By no means will Indiana be facing an easy schedule anytime soon.
But for the first time in a decade, the Hoosiers won’t face all three of Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State every season beginning in 2024.
How much of a difference will it make to not have to try to beat three of the top ten teams in the country every year, IU football coach Tom Allen was asked at Big Ten Media Day in Indianapolis on Thursday.
“What do you think?” Allen asked back with a playful grin.
Indiana has gone 2-25 vs. the big three since the Big Ten went to its current East/West division format in 2014. Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State alone have handed IU more than 40 percent of their losses since 2014, despite representing only 25 percent of their games.
There was an undeniable imbalance when comparing the East and the West division, and the big three have been the reason why.
They’ve been a major thorn in Allen’s side, along with the Big Ten’s West division teams, who have gone just 15-57 against the East’s big three under the current format. The East also won the Big Ten Championship game every year since 2014, including by double digit margins in each of the last five contests.
Indiana’s winning percentage against the big three has been 7.4 percent since 2014, and 39 percent against the West during that same span. There’s a real path to improve.
So what does Allen really think?
“Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan historically speaking have been three of the top ten teams in the nation for a long, long time,” he said. “And so they’re hard to beat.”
In June the Big Ten announced a new scheduling model that scraps the divisions and ensures teams will play every other conference opponent at least twice – once home and once away – in a four-year period.
But the move was made in conjunction with the arrival of USC and UCLA in 2024. And if we’ve learned anything at all when it comes to IU football, we know nothing comes easy. So while both Ohio State and Michigan are notably absent from the 2024 slate, this is, well, still Indiana.
“The conference is deep, there’s no doubt,” Allen said. “And everybody you play is going to be good.”
Allen says he’s never faced USC and UCLA throughout his career, and hasn’t coached in California since his first game as the IU head coach at the Foster Farms Bowl. USC and UCLA are certainly no pushovers, and there will be new challenges such as longer road trips and jumping multiple time zones.
Still though, there will be no longing for the Buckeyes, Wolverines and Nittany Lions. Allen thinks the league landed in the right place with their schedule reboot.
“I do think it’s a good thing for the conference for everyone to be playing each other in a more equitable way,” Allen said. “But the bottom line is, we’re going to play whoever they put on our schedule.”
So yeah, about that schedule — the 2023 version that is.
Indiana departs the East with a bang. Three of their first eight games will come against, you guessed it, the big three. And that includes the Sept. 2 season opener against Ohio State.
Allen faced Ohio State in his first regular season game as head coach in 2017, so he knows all about the challenge of facing one of the best teams in the country in week one.
“Everybody’s excited about the start of the season, but I think when it’s that kind of opponent it all gets raised to another level. Our team knows that. We understand that,” Allen said. “There’s an urgency that our staff has because of it, and fall camp is affected by that in a very positive way.
“So it’s a challenge we embrace, without question.”
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