Here we are nine days away from the start of college basketball season, and I’m still giving serious thought to the possibilities offered by Indiana University’s football team.
I keep thinking, “This must be what it’s like to be a Notre Dame graduate.” You know, the Indiana program with legendary names like The Gipper, Rockne, Leahy, Hornung, Parseghian, Montana, Holtz, and Brown. In Bloomington, we struggle to come up with a roster of football immortals. Taliaferro, Gonzo, Wilbur, Mineo, Waiters, and Dittoe just don’t roll off the tongue as easily as those Notre Dame icons.
Basketball has historically been the game that generated heat during the fall and winter – not football. McCracken, Bellamy, Knight, Isiah, Alford, and Cheaney – now those are names that get some attention among Indiana boosters.
But something happened in this weird year of 2020. IU Football suddenly got good – or at least a lot better than their first four opponents – and now alums, boosters, and students are wondering exactly how good the Hoosiers playing with the oblong ball might be.
This Saturday, Tom Allen and his Hoosiers will either get a lesson in humility or shock the college football world when they measure themselves against the best program in the Big 10. Indiana is 4-0 after beating Penn State, Rutgers, Michigan, and Michigan State – teams with a combined 3-13 record. No one is sure exactly how good the teams Indiana has beaten are, but everyone knows how good Ohio State is.
The Buckeyes are #3 in America for a reason, and quarterback Justin Fields is a Heisman candidate for a reason too. Indiana has Tiawan Mullen and Reese Taylor as stud cornerbacks, and Ty Fryfogle is the reigning Big 10 Offensive Player of the Week, but history tells us they will have trouble competing successfully in the Horseshoe.
If you want a clear picture of the historical difference between the Indiana and Ohio State programs, check the image below from Winsipedia:
If you are an Ohio State fan, that graphic is a source of pride. If you’re from Indiana, it speaks loudly to why waiting for basketball season keeps you busy before Thanksgiving. IU fans should trust me without examining it too closely. It shows unpleasant things.
That could all change this weekend. The last time Indiana beat Ohio State in 1988. That was John Cooper’s first year as Ohio State’s coach, and marked the first time IU got over on Ohio State in consecutive years since 1905. I don’t remember it well, having discarded it as a likely hallucination.
Whatever happens this Saturday, the ride with Tom Allen and his Hoosiers has been a lot of fun. It’s made the wait for basketball much more tolerable, and if they win it will make the hoops opener against Tennessee Tech next Wednesday less relevant than any opener in program history.
Let’s not even talk about the odds of IU winning Saturday though. No need to make it real until it has to be. Right now, this game between undefeated teams exists as a beautiful dream that ends with Ty Fryfogle and Micah McFadden carrying a delirious Allen off the field after he head bumps helmeted offensive line monolith Celeb Jones in another ill-advised celebration.
That impossible dream should be kept intact without reality interceding until 12 p.m. Saturday when it can no longer be avoided.
If somehow, LEO and Florida speed can put together 60 perfect minutes, we will start talking about Maryland. If not, Trayce Jackson-Davis and All Durham will earn our full focus.
As thrilling as these four weeks have been, this is still Indiana, you know.