Indiana’s Path to 3 Straight Bowls is Clear and Attainable

The Indiana breakthrough didn’t happen in 2017, but Indiana still has much to play for.  In fact, if Indiana can win its final 2 games it will accomplish something that it has only achieved 1 other time in its history — play in 3 straight bowl games.  The 1986 to 1988 Hoosiers under Bill Mallory were the only others to do it.  Those Hoosier teams had what was likely the greatest run of sustained success in the program’s history.  So if these Hoosiers can achieve something that has only been done 1 other time, and that was 30 years ago, then perhaps there would be some measure of a breakthrough.  Sure, it wouldn’t be the breakthrough, but relative to the program’s history it wouldn’t be something insignificant either.

So what will it take to get it done?  The Hoosiers’ 2 remaining games are certainly winnable.  They play at home against Rutgers (4-6, 3-4) next Saturday, and then at Purdue (4-6, 2-5) in 2 weeks.  Indiana could potentially be favored in both games, but both are likely to be tight and the team that makes the fewest mistakes is likely to win.  Let’s take a quick look at both teams:

Rutgers has played better than expected this year.  Like Indiana, they’ve had a brutal B1G East schedule and threw in a season opening game against Top 10 Washington for good measure.  Save for a 56-0 loss at home against Ohio State, they’ve hung in games against the big boys but weren’t able to finish.  Sound familiar?  Since Indiana and Rutgers both play in the B1G East, they’ve had a lot of common opponents:

Ohio State 56  Rutgers 0 (at Rutgers)
Ohio State 49  Indiana 21 (at Indiana)

Rutgers 35  Illinois 24 (at Illinois)
Indiana 24  Illinois 14 (at Illinois)

Michigan 35  Rutgers 14 (at Michigan)
Michigan 27  Indiana 20 (OT, at Indiana)

Rutgers 31  Maryland 24 (at Rutgers)
Maryland 42  Indiana 39 (at Maryland)

Penn State 35  Rutgers 6 (at Penn State)
Penn State 45  Indiana 14 (at Penn State)

If you can draw any definitive conclusions from these matchups we’d love to hear about it.  Perhaps you could argue that IU was more competitive against Michigan and Ohio State, but to us, it says expect a close game.  Moreover, Rutgers is still playing for a bowl game just like the Hoosiers.  And if you just can’t allow yourself to imagine Indiana actually losing to Rutgers under these circumstances, we remind you of this doozy, a game that Indiana led 52-28 in the 3rd quarter.

The season ending road game at Purdue looked like a very difficult game for Indiana to win only a few weeks ago.  New head coach Jeff Brohm has the Boilers playing at a much higher level than they have in recent years.  It almost certainly still will be tough game for the Hoosiers, as this is a rivalry game and Purdue would like nothing better than to eliminate Indiana from bowl eligibility and end its 4 game losing streak in the series.  But Purdue suffered a significant injury, losing their best QB David Blough.  They do have an experienced backup in Elijah Sindelar, but Blough was clearly the more productive.  Additionally, Purdue is unlikely to be playing for bowl eligibility unless they can win a very tough game at Iowa next week.  A loss against the Hawkeyes will put the Boilers at 4-7 going into the Bucket Game.

Purdue and Indiana have had 3 common opponents thus far:

Michigan 28  Purdue 10 (at Michigan)
Michigan 27  Indiana 20 (OT, at Indiana)

Wisconsin 17  Purdue 9 (at Wisconsin)
Wisconsin 45  Indiana 17 (at Indiana)

Purdue 29  Illinois 10 (at Purdue)
Indiana 24  Illinois 14 (at Illinois)

Again, nothing real clarifying here, especially in light of the Blough injury.  While it might look like Purdue played Wisconsin closer and Indiana played Michigan closer — those games were in fact closer than the scores suggest.  We see another close game here as well.

Can the Hoosiers pull out 2 more tight games to get to .500?  We don’t know, but their play today against Illinois showed us that they won’t lose due to a lack of effort.  Their hearts are still in it.

Photo credit – Bradley Leeb/AP