[EXTREMELY TRAIN VOICE]
♬ Beat Virgina I can’t wait to
Beat Virginia, yeah e yeah hey hey hey ♬
One down, five to go.
Indiana football’s objective remains what it always has been, and what it will continue to be until it gets too easy.
Make a bowl game.
So every year the schedule comes out and we start trying to figure out where those six wins might come from. You accept the fact that you can’t count on at least four games each year against the rulers of the East’s roost, leaving Indiana needing to go 6-2 in the other eight.
FUN. LOVE IT. GREAT ALIGNMENT. VERY EXCITED.
It seems bizarre to be talking about “must-win” games in Week 2. Calling something “must-win” in Week 2 is typically outrageous and practically never true. Indiana could lose to UVA by 10,000 points tomorrow night and still control their own destiny for a national championship.
(They will not do that, of course, they will not come close. But the fact remains that being 1-1 after Week 2 still affords you the opportunity to go 11-1, win your conference championship game, and then win the College Football Playoff.)
But given the circumstances, it sure is tempting to call tomorrow’s game exactly that. An undefeated non-conference record is almost a requirement in this era of nine conference games, four of which will almost always have the Hoosiers as huge underdogs. Let’s assume, for these purposes, that Indiana beats Ball State (easier written than done, as anyone who has an ounce of knowledge about IU football can attest) but has lost to Virginia. That leaves the Hoosiers needing four wins in the following five games:
- at Rutger
- v. Iowa
- at Minnesota
- v. Maryland
- v. Purdue
Yikes! None of these opponents are particularly imposing but none are going to roll over either. You’d normally feel pretty good about a game against Rutger but Indiana has certainly had their share of issues with the Big Ten’s most incompetent member. A home game against Iowa seems winnable until you recall its on Homecoming, a fixture Indiana has failed to win in all 100+ years of its existence (probably). And while the Hoosiers have won 4 out of 5 against Purdue, they were thoroughly outclassed last season as the Boilermakers appear to be a program on the rise, according to every single person in a Purdue hat at Your Local Bar.
Beating UVA doesn’t make that list of games any easier, but it affords some much needed breathing room for a team that has, historically, needed all they can get. Even the back-to-back bowl seasons included such incredible feats as:
- 2015: a 3-point loss to Rutger in which IU was outscored 22-0 in the fourth quarter! (fun fact: this was on Homecoming)
- 2016: a home loss to Wake Forest!
But they survived those screw-ups thanks to having four non-conference games in 2015 (where they went 4-0) and beating a horrendous MSU squad (just barely) in 2016. Neither of those advantages exist to save Indiana this time around and probably won’t return any time soon.
A loss tomorrow won’t officially sink the ship, but it’ll make the whole crew nervous.