Good news, bad news, worse news time. Which one do you want first? Oh, you want to end on a high note. Me too, so let’s start with the worse news and we’ll just work our way up.
Worse News: Looks like Indiana has not matured as a program in 5 years under Tom Allen. Still unable to go on the road and perform in a respectable manner. Indiana just got rocked at UC and really wasn’t competitive all day with blown coverage, failed and stalled drives, and just mind rockingly dumb decisions all day.
Bad News: Indiana now has 9 games left to reach bowl eligibility, but with the performance from this past week, I’m struggling to find a really viable path to 6 wins. As has been promised by Tom Allen and the Indiana Hoosiers staff, last season was really the outlier and 6 wins should be the baseline. I don’t agree at this point, but that’s what they say.
Good News!: Indiana plays one of the 3 more dysfunctional teams in the B1G than itself this weekend. Indiana takes on Nebraska in Lincoln (weird that it’s not in Bloomington considering Indiana went to Lincoln in 2019 and the teams haven’t played since). If there is one team on the schedule that Indiana could peel off a win against, Nebraska is on top of that list. Lost head coach, lost defensive coordinator, losing seasons so far and showing no fight against Oklahoma.
Can Indiana steal a win here? Probably not but let’s look and see, shall we?
- Well would you look at that, Indiana leads this all time series.
- Indiana won the last matchup in this series at Nebraska in 2019 in Lincoln (38-31). Indiana advanced to bowl eligibility in October that glorious season.
- The only other matchup in the last 40 years betwixt these two teams was 2016, when a Mike Riley led Nebraska team escaped Bloomington with a 27-22 victory.
- Nebraska was the first B1G team to fire its coach this year! Yay Nebby!
- University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) is the oldest and largest university in Nebraska. Woo Hoo.
- Nebraska became the Cornhuskers in 1945 because...well because someone referred to them as such and it stuck for a few years and they thought why not.
- Johnny Carson graduated from UNL.
- Nebraska is red. Not only in color but politically. Who says we can’t do Midterm predictions here.
What I’m Watching For
1) Can Indiana compete on the road?
I think this is the main question to be asked this weekend. Indiana got slammed playing at Cincinnati last week and it’s left me feeling rather down that this Hoosier team could go on the road and win….anywhere. If Indiana wants to shoot for a bowl this year, they’re going to have to pick up this game on the road and probably at least one more when they visit Rutgers. Can Indiana compete on the road? I’ll be watching for that.
2) Is Indiana’s defense actually any good?
Going into the season, it was fairly well established that the defense returned WAY more production from the previous seasons than the offense did. All-American corner Tiawan Mullen is back. Cam Jones is back at linebacker. Several other key pieces have solid playing time resumes and look…Tom Allen is back to calling plays and getting the defense back to the turnover machine it use to be. Then came the Western Kentucky and Cincinnati games. Oh boy. The defense gave up 38 in the first half last week including 3 deep touchdown passes against what was supposed to be the strength of the defense in its secondary. To its credit, the D did hold Cincy to a garbage touchdown in the second half and was able to provide enough of a lift in the WKU game to get them over the hump. If Indiana is going to win in Lincoln, the Hoosier defense will need to stand tall and not get beat for big plays. Big plays have been happening a lot on this defense this year. Is the defense any good? I’ll be watching for that.
3) Can Indiana score on its opening drive for the love of God????
I’ve given Walt Bell a fair amount of shit this year. And to his credit, he’s apparently started doing some of the things that I’ve recommended. For instance, Indiana ran over 100 plays and Connor Bazelak threw for over 60 passes last week. That’s a lot of passing, and passing on early downs as well. Yeah, there’s still the stupid ass 2nd and 10 run into the line for 1 yard or no gain, but I can give him one or two of those every now and then. What I’m more interested in this week is getting off to a good start. As far as opening drives go, Indiana has scored 6 points on 4 opening drives this year. That’s not good considering opening drives are supposed to be the drive you get to somewhat script. Indiana has been starting exceptionally slow on offense this year, and going up against a rather bad Nebraska defense could help the Hoosiers get off to a good start. Can Indiana score on its opening drive? I’ll be watching for that.
The Long Road Ahead
Let’s face it, nobody in their right mind things Indiana is actually any good. You can look at them and clearly see flaws and issues. That said, Indiana has itself in a great position to overachieve after a season of chronic underachievement. Indiana sits 3-1 with 8 games left to play. Of those remaining games, Indiana plays a rudderless Nebraska, Maryland at home, a Rutgers team that struggled with Temple, a floundering Michigan State team at a point when Sparty teams tend to either be folded or top 10, and an apparently floundering Purdue team. You need 3 wins to get to a bowl and that’s 5 competitive games.
I don’t want to say that Indiana’s hopes lie in the result of this Nebraska game, but they kind have to. If Indiana gets this game, you get to leave the Michigan game and the halfway point in your season at 4-2, which feels so much better than 3-3. Indiana’s margin for error is small this year, but at the beginning of the season the consensus was that Indiana getting to conference season at 3-1 would be a miracle. Not many had Nebraska being this bad either, and this game was an L on many predictions in the preseason. I cannot understate how important getting this game is.
When do I ever get what I want though. Good lord. Enough optimism. On to Lincoln.
Gametime: 10/1 – 7:30 PM EST – Big Ten Network