After a bye week, Indiana football boasts — humbly presents may be more accurate than boasts — a 2-3 record.
I realize the year hasn’t gone the way many hoped. To offer a little optimism, I’d like to present one way Indiana can claim victory every week for the remainder of the 2021 season.
And just to be clear, I am in no way suggesting the Hoosiers will score more points than their opponents in all their remaining games. Are you kidding me? Have you seen the schedule?
Week 7: holding Kenneth Walker III to fewer than 200 rushing yards
When No. 10 Michigan State comes to Bloomington on Saturday, it will bring the nation’s leading rusher in junior running back Kenneth Walker III. Through six contests, Walker has plowed through nearly every defensive line he has faced, amassing 912 yards from scrimmage.
With senior linebacker Micah McFadden and graduate student defensive end Ryder Anderson leading a Hoosier defense that has looked stout in every game until the offense ultimately lets it down, this is an opportunity to pump the brakes on Walker’s budding Heisman campaign.
Week 8: not becoming the reason C.J. Stroud wins the Heisman
Speaking of Heisman contenders, Ohio State redshirt freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud has looked like the best quarterback in America ever since his return from injury Oct. 2.
I remember seeing Ohio State look vulnerable against Minnesota in the opening week of the season and receiving a text from one of my friends saying Indiana could beat Ohio State. Two days later, Iowa shellacked Indiana 34-6.
I don’t expect the Hoosiers to keep up with the Buckeyes on the scoreboard, but I already mentioned how much I like the defense. It just needs to avoid ending up as a prominent feature in highlight reels during the Heisman ceremony.
Week 9: winning a Big Ten game
Before you call me a hater, I didn’t explicitly say Maryland would be Indiana’s first Big Ten victory. That said, the Terrapins will likely mark the first conference foe the Hoosiers face that isn’t currently in the top 10.
Maryland junior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has fluctuated wildly between magnificent deep passes and head-scratching interceptions, an experience all too familiar to Indiana viewers.
Look for a hungry Hoosier secondary to force some turnovers while the offense enjoys playing against a defense that isn’t basically an NFL roster.
Week 10: making the most of a huge upset opportunity
As far as takes go, picking Indiana to upset Michigan is as overdone as an Applebee’s skirt steak.
Nevertheless, Michigan will be one week removed from a rivalry game at Michigan State when Indiana visits Nov. 6. At the same time, it will be gearing up for a road tilt at No. 7 Penn State. Not to disrespect the Hoosiers, but I question whether they crack the top three on the Wolverines’ list of most important November matchups.
Week 10 may be Indiana’s best shot at an upset for that reason alone. It’s not remarkably likely, but it’s not necessarily too far of a reach.
Week 11: not losing to Rutgers
In all fairness, Rutgers isn’t terrible this year. Still, there are must-win games, then there are the games you must not lose under any circumstances.
Week 12: not losing to the team that lost to Bowling Green State University
Much like Indiana, Minnesota is a traditional underdog that entered the 2021 season with great expectations only to remind its fans to be grateful for six wins and a bowl appearance. Head coach P.J. Fleck is basically a younger, yet balder, version of Indiana head coach Tom Allen: chock full of passion and pluck.
Neither of these teams want to be thought of as the hard-luck underdogs of the conference. It’s time for Indiana to put on its leather jacket, throw its textbooks in the trash, light up a cigarette it has no idea how to smoke and be the bully.
Rivalry week: self-explanatory
You simply have to beat Purdue. Its men’s basketball team is half the reason you can find so many Indiana students wearing shirts that read “football school” across the front. The Hoosiers can’t let the Boilermakers take that away from us too.