Sunday, November 18, 2007

How big is a bowl bid for IU football?

What would it mean for IU football to receive a bowl bid this season? My thinking is it could be the second-most important post-season berth in school history.

The first would be the 1967 Rose Bowl, which IU honored this season.
IU has a history and reputation of not being competitive in Big Ten football. The Hoosiers helped perpetuate the stereotype that the Big Ten is the big two (Ohio State and Michigan) and the little nine. The team has been a consistent doormat, in many cases a power-puff opponent for Homecoming or an easy game before a tough one. The '67 Rose Bowl team proved IU could play big time football, but the following 40 years proved the team was inconsistent at best. While Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Iowa and even Northwestern were winning Rose Bowl and other bowl berths, IU was languishing. A win in the 1979 Holiday Bowl was a highlight, along with Bill Mallory's run of bowl appearances in the 1980s. But there never really was a reason for a blue chip player to pick IU over, say, Michigan or Purdue.

This season proves the IU program is turning around and moving toward competitiveness. Even the majority of IU's losses this year were close. You could easily argue the Hoosiers could have eight or nine wins -- close games at Northwestern and against Penn State come to mind.I think high school football players around the Midwest are paying more attention to Indiana football this year. Kellen Lewis is becoming a marquee player and James Hardy already has achieved that status despite relative obscurity. Their offense can score a lot of points, when taking care of the ball, which will spark the interest of blue chip offensive players. A television appearance in December also will help.More importantly, this season can be the building block of several years of good football in Bloomington. IU does not have to be the doormat. Northwestern has ended its decades of doormat status.

What IU must do is maintain the momentum -- prove this is not a fluke.Someday, maybe next season, I would like to see IU go to a place like Michigan Stadium and win a game. There's no doubt the team would be an underdog, but they are good enough to make some breaks and do something no one expects. It would be Coach Bill Lynch's biggest win ever and may bring Indiana University some national attention. Case in point: Illinois. A win at Ohio State and all the sudden the Illini are the next great Big Ten team. Look at Kansas -- undefeated and surprising all the Big 12 powerhouses.

It's not as unlikely as it sounds. IU fans are just too used to failure in football. We demand excellence in Assembly Hall, why not in Memorial Stadium?What do you think? How will 2007 figure into the health of IU football?

Here is a link to the IU athletic department photo gallery from the IU-Purdue game.

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