Historically, IU's football program ranks at or very near the bottom in every significant category: wins, winning percentage, conference titles, etc.--hell, we even have a losing record against the University of Chicago. Still, for the last generation IU has been building a strange little winning streak that will be tested three times this season. In 1977, IU lost to Miami of Ohio, 21-20, in Bloomington. From 1978 to present, IU is 17-0 against the MAC. How does that measure up against the rest of the Big Ten (through 2006)?
Michigan State: 19-2
Ohio State: 11-0
Penn State: 11-1
I want to make clear this isn't a point of pride. I gladly would trade the occasional MAC loss for, say, a bowl bid or two in a given decade. It's more of a head-scratcher, an anomaly. Still, it's fairly remarkable to find any statistic in which Michigan, Ohio State, and Indiana are the leaders. Also, IU has played three road games against the MAC: Toledo in 1996, Central Michigan in 2005, and Ball State last season.
Some fairly good teams and programs have fallen victim: Toledo whipped Penn State in 2000. Two of Joe Tiller's ten bowl teams fell victim to the MAC. Other than Northwestern, IU has had more beatable teams during the time period than any other Big Ten program, yet hasn't lost to a MAC team since 1977. As I said, it's probably more a fluke than anything else. One theory I have tossed around is that in the typical MAC-Big Ten matchup, the MAC team has nothing to lose and the Big Ten team may be a bit casual about the whole thing. When a MAC team sees IU on the schedule, that game is automatically circled ("If Toledo can beat Penn State, we should beat Indiana by 40!"). When oddsmakers and sportswriters see an IU-MAC game on the schedule, it's an instant "upset special." IU's games against the MAC may turn the tables: the MAC team may be overconfident, and IU, the nominal favorite, ends up with a chip on its shoulder. (enough sportswriter cliches in there for you? It's a half-baked theory, I know).
On the other hand, what has Western Michigan, IU's first of three MAC opponents this season, done against major programs?
Auburn: 0-1 (1995)
Florida: 0-1 (1999)
FSU: 0-2 (1991, 2006)
Illinois: 0-2 (1947, 2004)
Indiana: 0-3 (1995, 1998, 2006)
Iowa: 1-0 (2000)
Iowa State: 1-1 (won in 1990, lost in 1994)
Maryland: 0-1 (1989)
Michigan: (1917, 1943, 2001, 2002)
MSU: 2-8 (wins in 1917 and 1919)
Minnesota: 0-3 (1975-77)
Missouri: 0-1 (1999)
Notre Dame: 0-2 (1919, 1920)
Purdue: 0-2 (1993, 2002)
South Carolina: 0-1 (1979)
Vanderbilt: 1-0 (1998)
Virginia: 1-2 (lost in 2003, 2005; won in 2006)
VT: 0-3 (2001, 2002, 2004)
WVU: 0-2 (1996, 2007)
Wisconsin: 1-3 (won in 1988; lost in 1963, 1981, 2000)
In essence, WMU has 5 wins against major programs (the two wins against MSU came decades before the Spartans joined the Big Ten). Three came in the last decade, including a 17-10 win at Virginia last season. More on the Broncos later, but that's the wide view.