LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Mike Locksley was Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator at Alabama last season. He will earn $2.5 million this season to start the Maryland football program on the road to greatness. Under Armour demands it.
Scott Frost was the guy who coached Central Florida to an unbeaten season in 2017. He will make $5 million this season as the Latest Greatest Wizard to fix Nebraska football. Tom Osborne demands it.
Pat Fitzgerald reigns as the most successful coach in Northwestern football history, a primary reason the USA Today salary database identified him as the 12th highest FBS head coach at $5.144 million.
Some wanted the Bears to hire Fitzgerald two seasons ago. He stayed in Evanston, Illinois, which built a dazzling football complex on the shore of Lake Michigan to help Northwestern defend the Big Ten West Division title it won last season.
What do those three phenoms have in common, other than their tax brackets?
They’ve been beaten on back-to-back-to-back Saturdays by the former Indianapolis Ben Davis High School coach, Tom Allen, who has led Indiana to seven wins in nine games.
Saturday night in Bloomington it was Indiana 34, Big Ten West Champs 3. It wasn't that close.
That means over the last three weeks IU’s $1.8 million man has chopped down more than $12.6 million in Big Ten coaching royalty. There is Twitter talk by at least one national ESPN voice of Indiana cracking the AP Top 25 on Sunday.
In his third season as the Hoosiers’ head coach, Allen has led Indiana to its first 7-2 start since 1993, which was the last season IU won eight games.
That, for the record, was six head coaches ago, back in the days when Bill Mallory led IU to six bowl appearances in an eight-season stretch. The Hoosiers have won four straight — two blowouts (Rutgers and Northwestern) and two by less than a touchdown (Maryland and Nebraska).
Will Indiana crack the Top 25?
They received recognition — and four poll votes — from only one person last week — Rece Davis of ESPN. Appalachian State, SMU and Florida were the only Top 25 teams that lost Saturday. Not enough churn.
And there is a void in the IU resume: The Hoosiers have not defeated an FBS opponent with a winning record.
Can Indiana get to eight (or more) regular season wins?
To do that IU will have to defeat a Top 25 team (Penn State on the road Nov. 16 or Michigan in Bloomington on Nov. 23) or Purdue (on the road Nov. 30) for the first time since 2016.
The Hoosiers have a week to discuss that. They’re idle next weekend. They can enjoy making Northwestern look like one of those academic schools, limiting the sagging Wildcats to 36 yards in the second half.
Believe it or not, Northwestern was the team with the five-star quarterback — Hunter Johnson, a kid from suburban Indianapolis who waived off IU to play for Clemson.
Trevor Lawrence took his snaps at Clemson so Johnson jumped to Evanston, where he has not looked as good as either quarterback Indiana employs. Johnson completed 7 of 17 passes for 65 yards.
The week off will give IU quarterback Michael Penix Jr. another week to mend. After missing IU’s last two games, Penix returned to the starting lineup Saturday. But he didn’t make it to the second half because of an undisclosed injury. Allen said Penix was “dinged up.”
When he played, Penix was effective, completing 10 of 15 passes for 162 yards and directing IU to a 24-3 halftime lead.
When Penix could not play in the second half, Allen summoned Peyton Ramsey, who won the national Manning award for his play while leading the Hoosiers to win at Nebraska a week earlier.
Ramsey remained solid, completing 7 of 10 passes, including 20-yard scoring pass to halfback Stevie Scott.
With 116 yards on 26 carries, Scott ran for at least 108 yards for the third time in the last four games.
Indiana outgained Northwestern by 215 yards, limiting the Wildcats to 199 yards, only 3.4 yards per play. The Hoosiers' defense contributed two game-changing takeaways in the first half.
It was the kind of performance that made you wonder why Northwestern was paying Pat Fitzgerald more than $5 million.
But Tom Allen has been doing that to other Big Ten coaches all season.
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