LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Over the last 20 seasons, the Indiana University football team has played 56 games against Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.
The Hoosiers won as many games as the Beatles had members. That would be four: three against Michigan State and one against Penn State.
That is a winning percentage of .071. That is nearly impossible to do.
During the same period, Louisville has taken down Notre Dame, Florida State and Florida.
Kentucky has toppled Florida, Georgia and Penn State.
It can be done.
It’s time for Indiana to beat more than one of that group.
Is this the year for Michael Penix Jr. to perform like he’s one of the four best quarterbacks in the Big Ten, which is the way that college football guru Phil Steele ranked him? Penix has an elusive slot receiver (Whop Philyor), solid deep threat (Ty Fryfogle) and formidable tight end (Peyton Hendershot).
Is this the year for running backs Stevie Scott (power), Sampson James (speed) and David Ellis (pass-catching) to confuse defenses with their versatility?
Is this the year for the Hoosiers’ meatier, deeper, veteran front keep the defense out of second-and-three situations?
Is this the year for Indiana to perform like a team that returns 19 starters, including 18 juniors and seniors?
Is this the season Indiana can beat two from the Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State quartet and at least match IU’s 5-4 Big Ten record of last season?
Actually, I believe that it is.
Las Vegas is not certain. In a nine-game conference schedule, sportsbetting.ag placed the Hoosiers’ over-under win total at 4 1/2.
The analytics folks need more evidence. Indiana has the names of its first eight opponents. IU will play its ninth and final game Dec. 19 against a team from the Big Ten West. If IU finishes fifth, the Hoosiers will play the fifth-place team in the West. Four plays four. Six plays six.
Looking at IU’s eight known opponents, ESPN’s Football Power Index essentially projects a 4-3-1 record. It gives IU a 49.8% win probability against Michigan. I’ll call that a tossup.
Jeff Sagarin’s power formula has the Hoosiers slotted at 3-4-1. Sagarin’s numbers make the Michigan State game a coin flip.
Back to the question that percolates around Indiana football at the start of every season: Is this the season, coach Tom Allen’s fourth, the Hoosiers finally beat one or two of those teams they never beat?
I gave myself six paragraphs to change my mind.
Not doing it.
Allen has put together a younger, fearless coaching staff that has recruited better than Indiana has recruited in years.
It is reasonable to wonder if IU will miss offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, who left to become the head coach at Fresno State. But Nick Sheridan, the new coordinator, along with Mike Hart, Grant Heard and Darren Hiller were around last season.
Michigan State is vulnerable, without a dynamic quarterback while navigating a coaching change. ESPN’s Football Power Index puts the Hoosiers’ win probably for their trip to East Lansing Nov. 14 at nearly 80%.
That leaves Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.
The Buckeyes worked relentlessly to convince the Big Ten to resuscitate the league’s canceled football season. Ryan Day would not trade his talent with Alabama or Clemson. The game is in Columbus. I don’t care if the novel coronavirus will keep the Horseshoe mainly empty. I’m not forecasting something wacky to happen at Ohio State on Nov. 21.
To change things, Indiana needs to beat Penn State, the team IU opens against Saturday at Memorial Stadium, or Michigan, its second home opponent Nov. 7.
The Hoosiers have lost to Penn State by seven and five in consecutive seasons. Who knows if the Nittany Lions will be thinking about who they play in Week 2 in their home opener? (It’s Ohio State.)
The Hoosiers have taken Michigan into overtime and double overtime in the last five seasons. Michigan plays Michigan State the week before the Wolverines come to Bloomington — and Nov. 14 the week after they leave Memorial Stadium.
Will this be the season the Hoosiers achieve a few things they have not achieved in years?
I believe it will be.
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