Indiana Daily Student

COLUMN: IU football faces a critical stage in its evolution

<p>A Hoosier football player wears an IU helmet Oct. 24, 2020, in Memorial Stadium. The team will kick off its 2021 season on Sept. 24 in Iowa City, Iowa.</p>

A Hoosier football player wears an IU helmet Oct. 24, 2020, in Memorial Stadium. The team will kick off its 2021 season on Sept. 24 in Iowa City, Iowa.

Centuries ago, our planet was a barely habitable rock hurtling through space. What little life did exist knew neither desire nor purpose. Then, against all odds, the dull equilibrium gave way to a burst of rapid evolution. Earth’s organisms began adapting, competing and eventually cultivated a sense of meaning beyond grazing for nutrients or producing unloved offspring. 

Then, finally, the neanderthalic masses had something to live for — it was the birth of college football.

Before long, the creatures organized into tribes. Each community flew its own colors, and many chose an animal champion as a symbol of its ferocity. 

Of course, not every group has developed at the same rate. 

For decades, IU football struggled to move past its primordial form. The Hoosiers fell prey to more advanced species like the Buckeye and the Wolverine, both of whom had selectively bred a pedigree of winning. 

Though the vast majority of college football participants have progressed since the game’s inception, we can still witness prehistoric descendants roaming the league today. Remarkably, traces of Rutgers’ lineage somehow survive despite a clear lack of useful mutations or physical capabilities. 

Even modernized breeds still bear genetic markers of an ancient parentage. Iowa’s offensive impotence is a vestigial structure leftover from a forgotten age before minds could envision concepts such as the forward pass. 

The Hoosier genus showed glimpses of potential in the Bill Mallory era, but a long period of relative stagnance ensued. It was not until the renaissance ushered forth by head coach Tom Allen that IU could confidently stand on two feet without immediately stumbling. 

Allen’s first years were rife with growing pains, but the newly bipedal Hoosiers learned to walk. Neighboring Spartans and Nittany Lions had the benefit of experience and were too great a test in battle. However, with each skirmish IU came closer to besting its oppressors.

At long last, the Hoosiers could stand on their hind legs and hunt weaker members of its ecosystem. However, it was not until Oct. 24, 2020, that they proved a worthy challenger among the biome’s keystone predators by warding off an onslaught of Nittany Lions.

The following weeks saw a complete inversion of the food pyramid, with the Hoosiers trouncing Wolverines and Spartans alike, culminating in a victorious ambush of the Badgers’ den. IU even nearly emerged victorious from a scrape with the apex predator Buckeyes.

Upon the season’s conclusion, the Hoosiers journeyed far from the corn and soybean fields they call home to an unfamiliar, swampy habitat to which the young embark on traditional pilgrimages known as spring break. There, IU fell to the University of Mississippi in the righteous pursuit of honor, glory and Bloomin’ Onions.

Now comes what could be a critical step in the Hoosiers’ maturation. Warding off a physically superior adversary is one thing, but to consistently vie for glory with dominant beasts is another entirely. 

Expectations have never been higher for the Hoosiers. It is no longer enough to simply lay claim over their territory and drive off unwelcome Boilermakers. 

IU appears to possess the fortitude necessary to compete in the unforgiving January winter when other programs have begun a months-long hibernation. A robust defensive hide capable of stopping any onslaught must be balanced with a relentless, hounding pursuit of the end zone. 

The ascent to the top of the Big Ten’s food pyramid is a steep climb, but IU has apparently begun to sprint despite only recently being able to walk. Like Charles Darwin taught us, the species most likely to prosper is not necessarily the strangest or the smartest, but the one best adapted to its changing environment. 

Who knows? Scientific discovery advances every day. Before long, biologists may contradict everything we’ve ever learned and reclassify IU as a football school. 

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