Indiana football is off to a good start in its 2022 season. Improving their record to 2-0 against the University of Idaho last weekend, the Hoosiers have already matched their 2021 win total. Yes, last season was that bad.
Hoosier fans are starting to get cautiously optimistic about the 2022 campaign, and for good reason. Favored heading into their matchup against Western Kentucky University, Indiana has a chance to start 3-0 for the first time since their astonishing 2020 season, in which they went 6-2 in a COVID-shortened campaign.
Still, the Hoosiers shouldn’t overlook the Hilltoppers this weekend. Especially considering how their victory over Idaho started: trailing 10-0 at halftime. Indiana can’t expect to win playing just one half of good football.
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Western Kentucky gave Indiana a run for its money last season and are looking for revenge. While the Hoosiers never trailed in their 33-31 win, they needed every bit of their season-high 507 yards of offense to keep up with the potent Hilltopper offense.
This season is a completely different matchup, however. Both teams lost their leading passers, rushers, receivers and tacklers and support different playstyles.
Last season was an air-raid contest between then-Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and then-Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe, who combined for 97 pass attempts. Saturday’s game should see both teams more balanced offensively, especially if the Hoosiers can break off runs like they did against Idaho.
Indiana’s game will also hold some special significance for a couple players in particular. For the Hoosiers, graduate-student wide receiver D.J. Matthews lost his season against the Hilltoppers in 2021, tearing his ACL in the Indiana win. Matthews has had a stellar season thus far in 2022 and hopes to overcome last season’s misfortune.
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For Western Kentucky, redshirt junior running back Davion Ervin-Poindexter returns to Bloomington after spending three seasons as a Hoosier. As the Hilltoppers’ leading rusher this season, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to show off his worth against his former team.
Should Indiana fans be worried about this matchup? That depends on which Indiana team will show up on Saturday: the team who eased down the field against Idaho in the second half, or the team who couldn’t score in the first half?
If I were a betting man, I’d like Indiana as a 6.5-point favorite. The Hoosiers get their first daytime game of the season, and Memorial Stadium should expect a good crowd. Indiana’s offense looked good in the second half last weekend, and its defense looked impenetrable in the third quarter.
Looking farther ahead, does a win on Saturday put bowl expectations on the Hoosiers? Is it that outrageous to claim?
It’s clear this team is completely different from 2021, and the program had qualified for bowls in the previous two seasons. A 3-0 record would surge Indiana into serious postseason hopes, although it has little room for error with its brutal schedule.