The Indiana Hoosiers let one chance to beat a ranked team slip away last weekend.
They hope to take advantage of a second chance this weekend.
One week after ending their quarter-century AP Top 25 drought, the Hoosiers fell out of the rankings following a 34-27 loss at No. 9 Penn State. They know they could make a quick return by upsetting No. 12 Michigan on Saturday.
“You go and you play a team that's one of the top in the country one week and then you got to go back and do it again,” coach Tom Allen said Monday during his weekly news conference. “That's part of being in this conference, being in this division, always playing these teams every year. I think that just gives us more to teach off of and get ourselves ready.”
Certainly, the Hoosiers have learned plenty from going toe to toe with some of the nation’s most prestigious programs over the years.
They’ve dealt with close calls, blowouts and sometimes agonizingly unforgiving schedules. Typically, they’ve struggled to pick up the breakthrough win that would impress regional and national college football fans.
Things have changed this season, though.
Two weeks ago, Allen got the first signature win in his three-year tenure — a 38-31 postseason-clinching victory at Nebraska. Indiana (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) followed that with a 35-point blowout over Northwestern to clinch its first winning season in 12 years. One week later, the Hoosiers reappeared in the rankings.
Last weekend, on the road, Indiana held its own against the Nittany Lions despite being without injured starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. or top receiver Whop Philyor, who left during the game after taking two helmet-to-helmet hits simultaneously. Penix won’t play this week, and it’s unclear whether Philyor will return.
“That's a process that we'll go through throughout the week,” Allen said when asked about Philyor. “We'll do a great job of being very diligent with that, in his best interests.”
Still, the odds this week don’t look much more encouraging.
The surging Wolverines (8-2, 5-2, No. 15 CFP) have won 23 consecutive games in the series since Indiana last won in 1987. The Hoosiers have lost 16 straight against ranked foes and the initial betting line made Michigan an eight-point favorite.
But things haven’t been nearly as lopsided lately. The Wolverines needed overtime to win their last two games in Bloomington and haven’t won at Indiana by more than seven points since 2006.
Plus, the Hoosiers have plenty to prove.
They’ve already achieved a good bit of this season’s goals — bowl eligibility, winning season, laying the foundation for a stronger and brighter future.
And a win Saturday, in the home finale for 16 seniors, would not only put Indiana back on the national map, it would reinforce just how much has changed inside the program this season.
“You’ve got to prove it on the field,” Allen said when asked about bowl possibilities. “I just think it's about building your resume, I guess that's probably one way of putting it, and then being able to market that resume and say, ‘Hey, this is a team, we're a team that you want to have come and we're going to bring fans and we're going to bring energy and excitement and a certain type of style of play.’”