Toughest non-conference game? Toughest Big Ten game? Upset alerts? I touch on these and other categories because it’s never too early to talk about next fall. Feel free to leave me your own take on these schedules in the comments section, or come tell me on Twitter and Facebook.
Toughest non-conference game: Oct. 20, at Navy. This is the type of game coaches detest. Even if the Hoosiers win, they probably won’t get enough credit for beating this perpetually underrated foe. A loss? And trying to prepare for the option attack while in the midst of Big Ten season will be difficult. Quick note: Indiana is the only Big Ten team that is playing two non-conference road games, as it also is at UMass on Sept. 8
Toughest Big Ten game: Three Big Ten heavyweights visit Bloomington—Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. So, pick your poison. The really bad news: Indiana welcomes Michigan State and Ohio State on consecutive weekends in October.
Who they don’t play: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska. Missing the Wolverines and Cornhuskers always is a good thing, as each has a solid chance to win the Legends Division. The Gophers are a rising program. Still, Indiana would have to like its chances for victory.
Easiest game: If there is such a thing for a 1-11 team, it has to be the season opener, when FCS Indiana State makes the short drive from Terre Haute to play the Hoosiers. It’s vital for Indiana to open 3-0 entering its bye week—and it all begins with the Sycamores. After the first three games, there may not be a contest that Indiana is favored in. And the games that appear most winnable are on the road. Ugh.
Best chance to be upset: Indiana needs to be ready when it plays at UMass, a strong program that’s making the transition from FCS to FBS to join the MAC. The game will be played at the New England Patriots’ stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Best chance to pull an upset: If the Iowa Hawkeyes haven’t answered questions at running back and on the defensive line by the time they come to Indiana on Nov.3, they could leave as losers.
Must win: For Indiana to have any shot at reaching a bowl for the first time since 2007, it likely will have to go 4-0 in non-conference play. So, that will mean winning at Navy on Oct. 20.
Bye week: Sept. 22. Not ideal placement. In fact, this is the earliest bye week in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers finish the season playing nine games in succession. Buckle up, fellas.
Sept. 1 Indiana State*
Sept. 8 at UMass*
Sept. 15 Ball State*
Sept. 29 at Northwestern*
Oct. 6Michigan State
Oct. 13 Ohio State
Oct. 20 at Navy#
Oct. 27 at Illinois#
Nov. 3 Iowa
Nov. 10 Wisconsin
Nov. 17 at Penn State
Nov. 24 at Purdue#
BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, and all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart. Send questions to his weekly mailbag, subscribe to his RSS feed, and check out his video Q&A.