Every August, hope springs eternal that Indiana football will finally turn the corner. Hope springs that this will finally be the year Indiana puts it all together against Ohio State or Michigan, and maybe knocks off somebody else they shouldn’t too. Hope springs.
And by November, cold, cruel reality sets in. Once again, the corner eludes. Once again, the Buckeyes and Wolverines escape unscathed. Once again, Indiana ends the season wondering “What if?”
2018 was simply more of the same.
September: The One Time Things Looked Fine
Five weeks of September football turned out generally all right for the Hoosiers. A solid road victory week 1 against an FIU squad that would end the year 9-4 with a Bahamas Bowl win led into a much sloppier win (literally and figuratively) over Virginia in Bloomington, largely on the back of talented freshman Stevie Scott. 2017 was the year for freshman running back Morgan Ellison, 2018 was the Year of Stevie (in part due to Ellison making some very bad choices that would eventually see him expelled from Indiana). After dismantling Ball State, Indiana looked to be in very solid shape ahead of the battle for the Old Brass Spittoon. They then proceeded to get utterly faked out by the Spartans, and though a valiant comeback was attempted, it fell short, as most good things do for the Hoosiers. A much closer than many would have liked win over Rutgers left Indiana 4-1 for the month of September, giving the Hoosiers 7 chances to find two victories in the rest of their schedule.
Spoiler: they didn’t.
October: 0 for the Entire Month
4 games, 4 losses. These losses ranged from heartbreakingly close (Minnesota), to “Seriously, how did you not finish this one?” (Penn State), to “lol like you’re ever going to be able to stop this losing streak, but boy you guys sure could be good maybe” (Ohio State), to “Holy shit, are they actually that good or are we that bad?” [it’s the second one] (Iowa)
Yet again, Indiana played Ohio State close for at least a half, and yet again, the final scoreline made Indiana look non-competitive. Yet again, Indiana took a ranked team to the wire, but like every time but one, Penn State defeated the Hoosiers. Yet again, Indiana and Minnesota played a game that both fanbases desperately feared losing, and yet again, Indiana fans were left worse off, though this time the damage came from the defense allowing a single deep pass rather than the offense proving unable to tell the difference between a forward pass and a lateral.
The Iowa game, on the other hand, had
no positives whatsoever exactly one positive: at least it wasn’t Wisconsin delivering this unmitigated beatdown.
November: Three to Get Two (except it’s really Two to Get Two, because beating Michigan isn’t happening)
Finally, the Hoosiers’ bye week arrived. This gave them slightly more than two weeks to get ready for Maryland, and it certainly showed in Indiana barely holding off the Terrapins. At 5-5, with two games left, IU theoretically was still in the hunt for bowl eligibility. Only in theory, of course, as Indiana’s final two games were at Michigan, and hosting a suddenly resurgent Purdue in the season-ending Old Oaken Bucket game.
IU actually led #4 Michigan 17-15 at the half. The Hoosiers then proceeded to wait until the game was nearly out of reach before scoring their last three points of the game, continuing their notably terrible run of being the only Big Ten school to not record a win over the Wolverines in the last decade (a reminder: Indiana’s last win against Michigan was in 1987).
Once again, the Bucket game was a battle for bowl eligibility. Once again, Indiana had chances to knock off their rival. Once again, Indiana failed. And once again, Indiana’s season would end before most of the rest of the conference, with another offseason spent wondering why. Oh, and also finding some new coordinators, as Tom Allen turned DC duties over to Kane Wommack, and Kalen DeBoer coming aboard as OC after Mike DeBord’s retirement.
So, come August, hope may yet again spring eternal. Same as it ever does.