Hall Pass

By Ramzy Nasrallah on August 7, 2012 at 1:00p
29 Comments

Roughly four months from now you'll be watching the second annual B1G Championship Game featuring not-Ohio State playing for the grand prize trip to Pasadena.

Numbing, isn't it. Our Buckeyes owned the decade prior to the installation of this conference title match thing, and after last year's aborted season we have become spectators instead of participants for the second year in a row. It wasn't supposed to be like this. It isn't ever supposed to be like this.

With that destiny already snatched away, your regularly-scheduled August Optimism™ is laser-focused on a dozen wins in a dozen games. The 13th and 14th will have to wait until next year.

That door has closed, which means another door has opened - to a bawdy, lewd and indecent opportunity.

This 2012 season is the one chance you will have in your life to openly pull for another program to reach the B1G title game without cuckolding your Buckeyes.

No strings attached and no guilt involved: For one year and one year only (no mas, NCAA, no mas) you have one of four eligible Leaders Division teams you can proudly ride to reach Indianapolis without violating your covenant with Ohio State.

The Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes are locked in the clink, so we've already got a Final Four situation on our side of the bracket.

However, there's only one palatable surrogate in that quartet: The contender from the seasonally-modest hamlet known in autumn as Columbus West. The Your Indiana Hoosiers.

Rooting for the most hapless program in the conference to reach the title game isn't quite as obnoxious as hipsters eating at Applebee's ironically to ridicule their boiled-in-a-bag food, but it's close.

The differentiator is that in this scenario, Applebee's is the only joint in town. This is borne from necessity. Ed: If you're reading from small town Ohio, there's a decent chance this metaphor hits a little too close to home. Sincere apologies. Applebee's is horrendous.

IU's game week posters are already title-worthy.

Look at the Leaders Division and it quickly becomes apparent that Indiana is your only choice. When Penn State finally reaches the B1G title game, its roster will consist of players who are either currently infants or not yet conceived.

Sympathy-cheering for the Nits makes little sense beginning next season and no sense in Ohio State's ineligibility year. Avoid this, even if you're friends with one of their displaced, sane refugees. There are better ways to demonstrate your friendship.

You're not going to root for Wisconsin, a title-favorite which only has to finish third to reach Indianapolis again. Even before Barry Alvarez rescued the Badgers from football oblivion, Earle Bruce tripped on them too often. They've taken too much from Ohio State without the help of your karma, so spare it for a program more deserving.

Similarly, Illinois has inexplicably made itself too welcome in Ohio Stadium over the past couple of decades. While they haven't beaten the Buckeyes in Champaign in several presidencies, they've won several in Columbus.

Tim Beckman, State College's premier villain not involved in its kingdom-killing scandal, should have the Illini back in gameday-threat mode in short order. It's a program which oscillates between tepid competence and outright hilarity (remember when the Buckeyes completed one pass and still won there? It's literally the only funny thing on Jim Bollman's shameful resume).

The decumbent misery of Champaign County is barely 100 miles from the closest thing America has to Kabul. Purdue may be black and gold, but West Lafayette is always gray. Northwest Indiana is always gray. Even its denizens, the inspiration behind every zombie movie ever made, are gray.

The West Lafayette air itself turns even the most competent Ohio State football teams into a baffling, sluggish mess. The last Purdue team to go to the Rose Bowl had a losing road record. That's an impossible feat for programs that aren't mostly dead on the inside. You cannot root for Purdue under any circumstance, let alone the unique one you're presented with in 2012.

That leaves Purdue's hapless arch-rival, Indiana. Despite the exercise we've just completed, we're not arriving at Indiana as a surrogate Leader Division bandwagon team by process of elimination. That's merely a coincidence.

Indiana, in this one-season ineligibility window, is the only choice. Bloomington counts as half of a home game for all of its B1G visitors. Look at the front pages and message boards of dedicated Hoosier sites in August.

It's already basketball season in their minds. Nobody has kicked off yet.

Full disclosure, and this isn't much of a secret: Indiana is one of three universities other than Ohio State that I've attended. I hold two IU degrees. During my years in Bloomington my football game attendance was based exclusively on IU's opponent, and I was there when Indiana had Bill Mallory and bowl games.

So bad they actually allowed Duron Carter to be eligible.

Think about how many Bowling Green, Akron, Miami and other Ohio college graduates that are Ohio State football fans. Native Ohioan IU graduates (well, the ones that aren't from Cincinnati, anyway) are no different. They didn't suddenly shed their childhood out of respect for their college choice.

Take your pick as to why Indiana football is ignored so resoundingly even by its own: It's been bad too often and too long, the basketball team has five national championships and not even four years after basically giving itself the death penalty is a national title contender, Notre Dame is in the same state and the football facilities were decrepit and sub-B1G standards for the better part of the last 50 years.

All of it is true. And the self-inflicted badness is even more gruesome.

IU fired Mallory, Woody Hayes-disciple and its all-time winningest coach, and replaced him with Cam Cameron. Cameron installed tacky USFL uniforms that eschewed both cream and crimson (pfft, using school colors is overrated) and was fired after five postseason-less seasons.

