Indiana’s must win games this season

Oct 10, 2015; University Park, PA, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Kevin Wilson stands on the field during the second quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Indiana 29-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O
Oct 10, 2015; University Park, PA, USA; Indiana Hoosiers head coach Kevin Wilson stands on the field during the second quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Indiana 29-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O /

Indiana’s last season was filled with “what-ifs.” They lost a few crucial games that would have earned them a much better bowl game. This season, there is plenty of opportunity for Kevin Wilson’s team to improve their record, and their reputation as a program.

Indiana had two close games versus Ohio State and Michigan, where if they had closed them out, would have made a much better bowl and regarded as a far superior team. Combine that with the monumental collapse they suffered against Rutgers at home and the team would have finished with an impressive 9-4 record with a couple of impressive wins under their belt.

Realistically, Indiana will suffer a few big defeats. There are always a couple games where the other team really shows up to play and runs all over the Hoosiers’ weak defense. Seizing the opportunities that are presented have been a weak point in the football team for the last few years now, and if they want to improve as an organization, will need to close out those close games.

Playing in the East division of the Big Ten is tough. Rutgers and Maryland are the only games that seem like guaranteed wins, and even then shouldn’t be taken lightly. With the likes of Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State – Indiana is in way over their head. They won’t be conference contenders for at least several years, but what they can do in the meantime is make a name for themselves by winning the games they are supposed to win, reaching better bowls, and ensuring better recruits for the future.

Here are the must-win games for the Hoosiers this upcoming season:

The Non-Conference Games

Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

For the first time since 2010, Indiana won all of their non-conference games. Losing to the likes of Bowling Green, Ball State, Navy, and more, are simply unacceptable for an ambitious team such as the Hoosiers. To improve as a program, these games have to be confidence boosting blowouts. Instead of a close and tiring match, they should be as easy as preseason and used primarily to get a look at who is competitive on their own roster. Indiana’s first three games include Florida International, Ball State, and Wake Forest – and while Wake Forest and Ball State aren’t chumps, should not be competing at the same level as a mid-level Big Ten team, especially at Memorial Stadium. Losing these games hurts Indiana’s chances at a good bowl by a large margin.


In their first home game, Indiana may give Michigan State a good game, but the defending conference champ’s defense might prove to simply be too good for new quarterback Richard Lagow. Their next best shot at a home victory is against a lesser defense in Nebraska, who still pose a threat, but are beatable. Their Quarterback, Tommy Armstrong, threw an impressive 3,030 yards and 22 touchdowns, but has a turnover problem, throwing 16 interceptions. Nebraska was one of the Big Ten teams that Indiana did not face last season, so it is hard to predict what kind of matchup these two will have, but it may be a high scoring affair.

MARYLAND (Home – Oct. 29)

Maryland was one of Indiana’s only two Big Ten wins last season, and haven’t gotten much better. They were notorious for turning the ball over and while the Hoosiers defense isn’t always the best, they can capitalize on mistakes. New coach D.J. Durkin will undoubtedly have a positive effect on the team, but remain as one of the weaker rosters in the league and should struggle with the explosive Indiana offense. This game will be a welcome after a tough stretch of games where they will face Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern, and Nebraska. Playing four tough opponents in a row will toughen Indiana up, and allow them to roll over Maryland.


Mandatory Credit: Matt Kryger-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Matt Kryger-USA TODAY Sports /

The last match against Rutgers left a sour taste in Indiana fan’s mouths. Rutgers mounted a late 25 point fourth quarter rally that saw them beat the Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on their Homecoming game, nonetheless. Don’t expect a repeat, however. The new Big Ten team went through a coaching change in the offseason with Chris Ash taking charge, and while his defensive minded scheme may help the Rutgers in tough physical battles, is still working with a less than stellar lineup. Indiana’s new defensive coordinator Tom Allen won’t let his defense suffer the same type of fate as last season, and promises a much more aggressive and tough team mentality. It may be just what the team needs to close out games like the one they blew last season.

PURDUE (HOME – Nov. 26)

Purdue’s football program is a sorry state. They have plenty of players returning, but not many are worthy of a spot. ESPN has Purdue last in the Big Ten Preseason Power Rankings, and while Indiana is not much higher on the list, they pose a much more serious threat. Also, Indiana has a knack for beating the Boilermakers of late. They have won the last three Old Oaken Bucket matches, and won’t be giving it up for at least one more year. Taking into account that it is the last Indiana home game and they will be trying to qualify for, or get a better, bowl game – they will be giving it their all.

Winning these games alone, which shouldn’t be too much to ask from the rising program, would put them at 7-5. This should be the bare minimum for the team, however. With so many close calls against great opponents last season, one would have to assume that they would snag at least one or two this year. The biggest question remains whether Righard Lagow has what it takes to succeed in the Big Ten. The JuCo transfer has skill, but has yet to play on a stage as large as the Big Ten, and defenses are much less forgiving. Luckily, he has plenty of weapons around him to help with the transition. I am expecting at least a 7-5 record, maybe 8-4 if we are being greedy.