Still, the feeling around Bloomington was that a a few more wins were left on the table. There was a one-point loss at Navy, a two-point loss to Ball State, a three-point setback to Ohio State, and a four-point loss to Michigan State. However, by the time the season ended with three straight lopsided losses, the only thing that mattered was that Indiana's bowl bid came up short.
The Hoosiers were certainly entertaining to watch throughout the year, as they led the Big Ten in total offense (442 ypg). However, they also ranked dead- last in total defense (463.5 ypg allowed) and in those aforementioned narrow defeats, the four opponents combined to average 39 points.
Heading into 2013, the Hoosiers' main focus is tightening up defensively so they don't have to get into weekly shootouts.
OFFENSE: That the IU offense took a leap forward in 2012 is hardly a shock, considering head coach Kevin Wilson was previously the offensive coordinator of a high-powered Oklahoma offense from 2006-10. However, he doesn't quite have the luxury of a top-flight quarterback like a program such as the Sooners' tends to attract.
"We're unsettled at quarterback," Wilson said at Big Ten Media Day. "Got three guys in a dead heat. It's not because I don't think we've got a good player. We've got three guys that are all very unique, can manage us. Haven't seen someone separate through spring. I don't know if anyone had any particularly horrible days."
Cameron Coffman would seem to be the favorite, considering he made 10 starts last season. Tre Roberson also gained some experience last year as a freshman and entered camp healthy, while Wilson has praised incoming freshman Nate Sudfeld's skill set.
The backfield figures to be somewhat of a rotation, led by junior Stephen Houston, who is back after rushing for a team-high 749 yards (4.7 ypc) and 12 touchdowns. Talented sophomore Tevin Coleman pushed Houston in camp and appears ready to carve out a larger role behind a strong offensive line unit. Senior Kofi Hughes (43 receptions for 639 yards) and juniors Cody Latimer (51 for 805) and Shane Wynn (67 for 648) headline a deep receiving corps.
DEFENSE: While IU's defense certainly endured its fair share of struggles in 2012, the unit does return nine starters. Coach Wilson and his staff are hoping that continuity leads to more production on the field in 2013.
Replacing defensive tackles Adam Repogle and Larry Black won't be easy, but juco transfers Jordan Heiderman and Christopher Cormier will get a long look, as will highly-regarded recruit Darius Latham.
Middle linebacker David Cooper (86 tackles, 9.0 TFL) is the heart and soul of the defense, but there are question marks elsewhere. Outside linebacker Griffen Dahlstrom showed flashes last year as a junior (48 tackles, 7.0 for loss), although he lacked consistency. The secondary is deep and experienced, albeit not terribly productive.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Redshirt senior kicker Mitch Ewald is back after converting 15- of-20 field goals. He was 5-of-7 from 40-49 yards, with a long of 46 yards. Tevin Coleman sparked the kick return game with an average of 23.6 yards, including a 96-yard TD. He may give up that job though, if he ends up with a larger role on offense.
OUTLOOK: While there are certainly more than a few unknowns with the roster heading into the season, the real question facing the Hoosiers is, can the defense catch up to the offense? Count coach Wilson as someone who thinks that will happen.
"We're getting more physical. We have a lot of kids now that are going into their third year of playing because we played 16 freshmen two years ago, 11 freshmen last year," he said. "We've got 19 starters back. ... We've got a lot of guys back."
So, is a bowl game in the cards? The team will likely put enough points on the board to notch the necessary six wins. The schedule features eight home games, which includes the likes of Navy, Bowling Green, Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue. While they may not be quite ready to contend for the Leaders Division crown, the Hoosiers figure to take another step forward in 2013.