From one extreme to the other. That’s the story from this weekend to the next.
By every measure imaginable, statistical and beyond, Indiana (2-0) completely dismantled Eastern Illinois on Saturday afternoon in their 2019 home opener at Memorial Stadium.
From the 52-0 score to a 555 to 116 discrepancy in yards, this one was never in doubt.
The Panthers only got into IU territory twice the entire game, and never past the Hoosier 40 yard line.
It was that bad…or good depending on your vantage point.
As a coach, there isn’t much to dislike when it comes to games like this. IU head coach Tom Allen referred to it as “a good, solid, consistent performance.”
But of course as a coach, Allen found a few things that bothered him too, including penalties and a lack of takeaways.
But 52-0 is, well, 52-0.
And Eastern Illinois, is, well, an FCS school.
The next opponent is decidedly not.
Of course Allen knows who is next on the slate. “Everybody knows who’s coming” he said after the win over Eastern Illinois.
If you didn’t know, the No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0) are coming to Bloomington next Saturday for a noon tilt.
The Hoosiers will go from what is almost certainly the easiest game on their schedule to the hardest, presenting an interesting dichotomy, and perhaps some related advantages and challenges.
There is no doubt that a 52-0 dismantling of any opponent can create confidence going into a game like Ohio State, and Allen addressed that concept.
“The positive would be just to get into a rhythm of confidence from a week one opponent (Ball State) and trying to clean those things up,” Allen said in the post-game press conference. “To be able to address the things that we addressed and see them improved upon was key.”
But Allen also recognizes that it is less than ideal to make such a large week-over-week jump in the level of competition.
“The negative is that you are not going against the same (caliber of opponent),” he added. “It’s going to be a pretty significant difference.”
Particularly in the trenches, Allen acknowledged that a much greater challenge will be arriving from Columbus next weekend.
“We all know Ohio State looks a lot different up front than the last two weeks.”
Wide receiver Whop Philyor recognizes that Ohio State will be a big test for Indiana, but he believes that IU won’t be the only team with a fight on their hands next weekend.
“We’re gonna see how good we are next weekend against Ohio State,” Philyor said. “But they still gotta play us. Remember that.”
Although the competition will ramp up considerably, Philyor doesn’t expect the game preparation to feel any different this week.
That’s what he is saying anyway.
“It’s going to be like a normal week,” Philyor said with a sheepish grin. “We just have to focus on the small things. That’s what is going to help us beat teams like that in the Big Ten. But it’s just going to be a normal week of practice.”
Although stiffer competition this week might have better prepared IU for what is coming, Allen said he can’t control the way the games stack up on the schedule.
And he saw the Buckeyes come to Bloomington in a seemingly worse scenario in 2017.
“We’ve opened the season against Ohio State before,” Allen said. “So we’ve gone from no games, to game one. It is what it is. I’ll continue to say that I don’t make the schedule. We just adapt to what we get and who we are supposed to play next, and the Buckeyes are coming to town.”
For Philyor, he came to Indiana for games like next weekend. Not just to play in the game, but to win it.
“We came (to Indiana) to beat teams like Ohio State,” Philyor said. “We didn’t come here to play them, we came here to beat them.”
Philyor’s sentiment seems like the right mindset, but the reality suggests something different.
It has been more than 30 years since Indiana has won against Ohio State.
After the game IU quarterback Michael Penix said about the Buckeyes “they’re just another team…we all put our clothes on the same way.”
That may be true, but Eastern Illinois put their clothes on the same way too, and then they got completely undressed in Bloomington.
If that Ohio State losing streak is going to end next Saturday, Indiana is going to have take its game to a different level, against a whole different caliber of opponent.
Is IU now confident enough to pull off the upset, or will the leap from Eastern Illinois to Ohio State be too much?
We will find out soon enough.
For now, Allen likes where things are headed, while recognizing the major challenge ahead.
“We’re seeing the progress,” Allen said. “Now you have to go do it against a top five team in the country.”
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