Friday, August 21, 2009

IU football season preview: The Big Ten schedule

When a team enters the season with as many question marks as the Indiana Hoosiers will this season it's hard to predict a lot of wins. And when they play in a conference the caliber of the Big Ten, it's even harder to predict conference wins.

Sports Illustrated thinks the Hoosiers will go 0 for 8 in conference play this year. I'm not going to go that far. I think there are one or two potential wins out there. Here's my breakdown:

  • Forget about an upset of Ohio State on Oct. 3 in Bloomington. The Buckeyes may be overlooking the Hoosiers (they play Wisconsin the following week), but I don't think on a bad day they will lose.
  • If you think the Hoosiers will win at Penn State Nov. 14, I have a bridge to sell you. Harder than beating a team coached by Joe Paterno is beating one of his teams on the road. Happy Valley will be rocking and the Lions likely will be in the hunt for the Rose Bowl.
  • Homecoming will be fun, but the Hoosiers likely won't beat Illinois. Quarterback Juice Williams and wide receiver Arrelious Benn are considered to be two of the best offensive players in the Big Ten. And the Hoosiers defense has trouble stopping teams. IU's defense will be able to rush the passer, but they are suspect at corner and their run defense is expected to be a problem again. This all adds up to a Hoosiers loss.
  • The Hoosiers will hang around at Iowa Oct. 31 and against Wisconsin Nov. 7, but lose. Both of these teams seem to have trouble beating the Hoosiers. But I'm not convinced the Hoosiers will be able to hang around and still convert it into a win.
  • Watch the Hoosiers play at Michigan Sept. 26. It has been more than 40 years since IU has won there. Michigan is better after last year's disaster season, but stranger things have happened, namely Wolverine Anthony Carter running for a touchdown with no time left to prevent a tie with the Hoosiers in 1979.
  • If IU was scheduled to play Northwestern at home, I would say they could win it. But since it's in Evanston, I'm going to vote 'No.' I still think teams with lots of offense like the Wildcats will give the Hoosier defense fits. The offense may end up in too big a hole to win.
  • The one winnable game is the last one: Nov. 21 against Purdue. The Boilermakers are rated at the bottom of the conference along with IU. I'm guessing the one conference win SI predicted for them is against IU. Since it is a rivalry game, you forget the records. The Old Oaken Bucket will be on the line and after last year's embarrassment, the Hoosiers may have a chip on their shoulder.

I wish I could put more than one conference win on the board, but I can't. The Hoosiers will beat Purdue for their only win and finish in the Big Ten basement at 1-7. But that is much better than 0-8.

Coming next: Picking the 2009 season.

Other parts of my IU football season preview: Must wins, Upset chances, and Coaches' signature wins, Part I and Part II.