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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Big Ten blunders put Hoosiers opener in perspective

Few times does a victory cause mass panic and hysteria, but after Hoosier fans saw the way the IU football team played last Thursday, they were nearly sent into apocalyptic mode.

However, there might be a simpler solution to the team’s opening night plight, and it’s called the “first-game jitters.”

Before an important event, like a season opener against a good team everyone expects you to win handily, even the best of men can get so nervous they lose momentary control of their thoughts and actions.

This past weekend, the Big Ten served as a model for such a diagnosis. 

Counting the Hoosiers’ white-knuckler Thursday, four teams in the Big Ten survived a last-minute scare from their far-less superior opponents in Week One:

  • The Iowa Hawkeyes’ saving grace from the embarrassment of losing to an FCS school was a blocked field goal in the last five seconds – twice.
  • Minnesota played an extra quarter before sending Syracuse, a three-win team just a season ago, home with a loss.
  • Northern Illinois pushed Wisconsin’s backs against the wall in Madison, but a fourth-down deflection at their own 36-yard line won the Badgers the game.
  • The mighty Ohio State Buckeyes needed a busted two-point attempt by Navy in the final three minutes to secure victory in their setup game for USC.
And, as if just for good measure, the rival Illinois Fighting Illini, playing the toughest opponent of any Big Ten team last weekend, got throttled by Missouri. 

It’s hard to assume that all these teams, two of which are ranked in the top 25 in the nation, will continue to struggle like this throughout the year.

In fact, the low-key performances from the conference last weekend add hope to the Hoosiers’ future, despite their less-than-convincing output Thursday:
  • Iowa, which scored 30.3 points per game last year, had the fewest amount of points for a winning Big Ten team last weekend.
  • IU tied Penn State for the most sacks (four) in the conference in Week One.
  • Seven teams in the Big Ten had at least five penalties last weekend; IU had eight, but Minnesota took the lead with 10.
The difference between the carefree reactions in Columbus, Ohio and the distressed feelings in Bloomington is a typical case of classical conditioning.

Ohio State usually finishes on top, and IU typically settles to the bottom of the conference. Therefore, Buckeye fans have learned to keep their heads up, and Hoosier fans have been cultured to play the blame game. 

Chances are that when the two programs meet in October, history will repeat itself. OSU will begin its climb to the peak, and IU will continue their annual freefall to the conference basement.

However, as the rest of the Big Ten showed last weekend, you can’t judge a team by its opening act. The Hoosiers still have 11 games to show what their 2009 version is capable of doing.

Take the boards down, stop digging the shelter and don’t load up on bottled water.
The end might not be near.

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