A lot is being made of Indiana football playing eight home games this season.
And it should be. This isn't something that happens often. In fact, it has only happened one other time in Indiana football history.
That was 2008 and the Hoosiers didn't exactly take advantage of the situation. They went 3-5. They beat Western Kentucky and Murray State to open the year, then went 1-5 the rest of the way. The lone win was Northwestern but two of the losses were to Ball State and Central Michigan./p>
Indiana finished 3-9 that year, a disappointing season on the heels of the Insight Bowl appearance in 2007.
Indiana fans were clearly still in the wait-and-see mode in 2008. The same argument could be made this year but IU fans should get some credit for getting behind this team better in recent seasons. In 2008, Indiana only had one home crowd (Ball State) over 40,000. The other seven home games had crowds of 33,000 or less. In the two-year Kevin Wilson era of IU football, IU has drawn 40,000 or more in 11 of 12 home games. And the exception was a crowd of 39,239 for Northwestern late in the 2011 season.
Wilson said at Media Day Monday that he's looking forward to the schedule the Hoosiers have been handed this season.< "I just like the fact we've got a challenging schedule and I love the fact we've got eight home games,'' Wilson said. "We had six the first year. You should do a study, how many Big Ten teams play six at home. How many do it back to back years? Potentially we'll do it four of my first five years, so I don't want all this complaining about eight home games, I can't come.
"How about coming and getting loud and let's win some games together and get this thing going the right way. I want everybody to jump on right now. Let's get rolling. These kids are going to play hard and we're going to have some fun and let's be a little bit more proactive and let's get excited about having eight.''
Indiana football has had four seasons in a row where it has played six home games. The combined record in those home games has been 9-15. But six home games (or sometimes even five) has been the norm over the years. Six times in history the Hoosiers have played seven. The last time IU played seven was in 2007 when it went to the elusive bowl game. The Hoosiers were 5-2 at home that season. The conference home wins were against Minnesota and Purdue.
Both the Golden Gophers and the Boilermakers are on the home schedule this season.
Eight home games can be a good thing but I always caution Indiana fans from looking at the upcoming schedule and start saying this game is definitely a win or making the claim that there's no reason Indiana shouldn't be 4-0 heading into the Big Ten or something like that. Players and coaches can have that expectation and they probably should but fans just get disappointed.
This year IU opens on a Thursday night against Indiana State. Let's take one game at a time. Last year IU escaped with a 20-17 victory over the Sycamores. Shakir Bell ran for 192 yards on 24 carries. Bell, the former Warren Central standout, is back wearing No. 22 for the Sycamores this season and he'll be in the lineup Aug. 29 at Memorial Stadium.
The next game will be Navy and the option attack. No picnic there. It will be Navy's season opener so IU won't have the benefit of new film on the Middies. Last year, IU lost a heart-breaking 31-30 decision at Navy. IU led 30-21 with under 6 minutes to play. Navy went on to play Arizona State in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Then comes Bowling Green, a MAC team that went to a bowl game last year. The Falcons were 8-5 overall, 6-2 in the MAC and lost to San Jose State in the Military Bowl.
The fourth game is against second year SEC member Missouri. The Tigers finished 5-7 last year in their first time around the SEC.
After those four games, Indiana fans should have a good feel for what to expect in the eight-game Big Ten season. The home games are Penn State, Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue. The road games are all difficult: Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
So celebrate the idea of playing eight home games but don't make those bowl game plans just yet. Like I said, we'll know a lot more about this Indiana football team after it plays Missouri on Sept. 21.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/foxsportshutch.