The Indiana football team is fresh off their best regular season in 26 years and will head to a bowl game. Can they keep the momentum next year?
The Hoosiers won eight games for the first time since 1993 and it was also the last time they had a winning record in the Big Ten. They finished fourth in a loaded Big Ten East division and may play their first-ever bowl game in the state of Florida if the Gator Bowl comes calling.
This success is great, but it will be better if they can keep it up into next year. With that, we take a way to early look at the Hoosiers schedule for next year.
For some reason, the Big Ten loves to make Indiana play a conference game in their first game out. The Hoosiers start the next four years with a Big Ten game and next year it’s a rough one. Indiana opens the 2020 season on the road against a Wisconsin team fresh off winning the Big Ten West. Even the most optimistic Hoosier fan will understand that this is a tough game and one Indiana will be a huge underdog against. No one would think anything less of the Hoosiers if they lost this game, but if they were to win it sets the season up to be another big one for Indiana.
After their trip to Wisconsin, they get three straight non-conference games. They play at home against Ball State and Western Kentucky before taking on UConn on the road. As it looks today they should all be wins and at the worst, the Hoosiers would be 3-1 heading into the rest of Big Ten play.
The first two Big Ten games are at home against Maryland and at Rutgers. Unless there is major improvement from those two teams it is a nice start for the Hoosiers in conference play (outside of the opening game at Wisconsin). Right now you would have to think that Indiana would be favored in those games also and would put Indiana at 5-1.
For Indiana to have a successful season they need to open up at least 5-1 because the next three games are brutal. They host Michigan State and Penn State before heading to Ohio State. It might be the toughest three-game stretch for any team in the Big Ten. The only way to make it harder is if Wisconsin or Michigan were swapped out for the Michigan State game. But even with the Spartans in this stretch, they should be much improved next year. Indiana would be lucky to win one of those games, but could easily lose all three. Even then hopefully at worst they are 5-4 on the year.
The last three games of the year are home games against Illinois and Purdue with a trip to Michigan in between. The Wolverines have the Hoosiers number and are not losing much so this again will be a tough game, but the Hoosiers match up well with both Illinois and Purdue. Those two are very winnable games but might be tricky as the Illini improved during the year and Purdue always plays Indiana tough.
Let’s say the Hoosiers do beat Illinois and Purdue but lose to Michigan yet again. That would leave them at 7-5 on the year and eligible for a second straight bowl game.
While 7-5 might feel like a disappointment after this year, it would mark the first time they had back-to-back seven-win seasons since 1987-88 and only the third time ever. If the Hoosiers can keep this momentum going into next year there is a very good possibility that they can reach seven wins again.
Their schedule sets up nice for them to have another successful year, except for the brutal three-game stretch in late October and early November. If Indiana takes care of who they should beat, they are just one upset away from getting to eight regular-season wins for the second year in a row.
It’s still way too early to think about next year, but Hoosiers fans should be really excited about what the Indiana football team is doing. They are wading into unchartered waters, Tom Allen just needs to continue to steer the ship in the right direction.