Head coach: Bill Lynch, the team's offensive coordinator, will step in for at least the 2007 season while Terry Hoeppner recovers from brain surgery.
Last season: A week-three loss to Division-IAA Southern Illinois nearly wrecked the season, to which some analysts gave hope. They recovered to knock off No. 15 Iowa at home in week seven. Overall, it was the Hoosiers' inability to stop the run that made their record 5-7. They allowed 174.1 yards per game on the ground, good for 102nd in the country. They also tied for 111th in sacks with a season total of 14. The bright points of the season were James Hardy, who emerged as an outstanding receiver, and Kellen Lewis, who played quarterback admirably as a freshman.
Akron will play Indiana on Sept. 15 in Bloomington, Ind. The game originally was set for the Rubber Bowl, but the teams swapped home dates and Akron's home game will come in 2009 when a new stadium is up.
Best returning player: Junior receiver James Hardy
Offense: The Hoosiers will play the easiest schedule imaginable for a Big Ten team. Nonconference games include Western Michigan, Indiana State (I-AA), Ball State and Akron. Then they dodge Michigan and Ohio State. With Lewis and his receivers returning, the passing game should dominate Indiana's offense. Marcus Thigpen was very mediocre at running back. They need him to be better in 2007 to open the passing game.
Defense: Two new safeties will have the burden of repairing an awful pass and run defense, Dan Kadar said a couple weeks ago. The team's top two tacklers and its sacks leader also are gone. This defense is going to be awful. There's no other way to put it.
How the Zips match up: Although pass defense is a strength for Akron, it will be a real challenge for the Zips' diminutive secondary to cover the 6-foot-7 Hardy. Dennis Kennedy should be able to run quite successfully against the Hoosiers, however. And it helps that Indiana can't take advantage of the Zips' deficiency in stopping the run. A win over a Big Ten team would look great to bowl selection committees, especially since the Hoosiers' cake schedule might allow them to win six games as well. I can't really decide on this prediction. For now, I'll go with IU.
Way-too-early prediction: Indiana 17, Akron 14