New kids on the block: Hoosiers believe they're in position to compete for B1G title
The goal has never changed for Tom Allen. When he was named the head coach at Indiana following the 2016 season, he wanted to build lowly Indiana into a B1G championship contender.
A quick Google search on the history of football at Indiana is all that’s needed to understand why anyone outside of the locker room would shake their head and smirk at that goal. The Hoosiers have piled up more losses than any other program competing at the FBS level. IU’s .423 winning percentage is the second-lowest among Power 5 teams.
Even the most optimistic candy-striped supporter probably thought hopes of a B1G title were a tad lofty.
In four short seasons, though, Allen has Indiana flirting with the unthinkable. Entering the 2021 season, there’s a strong case for the Hoosiers being tabbed as the biggest challenger to Ohio State in the B1G East. Everyone wearing the cream and crimson believes they have a chance to knock the Buckeyes from their throne this fall.
“For sure,” said standout receiver Ty Fryfogle, when asked if Indiana could compete with Ohio State. “We have a lot of great guys coming back. This football team is going to be really special.”
Fryfogle’s confidence comes from playing on Indiana’s last two teams, which finished 8-5 in 2019 and 6-2 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The only regular season loss the Hoosiers endured was a 42-35 loss to the Buckeyes in Columbus — a game Fryfogle racked up 218 yards and 3 touchdowns on 7 catches.
That confidence also comes from Allen, who believes his team has earned the right to begin talking about a conference championship.
When Allen first took over in Bloomington, his team would close out practices with the phrase “B1G championship” to break the huddle. In a recent interview with ESPN’s Heather Dinich, the head coach admitted that he put an end to that because he wasn’t sure players bought in to that mindset.
Now, talk of winning a B1G title is warranted, and welcomed, in Bloomington.
“I do believe we’ve now put ourselves in position where that has to be part of the conversation,” Allen told Dinich.
Change didn’t come immediately. Indiana endured some growing pains early in Allen’s tenure. The Hoosiers finished the 2017 and 2018 seasons with a 5-7 record, ending each year with a loss to Purdue with bowl eligibility on the line.
The program finally turned a corner in 2019, starting the season with a 7-2 record, ending a 25-year drought from the Associated Press Top 25 and handing Nebraska a loss inside Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, one of college football’s most iconic venues.
Last year, IU defeated No. 8 Penn State in thrilling fashion to open the season, then defeated Michigan for the first time in over 30 years and ended a 10-game losing streak to Wisconsin. The Hoosiers ended the season sitting at No. 11 in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Over the last two years, Indiana accomplished more than teams from the previous 50 years. Former wide receiver Whop Philyor said the recent success has put the program on the map.
“We’re not bottom feeders of the B1G anymore,” Philyor said, per the Bloomington Herald Times. “We some top dogs. That’s what I’m most proud of. We’re a football school now.”
To compete for a B1G title, Indiana will have its work cut out for it. The Hoosiers open the season with a trip to Kinnick Stadium to play and will host Cincinnati two weeks later. Both teams ended the season ranked in the Associated Press, Coaches and College Football Playoff polls. They’ll take on Penn State in Happy Valley and Michigan in Ann Arbor. Ohio State, obviously, is still on the schedule.
Nobody said competing for a conference championship would be easy. The Hoosiers believe they’re prepared for the challenge.