Back against the wall.
Playing for all the marbles.
Win or face the horror of The Void.
These were the stakes for our protagonists, the Indiana football Hoosiers, on the road in Champaign today against Illinois. Faced with such long odds, the tallest of tasks, what was the response, you ask?
Oh it was just allowingsixhundredandsixtytwoyardsofoffensetoafourandfiveteamstartingabackupquarterbackwhotransferredfromballstate.
John Paddock, coming off the bench for the Illini after leading a game-winning drive the previous week, passed for five hundred and two yards on the day. Four touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime.
As a little reminder: Indiana is a program led by a man who has spent the entirety of his adult life either playing or coaching the defensive side of the ball. It employs not one, but TWO defensive coordinators.
The situation could not have been more dire. Indiana needed to win out, beating Illinois, Michigan State and rival Purdue, to reach that six win benchmark and achieve bowl eligibility for the first time since 2020.
That, at the very least, would’ve salvaged the season. But Indiana was playing for far, far more than that.
The Hoosiers are the not-so-proud owners of two Big Ten wins in the past three years (against Michigan State and Wisconsin, somehow?). If it weren’t for a handful of missed field goals, they’d have multiple Group of Five losses to their name as well.
Indiana has plummeted from the highs of 2020 in ways nobody truly saw coming. The cracks were there, yes, but in no way was this level of losing expected after those seasons, not even close.
It’s bad to the point that fans are asking themselves the dreaded twenty million dollar question that comes with the head coach. That’s a big buyout but Indiana is in the richest football playing collegiate athletic conference of all time.
If that money is a problem now, what’s the point of trying to compete at all for the next decade.
Is this sustainable? Can Indiana survive adding four objectively better teams to the league next year when the current product can get it done against programs of similar stature?
The answer is probably a firm no.