Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
We spend months and weeks thinking about the non-conference opponents the Hoosiers have on their schedule. Each game comes, IU wins or loses and then both team's seasons move on. It's very easy to forget all about the team IU matched up with in early September. While strength of schedule or "who you beat" likely won't factor into IU's destination at the end of the season (barring a miracle College Football Playoff bid), it's helpful to look back at what IU's non-conference opponents did before and after the Hoosiers knocked them off. This isn't meant to say anything definitive about IU's 4-0 record or about any game in particular but it does help provide a bit of contextualization to each week's result and to the 4-0 start as a whole.
Week One Opponent – Southern Illinois (1-2)
The Indiana Hoosiers survived the Salukis, 48-47 in a game that had many of us worried about the remainder of the season. The Hoosiers were missing several key defensive players but it was still disappointing to see the defense struggling to contain the offense of an FCS opponent. Since that contest, Southern Illinois has gone 1-1. The Salukis lost 24-27 at Southeast Missouri (SEMO) in week two because of an astonishing seven turnovers. The Salukis had a bye week and regrouped for a blowout victory over Liberty, the #10 ranked FCS team in the country. The Salukis gained 482 yards with a balanced attack and ran for four touchdowns on the day.
Week Two Opponent – Florida International (2-2)
As we all remember, the FIU Golden Panthers knocked off Central Florida on the opening night of college football. The Hoosiers used a huge defensive play by Jameel Cook Jr. to seal the week two win over FIU. What have the Panthers been up to since? After the loss to IU, FIU hosted their first home game of the season and knocked off North Carolina Central with a dominant 39-14 performance. The Panthers ran for 248 yards and threw for 242 yards as Alex McGough completed three touchdown passes. Florida International’s athletic defense held NC Central to only 209 yards of offense in the win. Last Saturday, FIU began Conference USA play with a tough 17-27 loss at Louisiana Tech. The Panthers were outgained by more than 150 yards and ran for only 2 yards per carry. Florida International is currently the 98th ranked team in the S&P+ rankings.
Week Three Opponent – Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (3-1)
The Hilltoppers rolled into Bloomington at 2-0 after victories over Vanderbilt and Louisiana Tech in the first two weeks of action. IU knocked off Western Kentucky, 38-35, thanks to a pair of second-half interceptions from Jon Crawford and a tremendous performance from Jordan Howard and the IU running game. Last week, WKU returned to its winning ways with a 56-14 romp over Miami (OH). Brandon Doughty threw six touchdowns and completed 34 of 42 passes for 464 yards. WKU outgained the RedHawks 569-291 for the game and led 49-7 at halftime. Surprisingly, Western Kentucky checks in at number 30 in the S&P+ rankings.
Week Four Opponent – Wake Forest Demon Deacons (2-2)
The Hoosiers just knocked off Wake Forest last Saturday so this section will be brief. On the season, Wake has wins over Elon and Army and losses to Syracuse and IU. The Demon Deacons enter ACC play this weekend with a home game against Florida State. Wake Forest is ranked #87 (S&P+).