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2010 Indiana opponents, week 2: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.


The Hoosiers' second game of the season may cause "is that a typo?" reactions on a couple of fronts.  First, yes, IU really does play at Western Kentucky, a school that was in I-AA not long ago.  Second, it is true that IU's bye week falls in the second week of the season.  Because IU opens on a Thursday night, that means the Hoosiers will endure a 16-day layoff between games 1 and 2, and won't play their second home game until September 25.  

Western Kentucky's first season as a full-fledged member of FBS could not have gone worse.  Just seven years removed from the 2002 I-AA national championship, the Hilltoppers went 0-12 in 2009.  Coach David Elson, who is from Indianapolis, was fired, and Willie Taggart is the new head coach.  Taggart, according to his official bio, was a legendary quarterback at WKU in the mid 1990s and comes to WKU after coaching running backs at Stanford.  The head coach of Stanford is former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh, the son of Jack Harbaugh, who coached Taggart at WKU and who coach the Hilltoppers to their 2002 championship.  Jack Harbaugh's daughter Joanie is the wife of IU basketball coach Tom Crean, a former WKU assistant basketball coach, and another son, John, now head coach of the Baltimore Ravens, was an IU assistant coach under Cam Cameron.  So, in a roundabout way there are some connections between Western Kentucky and IU/Indiana.

The most interesting part of this game is the venue.  The Hoosiers will travel to Bowling Green, Kentucky and will play at Houchens Industries-LT Smith Stadium, which seats 22,000.  Thanks to the increased emphasis on revenue maximization via scheduling of lots of home games, IU is facing increased competition for scheduling.  Obviously, schools with much better attendance and higher ticket prices than  IU can offer much better guarantees to MAC and Sun Belt level schools, so IU doesn't have much choice but to offer such programs two-for-one deals rather than playing only in Bloomington.

The Hilltoppers didn't win in 2009, but they were young and return most of their key offensive contributors.  Quarterback Kawaun Jakes, as a redshirt freshman, completed 60 percent of his passes and also ran for 366 yards.  Bobby Rainey ran for 939 yards and averaged 6.5 yards per carry.  Tight end Jack Doyle, from Cathedral in Indianapolis, is WKU's leading returning receiver. 

I have to admit that I'm somewhat worried about this game.  Hosting a Big Ten team will be a big deal for WKU.  The Hilltoppers play at Nebraska and Kentucky in the first two weeks of the season, while IU plays a I-AA team before a long layoff.  It is a should-win, but not a game IU can take for granted.