Allen looking to “biggest opener in IU history”

To Tom Allen, the Hoosiers’ season opener is not merely “Indiana vs. Ohio State.”

It’s the biggest opener in IU football history.

That’s what the head coach is dubbing the Aug. 31 brawl against the Buckeyes in Memorial Stadium. Allen isn’t one to naturally deal in hyperbole, but from his view, this occasion is deserving, even.

Never mind that it will be his first regular season game as IU’s coach, or that it will mark former coach Kevin Wilson’s return to Bloomington as Ohio State’s offensive coordinator.

For Allen, the stage is what makes it so.

Primetime kickoff. A national television audience. And an opponent that’s expected to open the season in the top five of the Associated Press preseason poll, if not at the top altogether.

“It’s the biggest home opener because we’ve not played a more highly ranked conference opponent to start a season before, and that creates a lot of excitement,” Allen said.

“(I have) a lot of respect for Kevin. Appreciate what he did for me. This is about the Indiana Hoosiers versus the Ohio State Buckeyes. And we haven’t had a conference opening game since 1982. So that obviously makes it a very, very big game for us.”

It is indeed a unique arrangement for Indiana, landing the Buckeyes at home to start the season. A far cry, too, from last season, when the Hoosiers opened their campaign in the sleepy confines of Florida International’s half-full stadium.

The duel will also mark the first time since 1954 that Indiana will open the season against Ohio State.

The Hoosiers haven’t opened against a ranked opponent since losing losing at No. 7 Notre Dame in 1991 — a date none of IU’s players were even alive for.

“It’s the 8 o’clock, ESPN primetime game,” Allen said. “So if you don’t get fired up to play in that game, then you’ve got something wrong with you. Our guys will be ready.”

And no matter how many times both sides attempt to deflect such a news item during the next month, Wilson’s return for the first time since his abrupt departure on Dec. 1 will be the central subplot.

Asked for his take regarding Allen’s comments on the magnitude of the matchup, Wilson didn’t bite. Wilson, who coached Indiana from 2011 through the end of the 2016 regular season, told reporters in Columbus, Ohio this week that it’s only a big game because it’s the next game on the schedule.

“To me, it’s our biggest opener because it’s this year,” Wilson said. “To me, each opener is the biggest one. They got a strong team coming back. Those guys, you hug them and you shake their hands and welcome aboard and you know them. It’s a group that the talent level’s improved and there’s a lot of things in place with the player development, with the weight room and things going on. So they’re going to be an extremely good team. It’ll be a strong challenge.”

To up the stakes, win or lose against Ohio State, Indiana has to travel to face Virginia the next week.

“No matter what happens, you gotta be able to handle the success or the setback, whatever it happens to be, and get ready to go. I think we’ve got a mature enough team to understand that. But we’re not gonna back away from an opportunity to create excitement for our program and what we’re building. I’m not one to just kind of tippy toe through stuff. It is what it is. We’re gonna talk about it and we’re gonna embrace it.”

Allen’s players, who begin fall camp on Aug. 2, have begun to do exactly that.

“It’s a big game,” quarterback Richard Lagow said, “playing Ohio State in the first game of the year, season opener. But when it comes down to it, we’re worried about us more so than the outside things that will be hyped up about the game.”

At Monday’s Big Ten media day event in Chicago, Allen was peppered with questions from Ohio State reporters asking about the game, Allen’s declaration on the magnitude of the matchup and Wilson’s return.

Allen didn’t back away from any of it.

“The bottom line is that it’s the quality of the opponent that has never been greater to open the season at home,” Allen said. “That’s what drove that statement, and it’s the truth.”

3 comments

  1. This is the biggest home opener for IU because of the opponent and the national TV audience watching the game. It will be a very good game to see how the Hoosiers will play under coach Allen. Coach has revamped the entire offensive staff so how that offense performs will go a long way to determine how well the team plays this season. IU will be challenged on offense, defense, and the special teams so we have to be well prepared in all phases of the game. This season would be the year for IU to knock off OSU with the game at home, OSU with a new OC, and IU with a large number of returning players. It will be an up hill battle due to the talent at OSU but IU has talented players that can make OSU struggle to contain them.

  2. “At Monday’s Big Ten media day event in Chicago, Allen was peppered with questions from Ohio State reporters . . . .” “Ohio State” reporters? Which newspaper is that? All of ’em, I guess.

  3. Not sure if this will be a football game or IU as that poor girl skinny-dipping in the opening scene of ‘Jaws’…?
    Cue the ba dum ba dum ba dum.

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