minutes of football. Last week they had trouble getting started and finished strong. This week it was just the opposite. This team, in my opinion, is getting better each week under second-year man Kevin Wilson. It’s just going to take some time.
Jordan: All in all, I’d say a little of both. Let’s remember Indiana was still thoroughly beaten for one half of the game. I attribute their tremendous first half primarily to Michigan State stumbling out of the gate (call me a pessismist). Yes, Indiana is a better team than they were a year ago, and Michigan State seems to be slowly but surely sinking, but if they played them again tomorrow, I believe Michigan State would give them a pounding along the lines of what most people were expecting from Saturday’s game.
Cody: In the first half against Michigan State, the Hoosiers showed some fight. Cameron Coffman was playing excellent and the Hoosiers offense was on point. However, then the second half rolled around. IU regressed into their typical stagnant, inconsistent play and the Spartans scored 14 unanswered points to defeat the Hoosiers as we typically have come to expect in recent years. The Hoosiers exposed the Michigan State defense in the first half and, unlike last year, were actually competitive throughout the game. Although I think the Hoosiers are an improved team, I think Michigan State’s performance is what allowed IU to be competitive in this game. I don’t think Michigan State has regressed, rather are just in a transition stage. With the departure of quarterback Kirk Cousins to the NFL, Michigan State has had to rely on Andrew Maxwell to fill the void. The Spartans have relied heavily on a run game through Le’Veon Bell who has done a good job for the most part. However, teams are beginning to stack the box as the offense is becoming predictable. IU was able to capitalize on this along with a potent first half offense which somewhat shocked Michigan State. Once the Spartans can integrate Maxwell more and get him comfortable, I feel as though we will begin to see the Spartans of old again.
Will: A combination of both. Indiana has shown that they play great football for stretches in a game but just cant seem to put that full 60 minutes together. This past Saturday continued that trend as they got out of the gate scoring 17 unanswered points in the first quarter against what many believe to be a very good Michigan State defense. With regards to Michigan State, it’s a case of a little bit of regression. This team had a few big voids to fill as they headed into the season as they lost their starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, and starting defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, among others. For most teams, that’s going to present a drop in play the following season. They’re still a good team don’t get me wrong, but so far this year they’re averaging about 10 points per game less then they did last season which puts more responsibility on that defense to be dominant game in and game out.
Jimmy: I’ll be straight with this answer: I haven’t respected the Spartans from their first game this season. They snuck by a decent Ball State team, struggled with a couple of directional Michigan schools and lost to a highly ranked/perpetually overrated Notre Dame team. They showcase an unimaginative offense and a defense that IU put on its heels through most of the 1st half. I like what IU did, but I’d be shocked to see them keep it close against OSU, a team that beat Sparty by only a point a couple weeks ago.
IU basketball first practice will be televised this Friday on ESPNU, yet will be closed to the media. Some have called it odd, how do you feel about it?
Drew: As a member of student media, my initial thought is that it is absolutely absurd. However, being realistic, I can see why they do not want any media there. Although going without media at any sporting event – let alone Indiana University basketball – is extremely rare, there is some sense there. We the media will have our fair crack at the team, for what will seem like to the them, eternity this upcoming season. I can live with one practice just being lax as far as media is concerned. I am however worried that Cody Zeller is going to be extremely upset we’re not there…
Jordan: I think it’s a matter of maintaining focus. Obviously the expectations for this basketball team are prodigious and mounting. Having the first practice televised won’t do anything to ease expectations, but maybe restricting attendance will keep the team more focused than they would be otherwise. You don’t want to start off distracted.
Cody: I feel as though this gives the fans first access to the Hoosiers. Although it is somewhat odd, I think it gives something back to the fans in a way by providing them with something exclusive. With the media comes questions and pressure, but this allows the players to have a standard practice without interruption while also giving the audience an all access pass. In my opinion, the media will be watching and analyzing this anyway while fans watch in anticipation, so its a win-win.
Will: I file this under the idea that all press is good press. As this program continues its rise back to national prominence, opportunities like these will present themselves. So therefore, I don’t think there’s anything odd about it. This will give fans the inside look at an Indiana practice and their first opportunity to see the likes of the freshman class and see how Maurice Creek looks after his third major surgery. I’m also looking forward to seeing the team go through their first practice, as I’m sure I speak for most in saying that I cant wait for the season to start with all the hype that’s surrounding this team.
Jimmy: I’m mostly weirded out that the practice is closed to the media, yet open to a general viewing public with access to ESPNU. But I digress … I guess I don’t really see any harm in it – as Will said above, any publicity is good publicity, especially in the case of college basketball. If there’s a recruit who flips on the TV and likes what he sees, that’s a win for the IU program.
Drew: I tried to find a reason to pump the brakes, just as precaution so students and fans don’t get let down when he has an off game, but he is making it extremely difficult for me to do that. This kid is Devin Hester ridiculous right now. He’s an offensive machine. Three-goal performances, game winners, team leader in goals – you name it, this guy has done it. Oh, yeah, he’s only a sophomore. This Indiana native is tearing it up right now. I think it’s safe to say he might have that ‘clutch’ gene, or that ‘it-factor’ that Skip Bayless knows that guy Tebow has. Only difference is Zavaleta is actually good at his designated position.
Jordan: With 11 goals in 12 matches, Zavaleta is a beast and he’s on a roll. Most teams cannot afford to devote special attention to him though because the Hoosiers have viable talent elsewhere. Zavaleta can be stopped, but it’s becoming a more and more difficult task. I think Zavaleta and the Hoosiers are only getting better–and that’s a scary notion for the teams remaining on Indiana’s schedule, as well as those awaiting them in tournament play.
Cody: Eriq Zavaleta has played a major role in IU’s success this year. His offensive game has risen to the next level and it appears as if he could help the Hoosiers make a run in this year’s post season. However, it is unfair to say someone is unstoppable due to the competitive nature of sport. On any given day a player may be off his/her game a little or a defense could step up. But, for now, if Zavaleta can continue putting up the numbers and goals he has, the Hoosiers are poised to make some noise this season and on to the post-season.
Will: No. If I could, I’d leave it as a one-word response, but I owe the reader an explanation. Zavaleta is only a sophomore and seems to be getting better each game he goes out there as he’s still learning the game. He had 10 goals last year and has already topped that with 12 this season, right now it seems like the sky is the limit. With all his dominance, Zavaleta could use a little help from his teammates as the next leading goal scorer has 2. I know that he’s often times the lone striker, but it would help take some pressure off him if the Hoosiers had a true number two goal scorer.
Jimmy: Noooope (you’re a better man than I am, Will. You have scruples).