When IU head coach Tom Allen first arrived in 2017, his word was “breakthrough.”
While the Hoosiers fell just short of breaking through into a bowl game in Allen’s first two seasons — losing the Old Oaken Bucket game to leave IU one win short both years — the third time was the charm as IU had its best season since 1993.
Now that the Hoosiers are set to go bowling, they are looking to match the program record with nine wins in a season by ending a 28-year postseason win drought. The one question that awaits them is where are they headed, and who could they possibly play?
Music City Bowl (Dec. 30):
One of the most likely landing spots for IU is Nashville, Tennessee, in the Music City Bowl. For IU as a program, the Music City Bowl is likely the most desired bowl game for the Hoosiers to land in as it will allow the most access to IU’s fanbase with it only being a four-hour drive from Bloomington.
Entering into the season it was thought that the Atlantic Coast Conference would take the combined bid between the Big Ten and ACC, but the Music City Bowl President Scott Ramsey confirmed earlier this month that IU was in consideration.
The Music City Bowl also gives IU the potential for an appealing matchup against a Southeastern Conference opponent.
One of the projected matchups that has been thrown around by various news organizations, including ESPN, the past few weeks has been against the University of Kentucky. Kentucky basketball coach John Caliperi may refuse to play IU, but the Hoosiers may get a crack at their rival across the border for postseason bragging rights.
Gator Bowl (Jan. 2):
The second of the two likely landing spots for IU’s bowl game is the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida. For the players, the Gator Bowl might be the most desired locations for the Hoosiers to land as IU sports 26 players on the roster from Florida.
“My whole family is going to be there, so it would be unbelievable,” junior receiver Whop Philyor said. “If we get the chance, I’d be so happy to play there. I don’t have to get back on a plane to go back home; I can just drive home.”
If IU finds themselves in sunny Florida, they would also be faced with a SEC opponent. Kyle Bonagura of ESPN projects the Hoosiers to be facing off against Mississippi State University in Jacksonville while the Athletic and the Sporting News have projected IU to meet up with the University of Tennessee in recent weeks.
Pinstripe Bowl (Dec. 27):
Now we get into the possible but seems less likely category.
The Pinstripe Bowl in the Bronx was a popular pick for the Hoosiers throughout the season until the very end as IU earned its eighth win against Purdue.
It’s a real possibility — especially with the log-jam of Big Ten teams sitting between six and 10 wins — but IU would be just the third team ever to enter the Pinstripe Bowl with eight wins, the others being the University of Notre Dame in 2013 and Pittsburgh University in 2016.
Coincidentally, the projected matchup if IU was to find itself in Yankee Stadium for its bowl game would be against Pitt, according to both the Orlando Sentinel and Mark Schlabach of ESPN.
IU was in the Pinstripe Bowl back in 2015 when they fell to Duke University on overtime 44-41. Maybe the Hoosiers will get a chance at revenge in the Big Apple.
Outback Bowl (Jan. 1):
A long shot location for the Hoosiers is the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida.
As great as it may be to be dreaming of steaks and bloomin’ onions, the Outback Bowl is probably where IU would have ended up in other years when there isn’t a huge pile-up in the middle of the Big Ten standings, but not this year.
If IU was to get into the Outback Bowl, an SEC team would once again be waiting for it. The main name that has been tossed around to represent the SEC in the Outback Bowl has been Auburn University whose worse loss was to No. 9 University of Florida.
Representatives for the Outback Bowl have come to see IU play this season but between IU’s resume and the teams above them like Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan, there’s just too much traffic in front of the Hoosiers to wind up in Tampa.
The Hoosiers seem destined to either be in Nashville or Jacksonville this holiday season, but other bowls aren’t out of the realm of possibilities as this year’s team looks win nine games for the first time since 1967 when the Hoosiers were in the Rose Bowl.
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