Indiana University football has played in a Rose Bowl. They did so in the 60s, but it happened. One might say that was previously the biggest football game in the history of an abysmal program. And it probably is. That is until three weeks from now. On August 31, IU opens the college football season in Bloomington against the #3 ranked team in the nation, Ohio State.
This game is unique in that it is a conference game to open the season. But even more of an opportunity for IU is the fact that Ohio State is coming in as a favorite to find themselves playing in the college football playoffs. The Hoosiers have not had a chance to claim this type of scalp so early in the season in their history. A program that is infamous for being quite bad at football should be chomping at the bit to step up to the challenge.
This game is massive for IU because it has a disproportionate ability to dictate the future for the program. The Hoosiers are on the precipice of actual national respect. Something that has not existed for Indiana in years. Yes, at some of the peak moments of the Kevin Wilson era pundits would tell the betting public not to sleep on IU, but never were they really considered a threat to the top ranked teams of the Big Ten East.
However, with a win or even strong showing against top 5 ranked Ohio State, that all could change. The Hoosiers are projected to finish the season 7-5 at this point with a borderline top 40 team nationally. Their win probability against Ohio State to open the season stands at a measly 16%. But if you’re going to knock off a national championship contender, opening the season is the way to go. Recent history is dotted with top teams being stunned by nobodies and wannabes. The Hoosiers are at their greatest advantage when Ohio State still is not sure of their greatest weaknesses. This game is the breakthrough of breakthrough games. And Tom Allen and staff know it.
IU Twitter is abuzz with the #breakthrough hashtag and they have already started building momentum on the recruiting trail. Tom Allen just needs that one big victory that Kevin Wilson got close to, but could never get. Now Allen’s biggest chance is against former coach Wilson who took Ohio State’s offensive coordinator job after being fired from Indiana. The story line is there. The revenge factor is present and this game looks to be looming as a clash of a national powerhouse coming into Bloomington to remind the little guy of his place.
Tom Allen started his head coaching career at Indiana by writing three numbers on a white board for both players and coaches: 50, 26, and 10. It has been 50 years since Indiana won the Big Ten. 26 years since the Hoosiers won a bowl game. 10 years away from the last winning season. A victory on opening day goes a long way towards remedying those numbers. Not to suggest that a Big Ten championship is in the future with a home win over the Buckeyes. But that win would signal something the Hoosiers have not had since the late 60s. Promise of a future. The biggest game of Indiana football goes down on August 31, and judging by the recently announced presence of ESPN’s College Game Day, a lot of people realize it has the recipe to be a special moment for the worst college football program in the history of the sport.