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2021 Indiana college football preview: Can Michael Penix Jr. lead the Hoosiers to the CFP?

The talented quarterback is coming off an ACL injury, but is expected to be ready for the start of the season.

Indiana v Ohio State
Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. of the Indiana Hoosiers passes against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 21, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio.
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The Indiana Hoosiers exceeded all expectations last season with a surprising 6-1 record in the Big Ten conference, but were unable to topple Ohio State in what was one of the games of the year.

Michael Penix Jr. returns at quarterback, and is expected to be ready for the beginning of the season after suffering an ACL injury late last season. The Hoosiers have experience on both sides of the ball and will be hoping Penix can put together a Heisman-level season in Bloomington.

IU returns plenty of talent from one of the feel-good stories of college football in 2020. They also get Ohio State at home. It’s an uphill climb, but winning one of the toughest divisions in college football is not totally out of reach. And even saying that is a massive credit to the work Tom Allen has done to change the culture in Bloomington.

2020 Season Review

  • 6-2, 6-1, 2nd in Big Ten East, Lost Outback Bowl to Ole Miss
  • Is Michael Penix Jr. the best quarterback in the conference and can he carry a team to the playoff? The talented signal caller had huge games last season for Indiana, but is recovering from an ACL injury. Penix needs to be at his best for what is suddenly a contender in the Big Ten.

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 12th in Big Ten
ESPN Returning Production: 80% overall (24): 80% offense (39), 81% defense (26)
Returning Talent Index: Negative, 9th in Big Ten
Returning starters: 7/11 offense, 6/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Michael Penix Jr.

Penix is the engine that makes Indiana’s offense tick. If he’s at 100 percent, this team will always be in every game. The southpaw quarterback didn’t experience many dips in performance last season, although he does need to be better as a pure passer. His stat line against Ohio State showed everyone why he and Indiana need to be taken seriously this season.

Offense (non-QB): WR Miles Marshall (Jr.)

Ty Fryfogle gets a lot of attention as the top receiver, but Marshall needs to break out and provide a decent secondary option for Penix. If the receiver can take pressure off Fryfogle, it’ll open up more opportunities for both players.

Defense: LB Micah McFadden (Sr.)

McFadden is the anchor of this team’s defense. He’s going to pressure the quarterback consistently while also racking up tackles. The Hoosiers have plenty of experience on the back end of their defense, but will need more help up front. Expect McFadden to turn in another productive season for Indiana.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 26th overall: 29th offense, 32nd defense, 27th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 27th overall: 33rd offense, 31st defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +8000
To win Big Ten: +1800
Win total: 8 (Over +120, Under -152)

2020 Against The Spread: 7-1 (covered every game until Outback Bowl)
2020 Point Total: Over 4-4

2021 Indiana Schedule

2021 Indiana Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Saturday, Sep. 4 at Iowa 3:30 p.m./BTN Ind +5.5
Saturday, Sep. 11 vs. Idaho 7:30 p.m./BTN Ind -32.5
Saturday, Sep. 18 vs. Cincinnati 12:00 p.m./ABC or ESPN Ind +1.5
Saturday, Sep. 25 at Western Ky 8:00 p.m. CBSSN Ind -21.5
Saturday, Oct. 2 at Penn State TBA Ind +6.5
Saturday, Oct. 9 OPEN TBA
Saturday, Oct. 16 vs. Michigan State 12:00 p.m. Ind -16.5
Saturday, Oct. 23 vs. Ohio State TBA Ind +11
Saturday, Oct. 30 at Maryland 12:00 p.m. Ind -6.5
Saturday, Nov. 6 at Michigan TBA Ind +2.5
Saturday, Nov. 13 vs. Rutgers TBA
Saturday, Nov. 20 vs. Minnestota TBA Ind -6.5
Saturday, Nov. 27 at Purdue TBA Ind -6.5