He was replaced with Gerry DiNardo, who discovered that Cameron somehow had more unused scholarships at his disposal than Penn State will be permitted to award during its sanction period. <-- process that and pick your jaw up off of your desk

DiNardo got Indiana back up to 85 scholarship players and opened an Italian restaurant in Bloomington before he was dismissed. That actually qualifies his IU football coaching career as a success.

From zero B1G wins to the B1G title game? YES. Via

Terry Hoeppner was then hired, and for the first time since hiring Mallory, Indiana actually did something right. But then Hoeppner, who described IU as his dream job and quickly lifted the program out of the B1G's bottom tier was diagnosed with a brain tumor and died after only coaching two seasons.

Then IU reverted to its normal form by keeping and hiring Bill Lynch - who once went 1-21 at Ball State with all of his own players - to take over permanently for Hoeppner.

Lynch very predictably drove Indiana back into the cellar, and last year Kevin Wilson, an assistant coach for 24 seasons, was hired away from Oklahoma's staff to take over in his first head coaching job. His next conference win will be his first at IU.

The Hoosiers still have significant rebuilding from the carnage left over from the Lynch disaster: Ohio State's 34-point outburst against IU last season was their defense's fifth best performance of the season.

Yet this hapless program, which has only one direction that it can go (they did not defeat a single FBS team last season) is already in the Leaders Division Final Four.

And that's why Indiana is the only choice for the 2012 division crown. This has to be their year.

Even with the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions non-factors for the Indy trip - which for the map-deficient, is an hour from campus i.e. only half the distance most Hoosiers travel to see high school basketball - it is still an uphill battle. A simple pleasure for Buckeye fans, like bowl eligibility, is still a long-shot for the Hoosiers.

This barely ever happens. But when it does: Mother of God.

But looking beyond the roster holes, Indiana actually has some scheduling advantages in this one-year window of opportunity. IU opens with Indiana State (FCS), UMass (first year in FBS) and Ball State (bad) before it heads to Northwestern.

They get Michigan State the week after Ohio State visits East Lansing in what will surely be a hangover game for the Spartans from the prior week's disappointment. /trollface

A trip to Navy sets up the most important two-week stretch of the season: At Illinois, which is always winnable if you play the wind right, and back home for the Hawkeyes who are notoriously DERPy against bad teams away from Kinnick Stadium.

Indiana then gets Wisconsin, who they could catch looking ahead to the Buckeyes the following week, followed by a Penn State team which come November will be so beleaguered and defeated from the inside that the game will be ripe for the taking.

Remember, you're not hoping that Indiana beats Ohio State. You're simply pulling for the Hoosiers to finish higher than the three other eligible teams. That's it. You'll never find a more palatable or more flexible All-In situation in your entire sporting life.

If everything goes Indiana's way - and there's a first time for everything - the Old Oaken Bucket game could represent the B1G championship play-in game on the Leaders' side. If that fails to materialize while everything goes against Wisconsin, the Hoosiers could be our only hope as the final obstacle separating West Lafayette's undead from Indianapolis.

Winning this bucket could be the ticket to Indy. Could be.

In order to win games, Indiana is going to have to engage in wildly-entertaining shootouts since they have no shot of shutting anyone down - again - but fortunately Wilson is an offensive-minded coach with a strong track record for scoreboard demolition.

The name "Tre Roberson" might sound familiar: For awhile in last year's Ohio State game he looked like the better-coached true freshman quarterback, likely because he didn't have a glorified barista as his position coach (and if Indiana went the Siciliano route, it wouldn't pay for Starbucks anyway).

He returns with a year of experience as IU's middle-class Braxton Miller-slash-Gunner Kiel repellant. He should help make the Hoosiers intentionally entertaining on the offensive side of the ball, which makes this one-year sabbatical an imaginably enjoyable exercise.

From the unintentionally entertaining standpoint, IU still has that defense which is sure to meet - and more often - exceed the number of points that are scored on its watch. If any team has the chance to be a one-man Alamo Bowl, it's Indiana.

And that's your IU football value proposition, Buckeye fans: Getting in on the ground floor with the Leaders Division's biggest underdog for the one year when you are 0% invested in Ohio State reaching the B1G title game.

Roughly four months from now you'll very likely be watching Wisconsin facing the Legends Division champ again in Indy. Your horse just didn't enter the race this year. You might as well pick another.

Go with the one that won't make you feel dirty, for there's nothing but upside for IU football. Always.

29 Comments

Comments

Maestro's picture

Why not? Would love to see IU beat Wisky and some others.

vacuuming sucks

Ethos's picture

hey i like applebees wing sauce...

"What do you need water for, Sunshine?!" - Coach Coombs, if you don't love this man, you have no soul.

Doc's picture

How many degrees do you have, Ramzy?  And in what fields?

"Say my name."

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

English/Econ & MBA. I make a mean order of fries.

Doc's picture

You also write terrific articles to boot.  I'll have fries with that!

"Say my name."

