Perhaps by now you have moved on from onside kicks and just an overall disastrous fourth quarter at The Gator Bowl.
No one is happy about the way things played out in Jacksonville, but at some point there is the bigger picture to get back to.
Going into the 2019 season, an eight win campaign would have been more than acceptable to just about any Hoosier fan. After all, that is a win total that had not been attained since 1993. Some question the quality of those eight wins, but that is an incredibly shortsighted perspective in the context of this program.
Yes Indiana did not defeat a team with a winning record, and yes they largely just won the games that they were supposed to. But ask yourself — when was the last time the Hoosiers even did just that?
By any intellectually honest assessment, the 2019 season was a major success. It was exactly what the program needed to get things moving in the right direction. And with a little taste of that success, the expectations will justifiably be higher for 2020.
With most of their starters returning, and two of the program’s best ever recruiting classes back now all as veterans, Indiana football has all of the attributes of a program on the rise.
But of course there is a certain reality when you are Indiana — that Big Ten East schedule. You can couple that now with an emerging Big Ten West with several programs on the rise and no real easy crossover wins.
Looking forward things will be challenging for IU. But the 2020 schedule isn’t all that bad either.
If you look at next year’s schedule from the perspective of games that you wouldn’t expect IU to have a realistic chance to win, there are probably only three such contests.
One is the season opener at Wisconsin, and then in November the Hoosiers travel to both Ohio State and Michigan.
Despite those games where IU will likely be big underdogs, what makes the 2020 schedule attractive is playing all of Maryland, Michigan State, Penn State and Purdue at home. In total IU will play seven home games (including five Big Ten games) and five on the road.
After a tough road trip to Madison to start the season, the Hoosiers have a very realistic shot at winning their next five games. If they do that IU could then look to clinch bowl eligibility in October for the second straight year.
That is where the schedule gets interesting. If you believe that Big Ten East powers Michigan State and Penn State are a notch below Ohio State and Michigan, then the good news is that the Hoosiers will face both the Spartans and Nittany Lions at home in late October.
If there is one team of the “big four” in the East that Indiana could hope to surpass in the near future, it is MSU. The October 24th matchup with the Spartans in Bloomington should end up being a marquee game for the Hoosier program.
With November home games also against Illinois and Purdue, the Hoosiers should have eight games (or nine if you want to include Penn State) where they are either favored or only slight underdogs.
If Indiana can get to seven wins it would mark the first time that the Hoosiers have achieved consecutive winning seasons since 1993-94, and the first time they have played in a bowl game in four of six seasons since 1988 to 1993.
THE 2020 SCHEDULE:
Sept. 4 – at Wisconsin
Sept. 12 – Western Kentucky
Sept. 19 – Ball State
Sept. 26 – at Connecticut
Oct. 10 – Maryland
Oct. 17 – at Rutgers
Oct. 24 – Michigan State
Oct. 31 – Penn State
Nov. 7 – at Ohio State
Nov. 14 – Illinois
Nov. 21 – at Michigan
Nov. 28 – Purdue
Dec. 5 – Big Ten Championship Game
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