Prior to the season, any one who mentioned IU and the rose bowl in the same breath was, I will say justifiably, laughed at. IU showed moments of promise last year, well as much promise as a 1-11 team can show. IU then opened up this year with wins against Indiana state and Massachusetts (woo hoo?). IU then dropped 5 consecutive games this year including losses to mid major programs Navy and Ball State. So how are the Hoosiers relevant you may ask, other than the obvious answer of magic... the real reason is Penn State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin and Illinois. Penn State and Ohio State are both ineligible to win the Big Ten and subsequently punch their ticket to Pasadena. As noted last week, saying Purdue has under performed is quickly becoming a gross understatement (just look at the stands after half time in home games this season and you can see the fans displeasure with the product on the field). The only conference team that has under performed more than the boilers... are the Illini. Neither Purdue or Illinois has won a Big Ten game this year, and the only thing that will redeem that is the fact that they have to play each other... otherwise both may have ended with a goose egg. Wisconsin, despite being ranked preseason, has not performed to their normal high expectations. Wisconsin has 3 losses (Nebraska, Oregon State, and Michigan State) all to fairly good teams. but with 3 big ten games left, things aren't looking any easier for Bucky with Penn State, and Ohio State (both who have actually performed well this year (the only ones in the Big Ten this year)) remaining after this weeks showdown with the Hoosiers.
Here's the thing though, this isn't your typical Hoosier team... Well it kind of is, kind of isn't. They throw the ball well and put up points (we expect that), but the defense is improving as the season is going on, and they aren't getting blown out. They are battling right down to the wire. There 5 losses have come by a combined 25 points (and 15 of those were to Northwestern). Now, sitting where they are at now, do those close losses hurt a little more... YES! BUT they are still alive, which is more than can be said for Purdue and Illinois. They have come from behind to win (Iowa) and they are 2 wins away from a bowl of some kind. Wisconsin will be without their starting QB for the remainder of the season it appears, and IU is playing quite possibly the biggest game of their season at home this week... there is reason for the slightest glimmer of hope. No, not basketball team hope this year, but hope none the less. IF IU can contain the beast that is the Wisconsin ground game, and IF the offense continues to put up good numbers... an IU win is possible. And with a win this week, IU would be in the drivers seat for the remaining 2 games for a trip to Indy to play for the Big Ten championship.