Indiana will head into the 2021 season in a position it hasn’t been in since 1968, the year after the Hoosiers reached their only Rose Bowl and won their last Big Ten title.
After finishing 8-5 with a loss in the Gator Bowl in 2019 and 6-2 with a loss in the Outback Bowl in 2020, they will be a preseason top 25 team for sure and likely be at least in the top 15 if not the top 10 of the preseason polls. They bring back most of the top players from a team that went 6-1 in the Big Ten with its only loss coming against an Ohio State team that eventually played for the national championship, losing to Alabama. The Hoosiers came as close to beating the Buckeyes as anyone did before they ran into the Crimson Tide. The Buckeyes will be hit harder by the NFL draft than Indiana, with quarterback Justin Fields likely to be a top five pick and running back Trey Sermon and cornerback Shaun Wade among the key pieces who also put their names in.
But when asked about expectations for next season earlier this week during the press conference to introduce Deland McCullough, Indiana coach Tom Allen was quick to point out that the Hoosiers don’t automatically get to start off where they left off at the end of 2020, and for all the progress Indiana has made as a program, there’s a lot of work to be done just to hold on to the spot the Hoosiers had in the Big Ten hierarchy in 2020 and even more to take another step.
“One thing I think people misunderstand from one season to the next is you just assume that just because we came close in the fourth quarter against Ohio State that it’s just, OK, we’re a year older, we’ve got a lot of guys coming back,” Allen said. “You can’t fall into that trap. You have to recreate everything. You have to recreate your culture. You have to recreate the fire you have within you to be able to do the little things it takes. We have to work harder.”
That’s part of the reason why Allen said his one word for the year to encapsulate his goals and direction in relationship to the program is “Chase.” The Hoosiers haven’t even won a Big Ten division yet, much less an actual conference championship and their drought without a bowl win still goes back to the 1991 Copper Bowl.
“Do I expect us to compete and go win a Big Ten championship?” Allen said. “Absolutely I expect us to do that. I was asked that earlier when the season is over with. ‘What’s the next step?’ That to me is what we’re chasing after. To get to there is going to be a lot of hard work and a lot of guys doing the little things that we’ve not done before.”
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