This summer, Stranger Things became a huge hit on Netflix. I bingewatched the whole thing in a weekend. Set in an Indiana small town in the early 1980s, the show may evoke memories of a Hoosier State in which the Big Ten really had only 10 teams. However (MILD SPOILER ALERT), in this town there exists a parallel universe full of chaos, mystery, and uncertainty, called the Upside Down.
As I was thinking about the upcoming season recently, it occurred to me.
Indiana is the Upside Down of Big Ten football.
I complained after narrow losses last season about the #CHAOSTEAM mentality, and how I expected better after five years under Kevin Wilson. But by the the end of the season, Wilson had gotten the Hoosiers to their first bowl game in eight years, and set the team up for future success as well. He earned that contract extension.
This year, it’s time to go all-in and embrace the chaos. Indiana has become that team that no one wants to play, that game where you go in not knowing what to expect and feel lucky if you get out alive with a victory. If Kyle’s piece from yesterday was any indication, then the Kevin Wilson isn’t Indiana’s first rodeo as #CHAOSTEAM either.
The reality is this: Indiana plays five of the most storied programs in college football history this season. And while two of them - Penn State and Nebraska - face uncertainties of their own this season, the other three (OSU, MSU, Michigan) have expectations that are through the roof. I’d love for IU football to have that type of ceiling one day. But for now, the Hoosiers are still building toward that, and if they try to replicate what the top B1G schools are doing, they’ll never break through. They need to zag when other teams zig and try to subvert the conference best known for three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust offenses and staunch defenses. But friends don’t lie, and I’m not a huge fan of game after game of that. Indiana football breaks that rhythm up.
Tonight, IU and their opponents enter the Upside Down once again. Mornings might be for coffee and contemplation in Indiana, but tonight is for Red Bull shot directly into the veins without any time to think.
Here’s the pivotal info for tonight’s first game of the season:
Who? Indiana Hoosiers (#56 Projected S&P+) at Florida International Panthers (#113 Projected S&P+)
When? Thursday, September 1st, 7:30 PM, Miami, Florida
Vegas? INDIANA -9.5