Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The 2016 Indiana football season has more swings than your local playground. The Hoosiers are coming off their first bowl since 2007 and avoiding the disaster that was 2008, when the Hoosiers went 3-9, is imperative by backing it up with another bowl berth would really get the rock rolling down hill. In order to avoid that fate Indiana will have to win their swing games, which we will label below. While predicting wins an losses for the entire season is nearly impossible, we at Hoosier Huddle are going to go through each of the Hoosiers 12 regular season match-ups and give the fans a quick synopsis of the game’s significance. So let’s get down to it.
Thursday, September 1st at Florida International (Swing Game)
The Hoosiers open up the 2016 campaign on the road, the first time they have opened up the season away from Memorial Stadium since 2011 when Indiana played Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium.
These games is a tricky match-up for the Hoosiers, but most importantly the Hoosiers will need to get the season started on the right foot and see how new quarterback Richard Lagow plays. A big factor will be how the Hoosiers handle the heat and humidity of South Florida. A win here sets up for a successful season. A loss and IU will be scrambling to pick up the pieces.
Saturday, September 10th vs. Ball State
Indiana has lost three straight in the series with Ball State, but the Cardinals are coming off a 3-9 season are replacing their head coach. While it is not exactly a rivalry, this has been hotly contested series that has featured some very good games. It is also a great opportunity for the Hoosiers to reassert their dominance over MAC schools and change perception in the state.
Saturday, September 17th OPEN
At first, I hated the fact that the open week came in the third week of the season, but after thinking about it, it may come at the perfect time. With an unknown commodity at quarterback (Richard Lagow), having a week to digest the first two games should help him develop a better understanding of the offense and let coaches work with him on potential issues they see over the first two weeks. The down side is that the Hoosiers will have to survive 10-straight power-five games to close the season.
Saturday, September 24th vs. Wake Forest
The final non-conference game features the back end of a home-and-home series with the Demon Deacons. Indiana disposed of Wake Forest on the road last year 31-24 and a win in Bloomington would likely mean a 3-0 start and a perfect non-conference slate (which is huge for bowl hopes).
Saturday, October 1st vs. Michigan State 8pm (Swing Game)
As long as the Hoosiers are 3-0 heading into their Big Ten opener, the atmosphere should be electric, as they will host Michigan State in prime time at Memorial Stadium. The Hoosiers have not laid claim to the Old Brass Spittoon since 2006, but it seems like this year Michigan State could be ripe for the picking. A win over the Spartans could be the difference between a six or seven win season and an eight or nine win season. Indiana came close to knocking off several of the “Big Boys” last season, could this be the game they get over the hump?
Saturday, October 8th at Ohio State
Indiana will make the trip to the ‘Shoe for the third time under Kevin Wilson and it will not be an easy task, especially coming off a match-up against a very formidable Michigan State squad. The Hoosiers had the Buckeyes on the ropes the last two years, but this will be the first Big Ten road game for quarterback Richard Lagow and Ohio State will be no slouch again. There is no shame in losing on the road to Ohio State, however a win would make this a magical IU season.
Saturday, October 15th vs. Nebraska 3:30pm (Homecoming)
Homecoming is always a special weekend in Bloomington and this year the Hoosiers welcome in the Huskers for the first time since the late 70’s. This game represents the start of the second half of a four-game gauntlet the Hoosiers will be facing in October. We labeled this our “best chance to see a shootout” game in a previous article. Indiana has to start winning home conference games consistently and this is a winnable conference home game.
Saturday, October 22nd at Northwestern (Swing Game) Noon
This will be a matchup of a great offense and a very good defense. The Wildcats are coming off an impressive 10-win season in 2015 and should be in the race again for the West title as they bring back a lot of experience. IU hasn’t beaten Northwestern since 2008, and the last few games at Ryan Field have been wild. A Hoosier win gives them a chance to enter the softer part of the schedule (vs. Maryland at Rutgers). A loss makes those two games must wins and puts a ton of pressure on IU.
Saturday, October 29th vs. Maryland
I don’t want to call this a breather, but Maryland is coming off a brutal season and will be breaking in a new coach in DJ Durkin and after playing Michigan State, Ohio State, Nebraska and Northwestern IU will be playing the bottom part of the East Division. At the very least this is the type of game IU should win at home.
Saturday, November 5th at Rutgers
The Hoosiers are 0-2 against the Scarlet Knights and the loss last year has to have the Hoosiers thinking revenge after blowing a 25-point second half lead. Rutgers is in a total rebuild mode after firing Kyle Flood and bringing in Chris Ash from Ohio State. Again a game IU should win, but things on the road in the Big Ten can get tricky.
Saturday, November 12 vs. Penn State
There is a lot of unknowns about Penn State coming into this year. Who is their quarterback? Can they protect whoever is under center? Will James Franklin still be on the hot seat by this point in time? The last two time the Hoosiers hosted the Nittany Lions they have played them well, knocking them off 44-24 in 2013 (first win over PSU) and a narrow 13-7 loss in 2014 that may have been different if Sudfeld were healthy. This is probably a toss-up game that IU may win if their season has broken their way and a loss if it is a repeat of 2014.
Saturday, November 19th at Michigan
Arguably the most difficult game on the schedule. Some services have Michigan as a top-five team coming into the season, and IU hasn’t won at the Big House since 1967. Getting a win here would be historic and a ton to ask for.
Saturday, November 26th vs. Purdue
The Bucket Game! It’s great to have a rivalry game at the end of the year and it is much more fun to win and start dominating this series. Purdue figures to be at or near the bottom of the conference again this season and the Hoosiers just have been the better program since 2012. This has become a must win game for the Hoosiers, just because Purdue has become that bad under Darrell Hazel and Co.
- Swing Games: at Florida International, vs. Michigan State, at Northwestern
- Toughest Game: at Ohio State or at Michigan
- Cupcake: Ball State
- Must Wins: vs. Wake Forest and vs. Purdue