Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld suffered a separated shoulder in Saturday’s loss to Iowa, clouding the bowl hopes of a program that hoped to breakthrough in coach Kevin Wilson’s fourth season.
It’s uncertain how long Sudfeld will be sidelined, but his absence will be felt if he cannot play on Saturday against Michigan State.
Following the Hoosiers’ matchup against the Spartans, there’s a bye before finishing the year on a challenging five-game stretch.
Sudfeld was expected to be one of the Big Ten’s top quarterbacks in 2014, but the junior has only one game of more than 252 passing yards. A transition at receiver has slowed the development of Indiana’s offense, which averaged 38.4 points per game. After six games, the Hoosiers are down to a 32.3 mark in 2014.
Perhaps Sudfeld will only miss a game or two, but any absence by the junior quarterback is a setback to Indiana’s bowl hopes.
Backup Chris Covington switched from linebacker to quarterback in the fall and completed only 3 of 12 passes for 31 yards and two interceptions in the 45-29 loss to the Hawkeyes.
Running back Tevin Coleman is one of the nation’s best, but the junior doesn’t have much help in the passing department if Sudfeld is sidelined.
At 3-3 and still searching for their first Big Ten win of 2014, the Hoosiers need Sudfeld back in the lineup as soon as possible. Covington has good athleticism, but he’s developing as a passer. Having a quarterback make his first career start against Michigan State’s defense is a nightmare scenario for Wilson.
The schedule simply isn’t going to get any easier for Indiana. If Sudfeld returns by November, games against Penn State, Rutgers and Purdue are winnable, giving hope that Wilson can provide a breakthrough season in 2014. But in addition to Sudfeld's health, Indiana needs more from its defense, which has allowed 30 or more points in three games this year.
If Sudfeld is sidelined for an extended period of time, Indiana will be outside of the bowl picture once again. Wilson shouldn't be on the hot seat, but he could be facing a make-or-break year in 2015 if the Hoosiers finish 4-8 or 5-7 this year.