Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for.
The Indiana Hoosiers are 3-0.
“THEY HAVEN’T BEATEN ANYONE. THEY HAVEN’T PLAYED- “
Stop. Just stop.
“THEY’VE HAD GOOD STARTS BEFORE AND THEN COLLAPSED.”
Why are you like this? Is there some sort of cash reward for forestalling your own happiness by constantly reminding yourself that it might not always be this good?
“WE’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE.”
No, we haven’t.
Everyone’s minds want to dart back to 2015’s 4-0 start that was followed by six consecutive losses before Indiana regrouped against a pathetic Purdue team and made it to their first bowl game in nearly a decade. It’s a common line to draw, but this just isn’t the same thing.
In 2015, Indiana needed to break up a two-point conversion at the end of the game to keep from losing to FCS-Southern Illinois, a late pick-six to get past a woeful Florida International at home, and barely got out of Winston-Salem with a win over a 3-9 Wake Forest. They entered conference play sitting at 69th in S&P+. They were better than they had been (you could even say they were nice), but they were hardly good. S&P+ saw that 4-0 start as a 2-2 team that got a little lucky.
As of writing, Indiana currently sits at 23rd in S&P+, in the same company as TCU, Miami, LSU, and their next opponent: Michigan State. They haven’t just beaten the teams they’ve played— they’ve controlled them. They’ve had a percentile performance of 92% or better in all three games, something they never did during 2015’s start.
We haven’t seen this before.
So whenever you’re ready, it’s time to give in to reckless optimism. I’ll admit I didn’t let myself believe through the first couple of games. Then I watched J-Shun Harris, who shredded his knee three different times while in Bloomington, return a punt for a touchdown like he’d never missed a day. No one would have blamed him if he walked away from the sport after a devastating knee injury, let alone devastating knee injuries in three consecutive seasons.
But Harris didn’t walk away. Each time his body tried to quit on him he willed it back into playing shape through hard work and modern medicine. He didn’t look like a guy who had tore his knee up three times when he darted around the field on Saturday, and that is perhaps the greatest testament to his rehabilitation effort you can give.
If he can keep coming back to Indiana football through all that— what the hell is our excuse?
Stop being worried about whether or not the other shoe drops. Stop withholding joy like it’s some sort of finite resource that you have to pay back down the road if things don’t work out. Indiana football is 3-0 and has a legitimate chance to win five or six more games.
Indiana’s last eight-win season? 1993. Nine wins? 1967. Last time they appeared in an AP Top-25 Poll? 1994. All of these things become possible with a win on Saturday, at home and under the lights.
Maybe they don’t win! Maybe this promising start will end like so many of the others and this article will circulate among the rivals’ fanbases with glee: “Look at this big idiot who got suckered into enjoying his football team.” S&P+ likes Indiana by less than 2 points against Michigan State while Las Vegas likes the Spartans by 4.5. The fact that we’re playing this game projected to be that close against an opponent of this caliber is, alone, reason for optimism.
It’s not groundbreaking to point out that Indiana football does not provide opportunities like this very often. But that should emphasize the importance of making this hay while the sun is still shining. Saturday could be horrifying— that option is never off the table when Indiana football is involved.
But now is not the time to be afraid or, worse, pessimistic. Have the audacity to enjoy this opportunity for what it could become.
CUE THE MUSIC.