It isn’t his preferred approach to scheduling.
But this isn’t Indiana head coach Tom Allen’s first trial-by-fire rodeo either.
Most will recall Allen’s reward for being hired as the head coach at Indiana.
First regular season game of your tenure in 2017?
Thursday night, Ohio State, ESPN Gameday on site. The eyes of the college football world were on Bloomington.
After taking a 14-13 lead into halftime three years ago, Ohio State’s depth and relentless attack were ultimately too much for the Hoosiers.
But with No. 10 Penn State looming in less than four weeks, Allen can pull from his first ever Big Ten game as a head coach for insight on what it will take to have his team ready to go.
“We have done it in the past,” Allen said, reflecting back on that 2017 contest against OSU. “My first season as head coach, 2017, we opened on a Thursday night against Ohio State. There is no doubt, that creates a sense of urgency.”
In the two years that followed, the season opening opponent has been a legitimate test, but nowhere near the caliber of Ohio State or Penn State.
The Hoosiers faced Florida International to open the 2018 season, and Ball State last year at Lucas Oil Stadium. IU was challenged in both games, but managed to come out on top.
Now in his fourth season leading the IU program, Allen’s squad will be seriously tested on day one. He knows the first week performances that he saw in 2018 and 2019 won’t be enough in 2020.
“There is no ramping up on your schedule this year,” Allen remarked.
Allen believes that opening with a national powerhouse like Penn State is creating energy within his program. That’s a good thing, because the Nittany Lions won’t be the only challenge IU faces when it opens the season in a few weeks.
Energy will be at a premium.
While Indiana begins the season in the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium, the Hoosiers won’t have the benefit of a home crowd.
In fact, under the rules laid out by the Big Ten, IU’s now 60 year old home will be completely empty when the Hoosiers kick-off the season, perhaps with the exception of family members.
Whoever can best create their own energy might gain an advantage.
Allen is well known as a high energy coach, and he believes that his team is already feeding off of that, and the chance to pull off an early upset.
“I already sense it from our guys, Allen said of the enthusiasm he is seeing from the players with fall camp now underway.
“We have to realize what we are up against and how well we have to play to defeat a team of that caliber. I do think that is a positive, because that creates that natural sense of urgency and I do not have to work super hard to get them to understand how good of a team we are about to play. They know how good Penn State is and that is definitely positive for us.”
While Allen and his team know how talented Penn State is, they don’t yet know when the Nittany Lions will be showing up in Bloomington.
When the Big Ten released its nine week schedule, it did so without stating the specific dates, times or television plans. That information should be made public very soon.
As it stands Allen isn’t sure if he is preparing for another high profile season opener under the lights, or perhaps a Saturday afternoon showdown.
“Everyone in the conference is dealing with the same situation, so whether we play on Friday or Saturday, whatever day they tell us we are going to start, it is going to be a Big Ten game,” Allen said. “For us, it happens to be one of the Top-10 teams in the country coming to Bloomington.”
Whether the Penn State game will be held on Oct. 23 or Oct. 24 doesn’t matter much at this point.
The season opening challenge for IU will be immense either way.
Is that creating a higher sense of urgency around the program?
“It sure better,” Allen said. “They are a very good football team.”
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