Urban Meyer is 58.3 percent of the way toward leading Ohio State to an undefeated season. Bill O'Brien is rushing headlong into the impossible task of keeping Penn State's head above water and doing it well. Brady Hoke has Michigan in stellar position to take the 2012 Legends Division title in a wildly contested race thus far.
Forget all of them. The real sideline star of the 2012 season continues to be Kevin Wilson at Indiana.
Yes, Indiana just dropped to 2-4 (0-3) on the season. Yes, the Hoosiers are on a four-game losing streak since sensational sophomore starting QB Tre Roberson went out for the year with a leg injury that you're better off not seeking details about. Yes, the Hoosiers just ceded a season-high 52 points to Ohio State.
But if that's all you're paying attention to, you're not really paying attention.
Indiana's four losses have come at a total of 24 points—and 15 of those points have come at the hands of bowl-eligible Northwestern, who saw a 27-point lead dwindle to eight points in that game before pulling away at the end. Similarly, Indiana erased a 13-point deficit against Ball State, and an Ohio State 18-point lead was cut to three with a minute to play.
The Hoosiers fight hard for 60 minutes—especially at points when bad teams begin to give up. And on a team that had 13 total wins and no bowl berths to its name in the four years prior, the temptation to give in to defeat must be even stronger than usual.
But no, thanks to a resilient offense—one that's throwing the ball better than anyone else in the Big Ten this year by a margin of over 60 yards per game—Indiana is staying in games and giving everyone it faces hell.
Michigan State and its vaunted defense looked absolutely shook in the first half of the Indiana game. Cameron Coffman threw for more than 250 yards in the half, and MSU was goaded into more than 100 yards of penalties in that time, too. The Hoosiers led 27-14 at the break, and although the Spartans rallied for the win, the message was clear: Indiana's not a pushover anymore.
So, sure the Hoosiers are 0-2 in the Big Ten thus far. Lots of teams would be against Michigan State and Ohio State. Moreover, a lot of them would have a total margin of defeat of more than seven points.
And most of all, all of those teams would have a greater base of talent to start with than what Indiana has.
The close losses are terrific for recruiting. What better pitch can a coach of a traditionally sub-.500 program have than to take Ohio State to the limit, then turn to a top-level recruit and say, "We would have beaten the best team in the Big Ten if we had more guys like you around. Want to build something great?"
And that's not just idle speculation and imagination at work, either—a 4-star commit to Iowa just so happened to be in the house for Indiana's loss to Ohio State, and wouldn't you know it...
Wiltfong (@SWiltfong247) October 14, 2012
For the record, Kenney's father was hired by the Indiana coaching staff earlier in the year. 247Sports.com now lists Indiana as Kenney's favorite.
So the turnaround is coming. Kevin Wilson is leading it. And unlike Urban Meyer, who's got the Big Ten's best offensive player (Braxton Miller), best defensive player (John Simon) and best overall base of talent, Wilson's engineering his turnaround through coaching, coaching and more coaching.
Now, Wilson's going to need wins or this Coach of the Year talk is a non-starter. That's fine. Road games with Navy and Illinois are coming up next, both of which should be winnable (Navy is favored, but only by three points, while Illinois is horrifically bad). Then there's a home tilt with a physical but vulnerable Iowa squad.
3-0 in that stretch should lock up Coach of the Year honors for Wilson. 2-1 should keep him in the top tier. 1-2 or 0-3? Well, we'll always have mid-October. But for now, make no mistake: The best improvement and the best coaching in the Big Ten are happening in Bloomington, Indiana, thanks to one Kevin Wilson.
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