My backyard is carpeted with freshly fallen leaves, the air is getting cooler and we’re only 33 days away from what should — fingers crossed — be Indiana’s first game day of the year.
That means it’s time to start thinking about Tom Allen’s Hoosiers winning several Big Ten matchups this season.
Luckily, ESPN’s computers have done the heavy lifting for us. The Worldwide Leader’s College Football Power Index has been updated to reflect Saturday’s schedule reveal and show how the Hoosiers might fare. Developed seven years ago as a “predictive rating system designed to measure team strength and project performance going forward”, the FPI uses data from returning starters, past performance, recruiting rankings and coaching tenure to produce its annual preseason projections.
Overall, Indiana’s team is ranked 18th nationally in the preseason model, good for fifth best in the entire Big Ten. The Hoosiers are due to play each of the top four teams in the league (No. 1 Ohio State, No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 6 Penn State, No. 15 Michigan) and four of the bottom five conference programs (No. 47 Purdue, No. 58 Michigan State, No. 64 Rutgers, No. 71 Maryland).
So, with all that in mind, here’s how the FPI sees IU’s first eight games unfolding:
WEEK 1: PENN STATE
Win percentage: 26.3%
Penn State is clearly a tier — or more — above Indiana, but the Hoosiers usually manage to give the Lions a bit of resistance. Just ignore Saquon Barkley’s Heisman audition in State College in 2017. Anyway, season openers are almost always squirrelly and it’s as good an occasion as any to pull out a surprise win.
WEEK 2: AT RUTGERS
Win percentage: 81.4%
Expect Rutgers to more than double its passing output from last year’s IU game. Even so, this sure looks like IU’s first win of the season.
WEEK 3: MICHIGAN
Win percentage: 49.8%
Coin flip! My big, bold prediction every season since 2014 has been an IU win over Michigan, a program the Hoosiers have not toppled since 1987. Mark your calendars.
WEEK 4: AT MICHIGAN STATE
Win percentage: 79.6%
Last September, IU came awfully close to pulling out its first win in East Lansing since 2001. This is very much a new-look Spartan side — new coach, new starting quarterback, and several new defensive starters. Given all the production returning for Indiana, it’s advantage IU.
WEEK 5: AT OHIO STATE
Win percentage: 8.6%
Good luck, Hoosiers!
WEEK 6: MARYLAND
Win percentage: 90.5%
The Terps have some intriguing players, particularly at the offensive skill positions. But they’re probably still a year or two away. Go ahead and fly Fred’s big, goddamn Victory Flag.
WEEK 7: AT WISCONSIN
Win percentage: 16.5%
Madison in December: What could go wrong? When the Wisconsin game was the season-opening matchup on each of the first two versions of the schedule, it didn’t sound so bad — squirrelly football, and all. But this? Yikes.
WEEK 8: PURDUE
Win percentage: TBD
The computers aren’t getting ahead of themselves, but that won’t stop us. The Bucket? Mark Deal is keepin’ that bad boy for another year.