Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, May 12, 2015

Kevin Wilson enters his fifth season at Indiana with perhaps his most talented team yet. And that has some thinking the Hoosiers may break through to their first bowl since 2007.

[ MORE: Get Tom Dienhart's early Illinois schedule analysis ]

But if Indiana is going to reach the postseason Promised Land, it will need to navigate a challenging schedule that includes games vs. seven bowl teams from 2014. IU will do so with seven starters back on offense and five on defense.

Here is a detailed analysis of what the Hoosiers will face this fall.

Toughest non-conference game: at Wake Forest, Sept. 26. Indiana opens with three home games vs. beatable foes in FCS Southern Illinois, Florida International and Western Kentucky. Then comes a game at Wake Forest on Sept. 26. No, the Demon Deacons aren?t a football power in the ACC, but they look like goliath compared to IU?s first three opponents. But know this: Wake has been to one bowl in the last six seasons and went 3-9 in Dave Clawson?s first year in 2014.

Toughest conference game: at Michigan State, Oct. 24 . The visit from Ohio State to open Big Ten play on Oct. 3 won?t be a picnic, either. But let?s go with the game in the East Lansing. MSU has won six in a row and 14 of 16 from the Hoosiers. But one of those triumphs was in East Lansing in 2001. So, there is hope vs. Mark Dantonio?s Spartan juggernaut, right?

Who they don?t play: Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois.

Easiest game: vs. Southern Illinois, Sept. 5. This lid-lifter should be a walk in the park. The Salukis of the Missouri Valley are coming off a 6-6 season and last were in the FCS playoffs in 2009.

Rugged stretch: Indiana will be tested from Oct. 3-24 in its first four Big Ten games. The Hoosiers will welcome Ohio State, travel to Penn State, play host to Rutgers and go to Michigan State. Could IU go 2-2 in that stretch? If so, it would be a huge boost to bowl hopes. At the least, the Hoosiers need to go 1-3.

Factoid: If you can believe it, Indiana went 2-1-1 vs. Ohio State from 1987-90, including a victory in Columbus in 1987. Since then, the Hoosiers have lost 20 in a row to the Buckeyes.

Best chance to be upset: vs. Western Kentucky, Sept. 19. Indiana needs to be careful when Western Kentucky comes to town. Jeff Brohm is a rising coach who has a torrid passing attack for an offense that welcomes back quarterback Brandon Doughty, last year's top three running backs, three of its top four receivers and four linemen with starting experience. The defense brings back its top six linemen, five of its top seven linebackers, and six of its top eight defensive backs.

Best chance to pull an upset: vs. Michigan, Nov. 14. What type of shape will Jim Harbaugh?s team be in at that point of the season? Will the Michigan offense be humming along? Or will it be dysfunctional with no QB? And IU may be ultra-motivated coming down the stretch if it has a bowl game in its sights. But know this: Since a win at Michigan in 1967, Indiana has gone 1-34 vs. the Wolverines, with the lone victory coming in 1987 in Bloomington.

Must win: vs. Rutgers, Oct. 17. If Indiana wants to go to the postseason, it needs to protect its home turf. And that means beating the Scarlet Knights. The Hoosiers fell at Rutgers last season, 45-23, despite getting 307 yards rushing from Tevin Coleman. The visit from the Scarlet Knights is sandwiched between trips to Penn State and Michigan State.

Bye week: Indiana is off on Halloween, getting a break after playing eight consecutive games. That will allow the Hoosiers time to catch their breath for the final four games. IU has a shot to be 5-3 entering its off week. If that happens, you have to like the Hoosiers? chances to reach a bowl.

2015 Indiana schedule
Sept. 5 Southern Illinois
Sept. 12 Florida International
Sept. 19 Western Kentucky
Sept. 26 at Wake Forest
Oct. 3 Ohio State
Oct. 10 at Penn State
Oct. 17 Rutgers
Oct. 24 at Michigan State
Oct. 31 OFF
Nov. 7 Iowa
Nov. 14 Michigan
Nov. 21 at Maryland
Nov. 28 at Purdue


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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