Saturday, August 15, 2009

IU football preview: Must wins

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.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

IU football season preview-Upset chances

Let's be honest. The Indiana Hoosiers football team is not expected to win too many games this year.

But while hoping for a Rose Bowl berth may be just a pipe dream, it is possible to hope for a grand upset. The win where the students storm the field and celebrate. The win where every break goes your way. The win where you catch the powerhouse team completely off guard.

It is a win that can save a coach's job, put a program on the national stage for a week, and raise your status among high-profile recruits. Illinois continues to grow thanks to such a win two years ago over Ohio State. Quarterback Juice Williams became a national name.

Michigan, on the other hand, still suffers from a similar upset. The 2007 loss to Appalachian State put the marque programs on notice that those early non-conference games can never be considered a laugher.

Is there a big upset on the schedule this season for the Hoosiers? Here are two games I think the stars could align perfectly for one:

1. At Michigan, Sept. 26

The Hoosiers haven't won in the Big House for as long as I can remember. Actually it has been 41 years -- the last win coming in 1967, the year of IU's only Rose Bowl appearance. But Michigan is not the powerhouse it has been over the last 10 years. Second-year coach Rich Rodriguez continues to rebuild the program after a terrible first season. Ideally, this game would have been played there last year, but the Hoosiers' pistol offense could cause some trouble for the Michigan defense. And if Michigan's offense plays at the anemic level it did last year, the Hoosiers may be able to scratch out a victory.

Make no mistake, an Indiana win at Michigan Stadium would be an upset, even if the Wolverines aren't a national championship contender this season.

2. Vs. Wisconsin, Nov. 7

Wisconsin has played down to Indiana's level in recent years. In 2001, Cam Cameron's offense-only team rolled over the Badgers by scoring 63 points. And in 2002, Gerry DiNardo's Hoosiers came from behind to win. It's reasonable to assume the Hoosiers, playing at home, could catch Wisconsin sleeping once again.

Either game would take a near-perfect game for the Hoosiers to come out on top. But it's a perfect game that we all desire to see to get a victory of this magnitude.

Coming next: 2009 must-win games