Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The summer months are right around the corner and one of the first signs of summer is our third annual 100-Day Countdown to Kickoff. Well, it’s here we are officially 100 days away from IU kicking off the 2017 season at home against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Once again we will be profiling either a current or former player based on the number they wear. Some numbers are unclaimed, some are doubled up with two players, and others are reserved for all-time great IU football players. Also note that incoming freshman were assigned unclaimed numbers randomly and we will update those numbers when they are available.
This is a fun way to pass the time until kickoff and to get to know some of the lesser-known players on the IU roster. We encourage our readers to share their memories of both the current players and the former players that wore that specific number. 100 days until kickoff! Enjoy the ride over the summer and college football will be back before you know it. To kick us off, here are 10 reasons why I am excited for Indiana Football in 2017:
- This is probably the best the program has been in 25 years- The Hoosiers are coming off of two-straight bowl games and even with the coaching change, they are in good shape to continue the momentum built by former head coach Kevin Wilson. A bowl game during this transition season would be huge for the program that is trying to keep its footing as a mid-level Big Ten team.
- Tom Allen is winning back the state of Indiana- When Tom Allen was hired in December he made it clear he wanted to prioritize getting Indiana high school players to IU. The positive effect of this two fold. One, more in-state recruits could help build a local fan base as local fans want to see "their guys" play on Saturday. Secondly, there have been some pretty good players to come over of the Hoosier State. Keeping the top players in Indiana at home would really boost recruiting.
- The defense could be something special- The defensive turnaround in 2016 was very impressive and with most of the pieces coming back for 2017, this unit has a chance to be really special. All-American Tegray Scales one of the best linebackers in the country and Rashard Fant is an All-Conference candidate at corner. There are play makers at every level and there should be a lot of depth as well. If Allen's upward momentum can continue, this could be a top-25 defense this season.
- Indiana has one of the best wide receiver groups in the Big Ten- The Hoosiers had Simmie Cobbs for one offensive play last year before he suffered a gruesome ankle injury in 2016. He's back this year, along with Nick Westbrook, who had 995 receiving yards last year, Luke Timian, and Donavan Hale. Departed seniors Ricky Jones and Mitchell Paige have successors in Taysir Mack, Phil Benker, and Jonah Morris. Add in J-Shun Harris, who should finally be healthy, and a couple explosive freshman joining the team in fall camp and this group is loaded.
- IU opens the season with a bang- The Hoosiers jump right into the deep end of the 2017 season with at worst a top-five team in the country rolling into town. Opening with Ohio State on a Thursday night is huge for the program, despite some fans' grumblings. All eyes will be on Memorial Stadium as the Hoosiers try and pull off the upset. The weather should still be warm and set up an epic day of football and tailgating on the first week of the season.
- The Big Ten's best come to town- In addition to hosting the Buckeyes, Indiana welcomes Michigan and Wisconsin to Memorial Stadium. The Wolverines are likely to be a top-15 team while Wisconsin is one of the front runners int the Big Ten West. 2017 will provide plenty of opportunities to "breakthrough" with a win against a very quality program at home.
- There are some drivable and winnable road trips- One of my favorite things to do in college was drive to away games for Indiana Football. There are plenty of historic venues in the Big Ten and it was a chance to see how other fans celebrate fall Saturdays. This season IU has some relatively easy road trips as they face Illinois, Michigan State, and Purdue on the road. Spartan Stadium is the longest drive at just over 3.5 hours from Indianapolis, but Illinois and Purdue are both under two hours from Indy. Easy trips and usually an easy ticket to see the Hoosiers away from B-Town.
- Tailgating is back- One of the highlights of college football everywhere is tailgating. There is nothing quite like tailgating for college football games, with the grill fired up and a beverage in hand. Indiana does a solid job with their tailgating scene highlighted by the student lots in the fields and the new back lots off of 45/46. The way the IU football parking is laid out, there is enough space close to the stadium for fans to gather and get ready for the game, without having to walk that far to get into the stadium.
- A chance at a fifth-straight Bucket Game victory- Rivalries make college sports special and Indiana has dominated their football rivalry against Purdue since 2013, with four-straight Old Oaken Bucket Game wins. IU will go for five-in-a-row at the end of November at Ross-Ade Stadium. Five-straight Hoosier wins over the Boilermakers has never happened before, but IU will have a great shot at that this season. Anytime you can dominate a rival like IU has since 2013, it makes it even more fun.
- It's Football Season in Bloomington- Fall in Bloomington is special. It is a true college town and there are plenty of places to walk around and take in the foliage changing while enjoying a football weekend. Plus, there is something about tailgating with a little chill in the air.
2017 could be a special year for the Hoosiers, and frankly the situation they're in is unprecedented in IU Football history. So stick with HoosierHuddle.com as we countdown the 100 Days until kickoff on August 31st. It'll be here before you know it.