Ohio State opener promotes sense of urgency for Indiana

As his Indiana football program transitioned from spring practice to summer workouts, Tom Allen recognized a greater degree of focus from his players.

The reason? Ohio State.

A matchup with the Buckeyes, who could begin the season as the No. 1 team in the nation, looms in the season opener on Aug. 31 at Memorial Stadium. Having Ohio State in town to start the season is adding a different layer of excitement to Indiana’s offseason, and Allen, who is set to begin his first full season as IU’s coach, sees the difference that anticipation makes.

“Ohio State as the opener definitely creates a sense of urgency,” Allen said. “I’ve said that many times. I believe that. We played a different opponent (Florida International) last year. Different feeling. A couple years ago, they played a different opponent (Southern Illinois). Very different feeling. When you know that, according to some polls, the No. 1 team in the country is coming to town, you’re definitely gonna get a different response.”

Although the Associated Press Top 25 poll is not due to be released until later this summer, ESPN — and its computers — are bullish on the Buckeyes.

ESPN’s Preseason Football Power Index ranks Ohio State No. 1 nationally after weighing factors including the last four seasons of offensive performance, defense and special teams, returning starters, a four-year average recruiting ranking and the tenure of the head coach.

For what it’s worth, IU is No. 60 in ESPN’s FPI.

The Buckeyes return star quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is 26-4 as a starter and will be working under new offensive coordinator and former IU coach Kevin Wilson.

The return of Wilson, who resigned due to “philosophical differences” on Dec. 1, will be among the most discussed subplots of the game — and the week.

Indiana athletic director Fred Glass, who negotiated Wilson’s departure, said he doesn’t expect the team will be consumed by the coverage and discussion of Wilson’s homecoming.

“There will be sidebar stories about that, but that won’t be the focus for Tom or any of us,” Glass said. “In terms of the substance of the game, I think Indiana-Ohio State — I hope they come in ranked No. 1. We play them on a Thursday night under the lights, prime time (at 8 p.m.). That’s really all we need.”

The matchup will mark the fifth time (1938, 1952-54) Indiana will open the season against Ohio State, and the first time in Bloomington. It will also be the fourth time Indiana has hosted a Thursday night game in Memorial Stadium.

Indiana hasn’t opened the year with a Big Ten opponent since it shut out Northwestern, 30-0, on Sept. 11, 1982.

Ohio State hasn’t opened the season with a conference opponent since beating Michigan State, 49-21, in 1976. The Buckeyes are 12-0 against Big Ten teams in season openers, and have won 22 consecutive games over Indiana.

The Hoosiers, though, are looking forward to getting an opportunity against one of the country’s top teams, right out of the gate.

“I like it,” Allen said. “I think it’s great. I think our program needs this. It creates an atmosphere and an urgency that our guys are benefitting from, and we want to take full advantage of it.”

6 comments

  1. I’d be so frickin’ excited if I was Coach Allen. First game as the new HC against the #1 team in the country.

    Awesome.

    I believe, win or lose, this will be great for the Hoosiers if they remain healthy. There is going to be a level of intensity and focus leading up to this game that all the Southern Illinois’s in the world could never incite.

    I think they will be ahead on the early season schedule because of it.

  2. Yes, it is good for the program. Generates excitement, radiates a national focus uniqueness and gives a brass band type of kick off to start the season. It is forward thinking. I would encourage the AD to schedule a Top 10-20 program for the 1st home game every season. Might be easy considering 4 of the big boys are in the B1G-E.
    Another thing I like is the limitless positive chemistry that can be built between Allen and Glass. I hold a lot of respect and admiration for Kevin Wilson but in retrospect Allen and Glass working together hold possibilities to a much wider universe for the IU FB program. So roll the dice, plan big and bold, upset some apple carts along with the competitions plans. Paradigms change cause someone changes them. IU should make Fall Ball meaningful in Indiana.

  3. Great article. Very excited about the upcoming matchup. Looking to be there in attendance.

  4. HC, I love your comment about making Fall Ball meaningful and this game against OSU should show how the program benefits from these games more than the lower tier teams in college FB. Play tough, hard, and intense to open the season and you can knock off teams others don’t think you can. Lose to a top team and use the experience to improve as the season goes along. For too long IUFB has thought small instead of dreaming big and this is a good start to dreaming big. It will give IU more attention from the fans but also from the recruits. Recruits will see they can play against the “big boys” and improving IU to beat those teams. Right now the “big” games in the B1G are limited to the royalty of the conference and IU along with others need to change that paradigm. This is a big game to put IU on the map. We were close to doing that back in 2015 but came up just short.

    This was a good year to make the change from coach Wilson as the recruiting had dropped off the past two years. I think the recruits this year are better than rated but the fact is that last year and this year saw Wilson’s efforts not improving as they were back in 2013 and 2014. Those two classes are now the upper class players and have a chance to prove they deserved the higher rankings helping the coaches improve the 2018 class. Coming up with big wins will jump start recruiting for IUFB and this team has the chance to do that especially since few outside the program thinks this team will have a great year.

  5. The names Crawford, Stepaniak, Westbrook, Riggins, Cronk, Robinson, Love, Jones, Wilson, A. Brown and several more from ’14’ and ’15’ somehow don’t lead me to think there was a drop off in KW’s last 2 years of recruiting. With the exception of Riggins and Natee this was in the heart of the move for IU to recruit longer, leaner and more athletic bodies to compete in the B1G and the result is positive.

  6. HC I was referring to the rankings of the classes. As we have seen IU players often perform better than what their class is ranked. I liked coach Wilson’s response to the 2016 class rating being so low – “remember the 2012 class was rated low but had 2 All-Americans, a 2K yd RB, and Sudfeld at QB in that class. I suppose I wasn’t as clear as I could be that I was talking about the class rankings not the actual players that came to IU. That is why I noted the 2017 class looks like the players are better than what they are ranked by national recruiting sites. For IU to win they need to hit on these players that turn out better than others think they will be. Riggins, Cronk, and Ball started as freshmen excelling while learning on the job.

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