Lengthy losing streaks in Big Ten conference play is a problem that plagued IU football long before Tom Allen took over as head coach.
Including this season, IU has had a losing streak of at least three consecutive Big Ten games in each of the last 16 seasons.
History has shown the losing streaks for IU tend to come in bunches. Half of those 16 seasons featured a five-game or longer drought when it came to Big Ten wins.
The current IU conference losing skid is at four games.
"I just think that it's a matter of staying the course and just not growing weary in the process," Allen said. "That's the key."
The key for Allen will come in stopping the losing streak before it gets out of hand.
IU's 2014 team started conference play with seven straight losses. The 2015 team dropped its first six Big Ten contests.
While the 2015 squad closed with wins over Maryland and Purdue to reach a bowl game, the path isn't as clear-cut for this year's Hoosiers.
If IU can't win at Maryland this Saturday or at home against a likely top-five Wisconsin team the week after, the Hoosiers would need to end the season with three straight wins to clinch a bowl berth.
The closing stretch of games against Illinois, Rutgers and Purdue contrasts wildly with the opponents IU has faced to start conference play. But those same games would pose challenges to IU if the Hoosiers planned on staging a late-season resurgence.
Illinois checks in at a dismal 118th in the S&P+ offensive ratings, which ranks offenses based on a combination of efficiency and explosiveness. This is only 12 spots below the Hoosiers.
Rutgers is enjoying its best Big Ten season since 2014, as the Scarlet Knights already have a pair of conference wins. Those IU losing streaks from the 2014 and 2015 seasons featured losses to the New Jersey-based school.
A near worst-case scenario for IU would be entering the Nov. 25 game at Purdue needing a sixth win. Purdue Coach Jeff Brohm has begun to engineer a revitalization of the Boilermaker program, and Purdue could enter the Old Oaken Bucket game looking for a bowl berth of its own.
"Here we are with the first half already completed plus one, and you got five games left," Allen said. "How you going to respond? How you going to finish? So that word "finish," applies to the game, it applies to a lot of things. That's going to be something you're going to hear me say a lot here over the next several weeks."
IU's front-loaded schedule wasn't a secret to begin the year, and it isn't one now. But Allen hasn't used it as an excuse for the team's winless start in conference.
Instead he's challenged his team to use it as motivation entering a season-defining period of games.
"Yeah, it's very natural to be — to get discouraged. Disappointed for sure and frustrated," Allen said. "You can draw strength and confidence from that and attack with more fervor and grit than ever before, because you do know you're right on the edge and on the verge of breaking through."
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