"So, you've always been a Indiana football fan? That's impressive."
I don't ever really know how to respond to this question. Yes? Of course? I grew up just outside Bloomington, I like Indiana sports, so, yes, I like the football team. This seems like a simple concept to me, not one that requires much processing. You do not get to choose your sports teams in life, you are dropped wherever fate chooses you be.
"Yeah, I don't know, I've always loved it. Just kind of my thing."
This is my underexplained answer, shrouding the truth that I freebase college football in any form. Tuesday MACtion? Hell yes. A 5-am finish for Hawaii-Colorado? Sure. It just so happens that the team that I was born into is major college football's most historically awful one. But that's fine. There's no team across any sport that can give me the outright sporting ecstasy that Indiana football can.
Part of the reason for my attraction to Indiana football is that it's always been different. Where basketball season is a harbinger of online hand-wringing and complaining and moaning and outright miserableness even when being pretty good, football is Vegas on house money. Losses are expected, and the only concern is having fun in the process.
It's time for all that to probably change.
While there's a handful of other names that could be tossed in here, this is a listing probably Indiana's best three football players. It is also a list of three players unavailable for either the entire game or second half against the top-ranked, defending national champions. Ohio State still needed a no-call on a clear pass interference by Eli Apple on 4th and Goal to keep the Hoosiers from tying the score -- and likely going for the outright win with a two-point conversion attempt, according to Kevin WIlson.
There are two ways to rationalize yesterday's events:
A) Ohio State is not very good
B) Indiana is very good
Neither is statement is probably fully accurate, but it's really no matter. There's now enough of a body of evidence to think that Ohio State's offensive struggles are something real and to be concerned about -- and there's equally mounting thought that Indiana is, at worst, a bowl team. But there's a second thing to consider at play in the 2015 college football season: No one, really, has been all that good.
Ole Miss beat Alabama, who housed Georgia, and then proceeded to get run-out-the-gym by Florida. Yes, that Florida. The one that struggled the same Kentucky team that needed overtime to beat Eastern Kentucky yesterday. Clemson's best win coming into Notre Dame was over Louisville. Louisville lost to Auburn before that. Auburn is hot, glowing nuclear waste. The Irish needed a hail mary to beat Virginia. Michigan State was on the ropes with 1-4 Purdue. If Ohio State is bad, so is, like, everyone else in college football.
While Indiana might not be very good, the evidence through five games would indicate that they are good enough. This is already developing into a wacky year of parody in college football -- and Indiana, if they can stay healthy, is poised to take advantage of it. Indiana has exceedingly winnable matchups against Penn State and Rutgers the next two weeks. After James Franklin's team struggled with Army at home Saturday, it's reasonable even to think Vegas might favor them in both. Win both of those, and the Hoosiers would be bowl eligible seven games into the season. The #iufb4gameday might return after that as well, albeit on the road, as the Hoosiers would be 6-1 (and maybe even ranked!) heading into East Lansing to take on a probably undefeated Michigan State team. After yesterday's performance, it's time to adjust the goalposts for this Indiana football season.
For this team and program, bowls are special.
It's a perfect storm, but this season might be setting up to be really special.