You know who hasn't been very good historically? Minnesota. You know how I know that? Indiana is within a mere 11 wins of knotting that historic series up. Despite all of Indiana's shortcomings through the last hundred years or so, our buddies in Minnesota have always been right there with us as a understanding shoulder to cry on. In the grand scheme of things Indiana is 26-37-3 against Minnesota and the average score for any time the Hoosiers and Gophers face off is Indiana 16.4 - Minnesota 21.0.
The 4.6 points per game difference is deceptive. The last time an Indiana-Minnesota game finished within a one score margin was 1998 when Indiana defeated Minnesota 20-19. Since then everything has been at least 9 points or more. Shockingly and perhaps unfortunately for Indiana, the Hoosiers haven't had the privilege of playing Minnesota in over 5 years. Yep, let that sink in for a moment. Indiana and Minnesota, fellow conference opponents have not taken the field against each other since October 4, 2008. This is where everyone reading this paragraph should stop, go to the Big Ten's website and just shake their head disapprovingly to let the conference know how incredibly dumb that is.
So instead of recapping any sort of recent game that might suggests something about this year's performance we'll go back to the most recent game where not a single soul, coach or player, on this year's team probably even saw the game occur. The time was 2008 and it was mostly a battle of who wanted it least. The scoring didn't begin until the second quarter when Shady Salamon punched the ball into the end zone for Minnesota on a 1 yd run. The Hoosiers fired right back with a score of their own.
Kellen Lewis was the starter at this point in the season, but Bill Lynch subbed in Ben Chappell to try and get something started with a change of pace. 2 passes later, Chappell hit Marcus Thigpen for a 77 yard touchdown. Sadly, that would be the only time Indiana would score. Minnesota went on to kick three field goals in the second half to finish off a 7-16 victory. It was Minnesota's first Big Ten win in 9 consecutive tries and it came mostly on the back of WR Eric Decker. Decker caught 13 of Minnesota's 22 completed passes for a school record 190 yards. Minnesota went on to a bowl game and Indiana didn't win but one game the rest of the year.
For a little more encouragement let's roll back one extra year and take a peak at the 2007 season. In that one, the Hoosiers blew a fledgling Minnesota out of the water. Interestingly enough, all the lead characters from the game a year later were the same in this one. Instead, the Hoosiers doubled up their offense from what they did the following year and were able to hang 40 on a drowning Minnesota team. Ray Fisher and James Hardy combined for 191 yards of receiving while Eric Decker was kept under 75.
Surprisingly looking at the numbers the teams were pretty similar in play. The difference in total offensive yardage was 70 yards which is not nearly enough to make a 20 point difference. In the end it came down to the Hoosiers being able to convert on field position with field goals while Minnesota would stall out just out of range. The Hoosiers went on in 2007 to go to their last bowl game before completely falling apart as a program. Minnesota was already there, when they fired their coach to end the year.
Overall, the history between Minnesota and Indiana is very unspectacular. Neither team has really had many ups and the best streak of the modern era of football had Indiana winning 7 of 8 in the late 80s/early 90s. In fact, since 1972 the Hoosiers lead the series by a count of 19-14. Minnesota started the series off with a 10-1 record through the 30s which is essentially the difference in this rivalry. Can Indiana start the first game of this decade between the two squads with a win and bring the series to within double digits? Probably, but stay tuned later in the week for the breakdown on that.