If the past is predictive, Indiana will lose to Michigan on Saturday.
The numbers couldn’t be more clear. In 24 straight meetings, the Hoosiers have lost to the Wolverines. Go beyond one anomalous win in 1987, and IU has lost 39 out of the last 40 meetings.
“Well, it’s definitely sportswriter talk,” IU coach Tom Allen said of his program’s dubious streak. “It’s going to be talked about quite a bit. The record is what it is.”
Sportswriters will talk about the streak. They certainly knew IU had lost 22 of its 23 meetings to Penn State before this year’s opener, as well.
But the Hoosiers’ players and coaches have been focused on other things. Allen, for one, has talked about competing for Big Ten titles, even when it sounded to most like a fanciful proposition. Even after season-opening wins over then-No. 8 Penn State and Rutgers, Allen has talked about honing in on the Hoosiers’ mistakes, because they certainly weren’t perfect in either game.
Most importantly, Allen has talked about the past not being predictive. The Hoosiers proved that to themselves last season, as two straight five-win seasons were followed by the program’s first eight-win campaign in 26 years. They continued to tear down preconceptions by beating a top-10 team and catapulting to No. 13 in the Associated Press poll in the last two weeks.
IU isn’t necessarily trying to bend the will of history versus Michigan. They are just trying to stay in this moment, which is the only one that matters.
“Even in fall camp, we’ve been challenging our guys about the way they think,” Allen said. “We talk about that all the time. More specifically, talking about the past not being predictive. … It’s not predictive unless you don’t do something to change it.”
Change, in Allen’s opinion, has been in-process during his three-plus years as head coach, but it really started to take shape during the 2019 season. He recalled Monday the win at Maryland, having to pull it out late, on the final defensive possession, via a Reese Taylor interception. He also mentioned wins at Nebraska and Purdue, which were equally important to IU’s psyche.
Even a one-point loss in the Gator Bowl had its purpose, Allen believes, reiterating the importance of finishing, which carried into preparations for 2020.
“For it to be lasting change, you have to structurally have things in place,” Allen said. “We didn’t finish in that game.”
IU has been anything but perfect in its two wins, but Allen believes outcomes like the PSU win should inform how the Hoosiers respond in tight contests, even against programs that have historically had their number.
Teams like Michigan.
“The bottom line is it’s about us playing our best football. To me, that’s the focus,” Allen said. “We haven’t done that yet. I feel like we’ve had opportunities since I’ve been here against Michigan and haven’t been able to finish those opportunities. Much like with Penn State in the past.
“I told our team again this morning, it doesn’t matter what I believe. I’ve told them what I believe. But it’s what they believe, and how are they going to prepare, and, ultimately, how are they going to perform on game day.”
Election Day off
The decision both by IU and the NCAA to mandate Election Day as an offday, while admirable, did force the Hoosiers to change their practice schedule for Michigan week.
IU usually gives its players Sunday off, but the Hoosiers came in for a lift and some meetings this past Sunday. Monday morning, they had some more meetings, followed by a practice that evening.
That Monday practice subsitutes for Tuesday, which will be completely dormant. Allen said only a handful of players have yet to vote because much of the team is registered out-of-state and voted absentee.
Allen, though, said he’ll be voting on Election Day.
“We’ll talk about it even (Monday night) about the importance of this and what it’s about and even the importance of understanding that we all have different opinions, and different views, … and we respect that from each other,” Allen said, “and that’s what LEO is all about.”
On the onsides kick
Allen was asked a couple of questions Monday about the Hoosiers’ failure to retrieve an onsides kick at Rutgers.
Onsides kicks are a bit of a sore spot after one cost the Hoosiers in January’s Gator Bowl loss to Tennessee.
“I felt like we didn’t get everybody in the perfect position,” Allen said of the kick lost to Rutgers. “Still thought we should have had it.”
Allen credited Rutgers’ shifts and motions before the kick for disorienting the Hoosiers somewhat, but he still saw an opportunity for redshirt junior Bryant Fitzgerald to jump on the ball before it got to Whop Philyor, whose legs it slipped through.
“It was a mad scramble for the ball and we had it,” Allen said. “We had it two different times and it squirted out and they ended up getting it. Those are things, gotta keep working on it. We work on those every single week, and we’ll continue to work on those because that’s how you finish games.”
Along with the onsides kick recovery, Rutgers also benefited from an unsportsmanlike penalty from Philyor. It was the Hoosiers’ second of the game, as Lance Bryant was called for one earlier in the contest. Those also have to be cleaned up, Allen said.
“No matter what they say or do to you, it don’t matter. I don’t care. You just walk away. Go celebrate with your teammates,” Allen said. “One of the situations was where we were talking to them and not us, and that’s what we don’t do.
“We call those selfish penalties, and when that happens, we have a high price to pay for our guys.”
IU will play back-to-back noon kicks with Michigan squads.
It was announced Monday that the Hoosiers’ road contest at Michigan State in Week 4 will start at noon. It is set to air on either ABC or ESPN2.
Michigan State just beat Michigan last week. The Spartans will travel to Iowa this week before matching up with the Hoosiers in East Lansing.