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Does the University of Indiana have an identity? Once a basketball powerhouse, their prestige slowly waned over the years. On the gridiron, they’ve long carried a reputation for being a scrappy team that always ends up losing the big games. The Hoosiers haven’t won a conference championship in football since 1967 and haven’t even won a bowl game since 1991. Head coach Tom Allen, now entering his sixth season with Indiana, thinks his boys are about to break out and begin “chasing” down legacies of the premiere Big Ten programs.
“[Ohio State is] the gold standard, and that is who we’re chasing,” Allen said. “Our one word for 2021 is ‘Chase.’ We’re trying to chase that greatness every single day.”
That’s a serious fight to be picking, considering the Buckeyes have won 26 straight games against the Hoosiers since 1990 (which was a tie), and haven’t lost to Indiana since 1988. But don’t roll your eyes just yet; Allen’s 2020 Hoosiers looked tough, finishing the COVID-shortened year 6-2, including a sweep of Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Their game against Ohio State was dogfight, too, finishing 42-35 in a ‘whoever has the ball last wins’ type of game. Keeping up with that caliber of team shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially considering the Hoosiers return three standout starters on both sides of the ball. Allen’s dreams of winning the Big Ten should be more in reach this season than ever before.
“I feel very confident in stating that the goal is to win the Big Ten East and play here [Lucas Oil Stadium] on Dec. 4,” Allen said. “This is the first offseason I’ve given our players the permission to break it down on ‘Big Ten champs,’ so to me it’s all about vision and mindset.
“The vision is very clear. To come back to this facility and play for a Big Ten championship.”
Most crucially, Indiana expects dynamic quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to return healthy after a torn ACL last season. Penix has shown signs of elite NCAA playmaking abilities, and it sounds like his mentality is aligned with Allen’s as well.
“[Winning is] just something we expect to happen,” Penix Jr. said. “It’s the expectation. That’s what Coach Allen always says. That’s something we talk about a lot. We always ask each other, ‘What did you do today to win the Big Ten?””
Indiana also returns key wideout Ty Fryfogle and linebacker Micah McFadden, who led the Big Ten in sacks last year with six. Assuming they all have productive seasons, the entire trio is expected to be drafted next year into the NFL, a feat which has never happened in Indiana’s football history.
Indiana faces a tough schedule this year, including road matchups against both Michigan and Penn State, who will be looking for revenge. The team’s all-important Ohio State matchup is slated for Oct. 23 in Bloomington. If the Hoosiers are able to win those games and compete for a championship, it’s safe to say their identity as just a basketball school will be up for debate.