Dienhart: Indiana's 2014 schedule analysis

Indiana hasn’t been to a bowl since 2007. Kevin Wilson is getting the Hoosiers closer, going from one, to four, to five wins in his three seasons in Bloomington. A postseason trip almost happened last year, if not for tough losses to Navy and Minnesota. Just like last season, Indiana will be propelled in 2014 by one of the Big Ten’s top offenses. But will the defense be better?

Wilson is banking on a coordinator shift helping, bringing in Brian Knorr to run what has been a horrid unit during Wilson’s run. Knorr has installed a 3-4. But, a scheme change won’t mean whoop without improved personnel.

The schedule may not do Wilson any favors in his fourth season. Playing in the rugged Big Ten East will be daunting, and the Hoosiers have just six home games.

With that said, here’s a breakdown of Indiana’s 2014  schedule.

[ MORE: Illinois' 2014 schedule analysis ]

Toughest non-conference game: Going to Missouri on Sept. 20 will pose a big challenge. The Tigers are the defending SEC East champs and tore apart the Hoosiers in Bloomington last year, notching a 45-28 win and gaining a Memorial Stadium opponent record 623 yards. Here is a weird series note: The Hoosiers’ last two trips to Columbia ended in ties (1991 and 1988).

Toughest conference game: Trips to Columbus, Ohio, have been bummers for years for Indiana. In fact, this has been one of the most lopsided rivalries in the nation. The Hoosiers beat the Buckeyes back-to-back in 1987 and 1988. Really. I’m not kidding. Look it up. But since then, Ohio State has ripped off 20 victories in a row with a tie thrown in (1990). Those victories have often been in dominating fashion. This year’s game on Nov. 22 in the Shoe figures to be another chapter in Indiana’s misery vs. OSU.

Who they don’t play: Indiana misses Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois and Nebraska. Not playing the Badgers is especially nice. Indiana has lost nine in a row to the Badgers, who often have hammered the Hoosiers. Some of the recent scores: 51-3 … 62-14 … 59-7 … 83-20.

Easiest game: The lid-lifter vs. FCS Indiana State on Aug. 30 should be a cake walk. How bad were the Sycamores last season? They went 1-11 overall and 0-8 in the MVC. One of those defeats was a 73-35 beat down by Indiana in the 2013 season opener.

INDIANA’S 2014 SCHEDULE
Date Opponent Result / Time
8/30 vs. Indiana State TBA
9/13 at Bowling Green TBA
9/20 at 5 Missouri TBA
9/27 vs. Maryland TBA
10/4 vs. North Texas TBA
10/11 at Iowa 12:00 ET
10/18 vs. 3 Michigan State 3:30 ET
11/1 at Michigan 3:30 ET
11/8 vs. Penn State TBA
11/15 at Rutgers TBA
11/22 at 12 Ohio State TBA
11/29 vs. Purdue TBA

Rugged stretch: Indiana better buckle up between Oct. 11-Nov. 8. That’s when the Hoosiers will play at Iowa, vs. Michigan State, at Michigan and vs. Penn State. Can Indiana grind out one win in that four-game gauntlet? The good news: The Hoosiers have played those teams well in recent years, beating Iowa (2012) and Penn State (2013) and almost dumping Michigan State (2012). IU also has pushed Michigan, which had to battle hard to win 36-33, 42-35 and 63-47 over Indiana in the last three meetings.

Factoid: Indiana will be Maryland’s first Big Ten foe when the Terrapins come to Bloomington on Sept. 27. The teams have played twice, with the Hoosiers winning in 1934 in College Park and in 1935 in Baltimore.

Best chance to be upset: Indiana will have to be on guard when Purdue visits Bloomington in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket on Nov. 29. The Boilermakers surely are still smarting from losing 56-36 last year. And this could be a Purdue team just playing out the string with nothing to lose, treating this trip to Bloomington like a de facto bowl game. And—who knows—maybe a Purdue win will knock out Indiana from bowl contention, just like what happened to IU vs. the Boilers in 1989.

Best chance to pull an upset: Circle Nov. 1. That’s when Indiana plays at Michigan. Yes, Indiana has lost 18 in a row to the Wolverines and 33 of 34. The lone IU win was in 1987. But the Hoosiers have made the Wolverines sweat the last three meetings. Indiana could stun Michigan in the Big House if Kevin Wilson’s squad can make the game a shootout.

Must win: If the Hoosiers are going to go bowling, they likely will need to win a Big Ten road game. And that game figures to be at Rutgers on Nov. 15 in the first meeting between the schools. Indiana will be coming off a tough aforementioned four-game stretch. How will the Hoosiers be holding up?

Bye weeks: Not ideal. Indiana has its first bye way too early, coming in the second week of the season after it opens vs. Indiana State. The Hoosiers then play six games before getting another bye, setting up what will be a season-defining final five games.

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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