Indiana football head coach Tom Allen gave a lengthy press conference on Wednesday after the news broke that the 2020 Big Ten football season had been resurrected.
The now fourth year leader of the IU football provided insights on a number items as teams now prepare to start the season on Oct. 24.
Can IU be ready to play? Has anyone opted out? Will there be bowl games?
Allen shared what he knows about those questions and more.
CAN THEY BE READY BY OCT. 24?
Indiana is in a better spot than some Big Ten teams.
Wisconsin paused voluntary team workouts last week. Maryland too. No team has had a build up to the season that in any way resembles a normal year.
Can IU be ready?
“We are waiting to get word from the Big Ten on how our week is going to look,” Allen said. “Right now, we are in the 12-hour (workout) mode, but we want to move to the 20-hour mode here soon, which is what everybody is under when you are playing in-season.
“We have to be smart. Our guys have not been going full out. As far as practice, we have been doing what we are allowed to do but that is not the same as being out there every single day and practicing. We have to be able to ramp that up slowly. I think that having the start date as the weekend of the 24th of October gives us the time to do that.
“We have been lifting, running and training as soon as we got word that we were not going to be having a season on the normal schedule. We do not know exactly what it is going to look like next week, but this week will continue to look the same. Tomorrow we will lift, run and have a little bit of time on the field. We will just lift and run on Friday. And we have to give them two days off, so they will be off on Saturday and Sunday. We will start on Monday and we will know by then kind of what that is going to look like, but it is going to be a combination of lifting, running and practicing until we get to the week of [September] 28th.”
THE TESTING BEGINS NOW
The reason we are even talking about Big Ten football is because of advancements in testing. The Daily Hoosier told you back on August 23 that rapid result testing was critical to the return of college sports.
Indiana isn’t going to wait until the league mandated daily testing start date of Sept. 28.
Instead, that starts now.
“Here’s what we’re going to do and this is where our university has really stepped up and with our leadership with (AD) Scott Dolson and President McRobbie’s support, we are going to start our rapid testing tomorrow (Thursday), Allen said. “We will have daily testing beginning tomorrow, so all of our guys will be tested daily with a test provided by the university that we will use up until the end of the month and then once the end of the month gets here, then the Big Ten test will kick in.
“That testing will start for us tomorrow and that gives us a ton of confidence in the fact that we can begin this preparation process in the way it needs to be done and be able to keep a clean, healthy field of guys that we are going to be around every single day and it will definitely bode well for our future.”
NO OPT-OUTS FOR IU
A major topic over the last few months has been players opting-out of the season, either because of health concerns or to prepare for the NFL Draft.
High profile players like Purdue’s Rondale Moore, Ohio State’s Shaun Wade and Wyatt Davis, Penn State’s Micah Parsons and others have decided not to play.
To this point, Indiana’s entire roster remains in tact.
“We’ve had some conversations with our guys because in the beginning guys were just like ‘Coach what is this going to look like’. They knew they hadn’t gotten a great preparation like they usually do or wanted to going into their senior season so a couple of those guys came to me and we talked it through and at that point let’s just see how this is going to play out,” Allen said.
“No one ever came to me and said ‘Coach, I’m not doing this’. You never know, I am not saying that to criticize those who have chosen to do that, I understand everyone has personal reasons for why they have or haven’t in other places. We haven’t had anyone here. I think our guys are pretty locked in and believe in what we are doing and they’re excited about being able to spend time with our strength staff because they haven’t had that in a consecutive way like they have here recently and they’re excited to play together and now we’re excited to get that chance.”
LIFE WITHOUT FANS
Allen has been investigating what the game day experience will be like without fans. He expects there to be artificial noise pumped into games much like what the NFL has done to this point.
“I have talked to some coaches that have played already and they say that its kind of has that Saturday scrimmage vibe to it when you go out there and no one is out there,” Allen said. “That is a different feeling.
“I saw that Bill Belichick interview the other day where he was asked how he could describe it and he just said ‘practice.’ It was kind of humorous, but at the same time, he is right. That is probably the best thing you can compare it to. They are going to pump in crowd noise, but I do not know how loud that will really be. I have heard some people say that it is not that loud, but they will try to make it, but it will not be the same.”
NOT SO HOSTILE ROAD
Empty stadiums aren’t the worst thing in the world for IU.
Memorial Stadium hasn’t been the most difficult place to play historically, and IU expects to play at some of the tougher road venues in 2020.
Could the Hoosiers have a hidden advantage?
“I think there’s no question that’s (no fans on the road) going to be a variable because that’s a huge advantage those teams have when they 100-plus thousand fans in attendance,” Allen said. “Just the energy you get from that as a home team, there’s no question it makes it really hard to play there. To be able to execute – the call, the communication and all those kinds of things you run into. It makes it harder; it makes everything more difficult.
“I think it will be a variable that will help the teams that are playing in those environments. Per the schedule we do have to go to Ohio State this year, to Michigan, those kinds of things are unique and different. I know just in talking to other teams who have played in those situations, its kind of taken away that strong homefield advantage you usually get for those teams that have such large stadiums and they usually are full when you play against them.
“You have to bring your own juice to those situations and be able to play and be physically and mentally tough. That’s what everyone’s going to have to do. It’s an equal playing field for everybody.”
CREDIT HARBAUGH FOR THE NINTH GAME
The Big Ten intends to use an “8+1” schedule format for the 2020 season. Four home games, four away games, with IU presumably facing each team in the East once. That leaves two games against the West, plus a new addition for game nine.
Indiana will face the team from the West that finishes in the same place in the standings as the Hoosiers do in the East. That game will be played at a to be determined location on Dec. 19.
Love it or hate it, send your thoughts on the format to Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
“Having that eight-plus-one, having that ninth game … I have to give Jim Harbaugh a lot of credit as he was the one that came up with that idea,” Allen said. ”
“We talked for a long time about how we decide who that ninth game is against, whether it was a blind draw against somebody from the other division, but he came up with the way to have parody in that last game. That is where we came up with the No. 7 plays No. 7, No. 6 and No. 6, 5 and 5, 4 and 4, 3 and 3, 2 and 2, and obviously the top-2 teams from each division play each other from the East and the West.
“I thought that was a great idea and thought it was a great way to have an equitable ninth game, or whatever that final game was going to be. The Big Ten Championship, the College Football Playoff, and all of the bowl games are in play.”
Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez and Purdue’s Mike Bobinski provided additional insights on the schedule. Alvarez helped lead the charge on the modified slate of games. He told reporters on Wednesday that games on Monday and Friday are possible.
Bobinski said that the league is endeavoring to keep most of the original matchups and locations in tact.
Don’t be surprised to see IU still open the season on a Friday night in Madison, Wisconsin as per the original plan. An announcement should be out in the next few days.
The Big Ten squeezed in its nine game season to allow its members to finish the day before the College Football Playoff teams are announced.
That’s great for Ohio State, but what about the rest of the league? Will there be a traditional slate of bowl games after the regular season?
“For us right now, all I know is that for us by starting on the 24th and having our season conclude on Dec. 19, we will be in play for all the bowl games that are out there for our conference and who knows, there may be more opportunities because of some other conferences not playing in the fall, Allen said.
“I’m not really sure what that’s going to look like because of us starting here in October, we are going to have an opportunity to be eligible for bowl games and that’s big for our conference. I know our players are excited about that and taking it one week at a time.”
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