Credit - IU Archives

IU Football Countdown: The Top 10 Seasons of All-Time — No. 5

As we count down to Indiana’s 2019 opening game against Ball State on August 31, The Daily Hoosier is looking back at the top ten football seasons in the program’s history.


Choosing the best of Bill Mallory’s seasons wasn’t easy, but it is clear that the two year run from 1987 to 1988 was not only his best — but one of the best in school history.

The 1988 Hoosiers were coming off of a great season, and the momentum and enthusiasm around the program could not have been higher.

IU jumped right out of the gates with a 3-0-1 start, the only blemish being a tie at Missouri.  The early wins all came by more than 20 points and included triumphs over Rice, Kentucky and Northwestern.

Since an embarrassing 31-10 home loss to IU in 1987, Ohio State had revenge on their minds when they came to Bloomington in 1988.

Instead, the Buckeyes left with another defeat — and this time in even more convincing fashion.  A 41-7 Indiana win over OSU before a national television audience catapulted the Hoosiers to No. 18 in the country with a 4-0-1 mark.

Anthony Thompson breaks free against Ohio State in 1988. Credit – IU Archives.

There was no letdown the following week as IU knocked off Minnesota.

The 5-0-1 and now No. 14 Hoosiers would travel to Michigan to face another team with revenge on their minds.  This time revenge was had, as the No. 20 Wolverines handed IU their first loss of the season, 31-6.  Michigan would go on to win the Big Ten title.

Still firmly in the conference race, IU rebounded in another nationally televised game.  Indiana outscored Iowa 45-34 in a classic shootout.  It was the Hawkeyes’ only Big Ten loss of the season.  The now 6-1-1 Hoosiers still had all of their goals in front of them.

But as has always been the case, the Big Ten schedule didn’t let up.  And heartbreak followed.

Indiana led at Illinois 20-7 late in the fourth quarter the following week before the Illini scored twice in the final three minutes to win 21-20.

Perhaps still reeling from the prior week in Champaign, Michigan State took care of IU 38-12 and put to rest any thoughts of a Big Ten title.

The now 6-3-1 Hoosiers were ready to let out a little frustration, and West Lafayette was the perfect place to do it.

Before 67,861 fans at Ross Ade Stadium, the Hoosiers absolutely throttled Purdue, 52-7.  It was the most points scored by IU at Purdue and their biggest margin of victory in the series.

Mother Nature helped the Hoosiers a bit in the postseason.  IU continued their dominant play at the Liberty Bowl in sub-freezing temperatures in Memphis as the Hoosiers took apart South Carolina 34-10.

IU finished the year with an 8-3-1 record.  The 1988 season marked just the sixth time in program history that the Hoosiers reached eight wins.

Eventual college football hall of famer Anthony Thompson was named the Big Ten’s player of the year after rushing for 1,686 yards and 26 touchdowns.


See also:

No. 10 — 2007

No. 9 — 1991

No. 8 — 1942

No. 7 — 1979

No. 6 — 1905


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