After yet another soul crushing loss that seemed to follow a decades old script, we are back down to just us.
Every Indiana football season begins with a healthy dose of optimism. Visions of 1945 and 1967 abound, and folks that have no idea what those years mean genuinely and enthusiastically want to believe. God love ’em.
But those days are gone. Basketball season has commenced, and the fair-weathers have moved on, save for some incoherent mumbling about how Fred Glass hates football and Tom Allen hasn’t been a head coach beyond Pop Warner.
Now it’s just us — the true believers. Or rather, the hapless souls that should know better, but mindlessly keep coming back week after week, starving for a big win. “More porridge please.” And then the soul crushing begins anew.
But you are reading this — and you know what we do next. Math.
Four wins. Five losses. Three games to go — and you’re telling me there’s a chance.
“Please, sir, I want some more.” God love ya.
THE PARAMETERS OF SANITY
Let’s be clear here. We’re true fans — but we aren’t insane. That game in Ann Arbor? It ain’t happening.
Michigan is probably the best team in the Big Ten and they aren’t going to let a band of misfits from Bloomington go up there and crush their souls. They’ll save that for the following week when they travel down to Columbus.
Oh sure, we fully expect IU to be “on brand” in that game. They usually are. What will it be this year? A 4th quarter lead, overtime, double overtime, or maybe a good old fashioned gum toss? You don’t know how it will happen, but you know the outcome. And you’ll be watching, trying like hell to not believe, while feeling yourself being drawn in yet again.
In reality it probably won’t happen that way this year. Michigan should win that game going away. Sure would be easier.
But we can all agree that however it plays out, IU isn’t beating Michigan. Right? Riiiiiight? Phew. You had me worried there for a minute.
So that leaves two games, and IU is currently sitting on the same four wins that they’ve had since September. As an IU football true believer, your math skills are likely quite sophisticated when it comes to modeling out six win scenarios.
At this point the model couldn’t be more simple. Two more wins to reach six, and two winnable games remain.
THE STEP BACKWARDS/STATUS QUO
We wanted to suggest that finishing 5-7 was a different scenario than 4-8. But is it really? How much warmer or fuzzier are you going to feel after watching Purdue celebrate on the field at Memorial Stadium if the final standings show five wins vs. four wins? Let’s face it — not at all.
Now because you’re you, and you’re still soldiering through this article, you probably just thought, “well that fifth win could come against Purdue.” Yes, yes it could. And it might even feel good enough, at least until the buzz wears off, to forget about that loss to a Maryland program that is making IU look like Hep’s Rock of stability.
Look, there’s no doubt that keeping the Bucket in Bloomington is always a happy ending, and it would make five of the last six for the good guys. But if that’s all if you have to point to as progress, then how much progress do you really have? Hell, a win over Purdue might even help them keep Jeff Brohm. Congratulations.
Whether it came against Maryland or Purdue, you know what that one win is. It’s like the fourth quarter lead against Penn State, the fourth quarter rally at Minnesota, and the first half at Ohio State. It’s false hope. And then you realize that you are 5-7 again
What about 4-8 you ask? Oh we aren’t even going there. Why bother. Sure, the Glass and Allen mumbling would turn into howls, because, well, that’s what they do. But 5-7 vs. 4-8? Whatever.
THE STEP FORWARD
With just three starters returning, IU had major roster turnover on its defense. The Hoosiers have also had to deal with prolonged injuries and other issues with key players such as Jacob Robinson, Whop Philyor and Morgan Ellison.
Getting to 6-6 would be clear progress. One more win than last year with a younger team, and the Bucket back in Bloomington. You don’t want to believe it’s possible now, but a quick 10-0 lead over Maryland next week will have you Googling TaxSlayer Bowl tickets.
Maryland is clearly a wounded animal. Their record and on the field performance says they are better than IU, but what will be the mindset of that team when they come to Bloomington in a week? You’ll probably have your answer when they host Michigan State today. In any event, it’s a winnable game.
We all know that Purdue beat Ohio State, and we all know that they aren’t that good. While their fans believe they are the best 4-4 team of all-time, Eastern Michigan is on line one. They aren’t anywhere near as bad as their 0-3 start though, either. It will be a winnable game, but IU almost certainly will be an underdog. Probably by close to a touchdown.
Two tough but winnable games, both at home. Your brain should know better, but it feels like there is a chance. It’s not your brain we’re worried about though. It’s your soul.
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