Schedule analysis: Rough road slate awaits Hoosiers
Kevin Wilson is making strides as he enters his third season in Bloomington in search of his first winning record with what should be a strong offense. But the schedule is tough. IU has one of the toughest Big Ten road slates possible—Michigan State; Michigan; Wisconsin; Ohio State. Lord have mercy!
That means protecting home field will be key to the Hoosiers’ bowl hopes. It’s not crazy to think IU could start 3-0, setting up a huge visit from Missouri. And Indiana has three winnable home Big Ten games (Minnesota; Illinois; Purdue). Bottom line: There may be six victories on this schedule, which would qualify IU for its first bowl since 2007.
I’ll be looking at every Big Ten team’s schedule in the coming days and week, and you can find them all in my Schedule Analysis section.
Toughest non-conference game: Missouri visits on Sept. 21, providing a good litmus test in the final non-conference game. The Tigers are coming off a disappointing SEC debut, going 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the SEC en route to missing a bowl for the first time since 2004. The schools last played in 1992, with Indiana taking a 20-10 decision to end an eight-year run of consecutive meetings that began in 1985 and saw the Hoosiers go 6-0-2 vs. the Tigers. MU hasn’t won in Bloomington since 1953, going 1-4.
Toughest Big Ten game: The junket to Ohio State on Nov. 23 won’t be a walk in the park. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more lopsided rivalry in sports. Ohio State is 19-0-1 in its last 20 meetings with Indiana. Since IU took a 32-10 win in Columbus in 1951, it has beaten the Buckeyes just twice. And those two victories came in back-to-back seasons, 1987-88. Add it all up, and OSU is 49-2-2 vs. Indiana in the last 53 meetings.
Who they don’t play: The Hoosiers miss Northwestern, Iowa and Nebraska. This works out well, as the Wildcats and Cornhuskers may be two of the better teams in the Legends Division. But missing a slumping Hawkeyes team that IU beat last season hurts.
Easiest game: When you have been to just one bowl (2007) since 1993 and haven’t won a bowl since 1991, no game is easy. But a season-opening visit from FCS Indiana State looks like a great chance for success. But know this: The Hoosiers only beat the Sycamores 24-17 in the opener last year.
Rugged stretch: Indiana opens Big Ten play on Oct. 5 with three tough tilts: Penn State; at Michigan State; at Michigan. The Hoosiers are 0-16 vs. Penn State; have lost 12 of 14 to Michigan State; have dropped 17 in a row and 32 of the last 33 to Michigan.
Interesting factoid: The Hoosiers need to turn the tide vs. rival Purdue in the Old Oaken Bucket battle. Indiana has lost four of the last five meetings, and is 3-13 in the last 16 meetings. One win came in a driving rain storm (2001); another on a last-second field goal (2007); the third took overtime (2010).
Best chance to be upset: Indiana State—led by first-year coach Mike Sanford–is a good FCS program that lost by only a touchdown last season in Bloomington. Be careful, Hoosiers.
Best chance to pull an upset: Indiana came close to knocking off Michigan State last season for the Old Brass Spittoon in Bloomington, falling 31-27, after blowing a 27-14 halftime edge. This year, the Hoosiers may be able to ambush Missouri when it visits on Sept. 21. Mizzou will be coming off a bye, so that seemingly will complicate Indiana’s task. Still, MU is coming off a losing season and has a rebuilt defense and offense looking for answers at quarterback.
Must win: It goes without saying that Indiana has to win non-conference home games vs. Indiana State, Navy and Bowling Green to have any shot at a bowl. The real key will be notching some Big Ten victories. One the Hoosiers have to have is on Nov. 2, when Minnesota visits. Enhancing IU’s chances to beat the Gophers is the fact it will be coming off a bye. The Gophers have won in Bloomington just one time (2005) since prevailing in 1985, going 1-8 at Indiana during the stretch.
Bye weeks: These are spread out well. One comes Sept. 28 after four non-conference games, allowing IU to catch its breath before starting Big Ten action. Then, after playing the toughest three-game stretch of the season—Penn State, at MSU, at Michigan–the Hoosiers are off Oct. 26. That sets up a five-game November that figures to make or break Indiana’s season.
Indiana’s 2013 schedule:
|Thu.||Aug. 29||vs. Indiana State||TBA|
|Sat.||Sep. 7||vs. Navy||TBA|
|Sat.||Sep. 14||vs. Bowling Green||TBA|
|Sat.||Sep. 21||vs. Missouri||TBA|
|Sat.||Oct. 5||vs. Penn State||TBA|
|Sat.||Oct. 12||at Michigan State||TBA|
|Sat.||Oct. 19||at 24 Michigan||TBA|
|Sat.||Nov. 2||vs. Minnesota||TBA|
|Sat.||Nov. 9||vs. Illinois||TBA|
|Sat.||Nov. 16||at Wisconsin||TBA|
|Sat.||Nov. 23||at 3 Ohio State||TBA|
|Sat.||Nov. 30||vs. Purdue||TBA|
|About Tom Dienhart||BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.|
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