Photo Credit: WTHR
On paper, the 2019 season has been a success for a program marred in as much mediocrity as the Indiana Hoosiers traditionally are. Winning 7 games for just the second time this millennium and doing so through only 9 games while losing starting quarterback Michael Penix, is an impressive feat. However, is it possible the Hoosiers have underachieved this season? Maybe I am just greedy and wanting more from a good season for the Hoosiers but coming off a 25 point loss at home to Michigan, it’s time to start questioning if this season has truly been the success many are touting it to be.
The Hoosiers have greatly benefitted from an easier than usual schedule this year. For starters, IU played FCS program Eastern Illinois and should be FCS program UCONN during their non-conference stretch of the season. Additionally, IU avoided playing any competent programs from the Big Ten West this season, only having to play division bottom-dwellers Northwestern and Nebraska so far with an Old Oaken Bucket game matchup with Purdue coming after Thanksgiving. What’s more, this is the first time IU has avoided a matchup with any of the top four programs in the Big Ten East (Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State) across a four-game stretch since the Big Ten moved to the East-West alignment in 2014. The Hoosiers’ weak schedule allowed the team to reach 7 wins fairly easily and hide the fact that the Hoosiers haven’t earned a big conference victory in decades.
Saturday’s matchup with Michigan was a prime opportunity for the Hoosiers to show that they were the real deal and could finally earn a big conference win. Coming off their 34-27 loss in Happy Valley to Penn State last week, there was a lot of excitement about the Hoosiers’ chances against a Michigan team who had underachieved all season. After taking a 14-7 lead, the stars seemed to be aligning for the Hoosiers. However, in typical IU football fashion, the Hoosiers crumbled and allowed 25 straight points all while looking overmatched and unprepared.
With two more games to play and only the bowl game offering the chance to play a good opponent, there is still time for IU to earn the signature win the program so desperately needs. While getting to seven wins is a great achievement for the program with the most losses in FBS history, shifting the narrative around IU football is far more important. Head coach Tom Allen and his staff have laid the foundation to do just that through their strong recruiting efforts, including the two highest-rated classes in program history the past two seasons, but without a signature win to define his tenure, the Hoosiers will continue to tread water at the bottom of the Big Ten.