Credit - IU Athletics

IU has little to gain, everything to lose at Outback Bowl — and that’s when these Hoosiers are at their best

The Australian Outback is the vast, remote, largely uninhabited interior of the country.

It is the kind of place where one might go to drop off a body.

And that is exactly what the power structure within college football and the Big Ten is looking to do by sending Indiana to the Outback Bowl.

Indiana is that pest getting in the way of the corrupt folks that pull the strings, and you know what happens to the little guys that create problems?

They get taken to the Outback to die.

Indiana’s bowl game “reward” sets up perfectly for the folks who former AD Fred Glass said “don’t want Indiana to be good in football.”

If IU beats Ole Miss on Jan. 2?  Yawn.  Another win against an unranked team with a losing record.  “Still haven’t beat somebody good, Indiana.”

“And look at all those points Indiana allowed to a middling SEC team.”

And if the Hoosiers slip up in Tampa against the Rebels?

Yep, you guessed.

“We told you so.  Couldn’t even beat 4-5 Ole Miss.  That’s why you were sent to the Outback, IU.  Now quiet down.”

With that setup, you might be wondering why Indiana even accepted the invite to play in the game a week from Saturday.

No doubt part of the reason is because this IU program, from top to bottom, is motivated.  Despite win after historic win, they’ve been doubted every step of the way.

Penix really didn’t score against Penn State.  Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin suddenly all became MAC programs.  They can’t win with a backup quarterback.  And on it goes.

Taking the high road, head coach Tom Allen seems to want to make a statement in just under two weeks.

“There will be a time and place to address that. I don’t think this is the time or the place,” Allen said when asked for his thoughts on Indiana being ranked No. 11 by the CFP and not being invited to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Credit – IU Athletics

With its athletic department financially strapped due to the pandemic, there are potential financial incentives for Indiana as well.

The Outback Bowl website reports that it “typically” pays out $6.4 million, although with limited attendance an atypical payment seems likely this year.  Moreover, the payout is a gross number.  Reports indicated that IU actually lost money by playing in the Gator Bowl after its expenses.

While the Outback Bowl itself isn’t particularly desirable for the No. 7 team in the country, the location has appeal to Indiana.  Head coach Tom Allen has deep ties to the Tampa area, along with around 20 players on the roster.  They will all be highly motivated to make a statement inside Raymond James Stadium.

Just how motivated?  You will have to wait to find out.

Allen was asked specifically what he would say in a one-on-one meeting with CFP committee chair and Iowa AD Gary Barta if given the chance.

“This would not be a good time. So. This would not be a good time. That’s for a later time,” Allen said, clearly showing restraint.

Allen was also asked if it was explained to him why Northwestern was chosen over Indiana for the Citrus Bowl — a game that is rewarded to the perceived second best team in the Big Ten.

“It was explained to me, but not necessarily to my satisfaction,” Allen said.

That is the story of Indiana’s last month — no satisfaction.  Not from the CFP, the Big Ten, or the bowl selection process.

Right now, the Indiana program feels like a tinderbox that could erupt into an inferno at any moment.

Allen’s challenge now is to channel all of that energy into something positive.

“I think you know me well enough, and I think this fan base knows me well enough, and I think this program knows me well enough that this football team will be ready when we take the field on January 2 at 12:30 in Tampa, Florida. Period,” Allen said, clearly frustrated.

Yes, Indiana has been sent to the Outback.

And yes, under the thumb of the college football elites, IU faces a lose-lose scenario when they arrive.  There is no apparent way for the Hoosiers to come out on top.

But IU was the underdog against Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin too.  And they found a way.

Once again, everything seems to be stacked against Allen and his team.

But he doesn’t plan on being left for dead.

Indiana is going to go to the Outback kicking and screaming.

A spark can quickly rage out of control.  That is a risk as IU will arrive in Tampa hell bent on proving everyone wrong.

But Allen has been masterful at managing the emotions of this team through an unbelievably difficult season full of highs and lows.

And he expects to come home smiling.

“We get a chance to be together here and create some awesome memories as a football team in Tampa, Fla.,” Allen said.  “That’s what I’m gonna focus on. That’s where we’re at.”

At this point, why doubt him?


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