For the purposes of this post, I am going to refer to a must-win as a game the Hoosiers accurately should be expected to get the victory. Given the football team's performance the last several years, there haven't been too many of these games. But here a a couple teams that at least should ensure IU doesn't suffer through an 0-12 season in 2009. I don't think either of these will be easy wins, however.
1. Vs. Eastern Kentucky, Sept. 3: A Division I-AA school. The Hoosiers should out-talent this team just because they have access to much better players than the smaller school in Richmond, Ky. It's also opening night in Bloomington, a rare Thursday prime-time date.
But don't think the Colonels will be a push-over. They are going for their third straight Ohio Valley Conference championship and 32nd consecutive winning season. (I wish IU had that problem.) Is this going to be a Michigan-Appalachian State upset? Probably not. The Hoosiers likely will win it, it may not be a 45-0 blow-out.
2. At Akron, Sept. 19: This is a rare road game where I think the Hoosiers have an advantage. The Zips, a member of the MAC, have the same problem IU does: good offense, bad defense. Last season the team had trouble stopping the run and pass at the same time. That should be a big help for the Hoosiers, who will rely on their offense, not their defense, to win games. Unfortunately, the Akron offense is no slouch either. But I think the Hoosiers' defense should do enough to get the victory.
Unfortunately, that's it. Out of 12 games, there are only two the Hoosiers should win and really must win. That doesn't bode well for the Rose Bowl predictions.
Coming next: The Big Ten schedule.
See also: Upset chances and football coach's signature wins, parts I and II.