At the Big Ten Football media days last month, Indiana football Tom Allen called Thursday night’s game between Ohio State and his team “the biggest home opener in the history of Indiana football.”
Which, of course, leads to the question of what was the second-greatest home opener in the history of the Hoosiers program.
Without being a historian of Indiana’s program it’s hard to tell. Even if you were a historian of Hoosiers football it might be difficult to locate.
In the last 10 years before this season, Indiana’s home openers have been against Florida International, Southern Illinois, Indiana State, Indiana State, Indiana State, Ball State, Towson, Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky and Indiana State.
So the runner-up isn’t in that group.
Indiana’s first home opener was a 52-6 loss to Butler in 1891, so that’s not it. Its first home opener against its in-state rival Purdue wasn’t so great, either, when it lost 64-0 to the Boilermakers in 1893.
The two greatest seasons in Indiana history didn’t begin with fireworks, either.
Indiana’s only two Big Ten championships in football were in 1945 and 1967. The 1945 home opener was against Nebraska, which finished 4-5. And in 1967, the home opener was against Kentucky, which finished 2-8.
Maybe the greatest win streak in home openers in IU history was from 1909-1916 when it won eight in a row over DePauw, which apparently said, “No mas,” and got off the Hoosiers schedule for a few years after that.
You get the idea. Allen might not have been exaggerating when he called this year’s game the biggest home opener ever.
If the Hoosiers would somehow pull off an upset against the No. 2 Buckeyes, it would definitely rank above any of the others.
“I want to go upset Ohio State. A lot of people aren’t giving us a chance. We’ll see what happens,” cornerback Rashard Fant said at the Big Ten media days last month.
It’s not just the Indiana coaches and players who have hyped up this game. Kevin Wilson, who was Indiana’s head coach last year before being forced out, is now Ohio State’s offensive coordinator, which adds a more juice to the match-up.
Wilson and Indiana have both taken the high road, but he certainly might find it entertaining to drop a half a hundred points or more on the Hoosiers.
Indiana thinks this could be its best team in several years, led by nine returning defensive starters and five on offense.
Ohio State has 15 returning starters who remember being embarrassed in a 31-0 loss to Clemson in a College Football Playoff semifinal, which was the first time Urban Meyer had been shut out in his coaching career.
Ohio State fans know where the Buckeyes are strong and where their question marks are. If the Buckeyes have addressed the question marks, mainly in the deep passing game, on the offensive line and its inexperienced defensive backfield, they could roll.
If the offense struggles, the Buckeyes’ defense, led by its line and linebackers, will have to take a lead role.
Indiana, with quarterback Richard Lagow (3,362 yards, 19 TDs, 17 INTs) and two No. 1 receivers in Simmie Cobbs and Nick Westbrook, could be a challenge for Ohio State’s young secondary. But not enough of a challenge to allow Indiana to beat OSU for only the third time since 1952.
The prediction: Ohio State 31, Indiana 14.