The key to the Big Ten season for the Hoosiers will be to win the games they should win. There are probably four games that even the most optimistic fans would say would end up in losses.
Game 4 -- Michigan State
The Hoosiers' first conference home game should be a tough one. The Spartans are picked to be among the best in the conference this year and typically play well in the first two months of the season before dropping off. The Spartans will be coming off, potentially, a big win over Notre Dame the previous week and should be ready. I don't think the IU defense will have enough to keep the Spartans at bay.
The game should be close, but MSU pulls this one out. IU drops to 3-1.
Game 5 -- Minnesota
This game is on the road, but IU should have enough offense to hammer the Gophers. The team had one of the worst defenses in the conference last year and doesn't have much in the way of returning talent. The problem here is IU thinking they win in a romp. A few mistakes and Minnesota is in this game at the end. The Hoosiers remain focused and move to 4-1.
Game 6 -- Iowa
This is possibly an even match-up, but the game is in Bloomington, giving IU the edge. Iowa is well coached by Kirk Ferentz and will be ready for this game. But I think Kellen Lewis will take over and the Hawkeyes will fall. IU moves to 5-1.
Game 7 -- Illinois
The Illini are facing some of the same issues at the start of the season as the Hoosiers: validate an outstanding 2007, which included a berth in the Rose Bowl. This game will be in Champaign, where Illinois plays well. While both teams run the spread offense, I don't think the IU defense will be able to contain Juice Williams. In a high-scoring affair, the Hoosiers fall to 5-2.
Game 8 -- Northwestern
Homecoming in Bloomington is a wonderful time. And just like the leaves, the fortunes of the Hoosier football team are changing. The Wildcats likely don't have enough to hang with the Hoosiers. It's a happy homecoming and IU avenges last year's lost in Evanston, moving to 6-2. That ensures a second straight .500 season.
Game 9 -- Central Michigan
This doesn't seem like much of a game, but it is another trap. Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour is getting a lot of pub as one of the top QBs in the conference. He through for nearly 3,700 yards and 27 TDs last year. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and 19 TDs. He is as much of a force as Kellen Lewis.
While the Chippewas averaged 34 points a game, they gave up 36. This game may come down to who has the ball last. The Hoosiers are due for a head-scratching loss, and this may be it. IU losses and drops to 6-3.
Game 10 -- Wisconsin
The Badgers are expected to compete with Ohio State for the Big Ten title. Even though this game is at home, I don't think the Hoosiers can stop the Badgers power game. It's a two-game losing streak. IU is now 6-4.
Game 11 -- Penn State
A trip to Happy Valley can never end well. The Nittany Lions may not be a Big Ten title contender, but they will play well at home. IU may put up a fight, but they lose this game too. Now the Hoosiers are reeling at 6-5.
Game 12 -- Purdue
It's not looking good for the Hoosiers. They enter the Bucket Game in the same situation as last season, needing a win to secure a bowl bid. This time the game is in West Lafayette and it is Purdue Coach Joe Tiller's last game. Put aside the rivalry. The Boilers will be playing for Tiller. They win it. IU finishes on a four-game losing streak and ends at 6-6.
There should be a bowl spot available for a 6-6 team. The question will be should IU get it? They will be able to score points, which will impress bowl committee members. But they will have lost four in a row, which may turn them off. I think they squeak into the Motor City Bowl. Book your tickets for Detroit now.