The_Lurker's picture

Wow, look how balanced Ohio State's offense was against Indiana that day. /hurls
I was at the home loss to Indiana and it was pretty much rock bottom.

tennbuckeye19's picture

What year was that game?

faux_maestro's picture

1987

Inní mér syngur vitleysingur

zachofaltrades's picture

OSU being out of it was a perfect time to take USC at 13/2 back in January to win it all.  That bet is looking better all the time.

Baroclinicity's picture

Why are Indiana's football uniforms maroon, and basketball are red?

Maestro's picture

Identity crisis

vacuuming sucks

John M's picture

The football and basketball uniforms are the same color, and roughly the same color that Alabama and Oklahoma wear.  Back in the 1980s and 1990s, there was a major difference.  The Mallory-era football uniforms were the same color as the current uniforms, while the basketball uniforms were brighter red.  In 2002, IU established uniformity of colors and logos, and both the football and basketball team have worn the same shade since then.  It's a color that varies widely depending on the light.  The above photo is backlit and was taken on an overcast day.  In the picture below, taken in bright sunlight, the uniform looks bright red:

And the basketball uniforms definitely are darker than they were pre-2002.  

flipbuckeye's picture

Photofilters. Ramzy loves him some photofilters.

LadyBuck's picture

Despite my love football, basketball is my favorite sport. This kicks IU out the window immediately. Sorry, but I can't stand their fans, I'm not on their "pre-season #1" bandwagon, Crean is a pretentious creeper, and I will not cheer for them in football. This season, I'm cheering for Northwestern. Granted, a CCG of Northwestern v. Indiana would be hilarious and (on my opinion) awesome.

Good piece, even if I don't agree with it. I never quite grasped how pathetic Indiana's football history is in comparison to most other Big Ten schools.

sir rickithda3rd's picture

what book was taking that in jan? i just got odds 3 weeks ago?

mark may wins douchebag of the year... again

timdogdad's picture

we almost blew the game vs ind last year.  that would have been harsh.    

JasonOSU_UNI's picture

This makes me hungry for a Quesadilla Burger.

buckeyeEddie27's picture

Ok,  I'm in.   Indiana it is. 

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

zachofaltrades's picture

Bovada was giving USC at 13/2 around super bowl time.

Righteous Hoosier's picture

Nice write up Ramzy. This was well-written and I especially liked the Gerry DiNardo line haha.
I think Kevin Wilson will be good for the program, but there are so many strong schools that it's hard to imagine a consistent winner at IU-- besides, if that happened, that coach would be moving on to bigger and better things. Beating Purdue to carry out Coach Hep's dream of "Playing 13" was exciting and still gives me goosebumps every time that's on the BTN. It may not be like getting into a national championship game or winning a Big Ten title, but it was still awesome and puts things in perspective. 
Most of my friends went to OSU and I even managed to get two into the last tOSU football game in Bloomington for the price of student tickets. So before any more of you go all "Ladybuck" on the Hoosiers, you guys have bigger fish to fry than picking on Indiana. It's an exciting time to be a basketball, especially for those of us that stuck with them through the hard times, and I look forward to some good games with OSU in the future.
Would be incredible to build some momentum this football season and make it to Indy, but I think Dallas Lauderdale has a better chance of landing on the cover of GQ than that. I don't expect OSU fans to "root" for IU, but you better believe that if they had a shot going into the Oaken Bucket game, it would be hard for many to not at least pull for them -- kinda like those that rooted for Butler even though deep down they were pissed their bigger, better programs were already out of the tournament.
Ok rant over... O-H, I-U

M Man's picture

I never realized it before, but the point at which you know your football program sucks is when your team is introduced through a cloud of fake smoke.

buckeye76BHop's picture

^^^^Try explaining that to Miami U...they've been doing it since the 80's...when they didn't suck so much.  I agree though...poor Indiana.  They can't do anything right...even entering their own stadium looks silly. Let alone their uniforms from past years.   I still can't believe I forgot that both OSU and tTUN lost to IU that year in 1987.  Bet that doesn't happen for A LONG time to come;-)

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."
"I love football. I think it is most wonderful game in world and I despise to lose."
Woody Hayes 1913 - 1987 

Geraffi's picture

Another great read, Ramzy, but I can't subscribe to this idea for two reasons. First, IU in the B1G championship game would be terrible for the image of the conference. Not that having 2 of the primer programs on probation and ineligible isn't also a black eye, but having the weakest B1G team in the ultimate game would be sad.
Second, in the event mushagain makes it to the the big game, I want the opposing team from the the Leaders division to have a strong chance of beating the crap out of those weasels. It would be ddifficult for any Buckeye fan to live with the ridicule of  weasel fans touting that they won the B1G championship before OSU, especially after we dominated the conference for the last decade. 
For these reasons, I'll be pulling for the Whining Beilamas. 

Bucksfan's picture

lol, I root for no one else.  I hate Purdue and their stupid key jingle and big drum, I hate Wisconsin and its drunken apathy, I hate Illinois (actually, I probably don't hate Illinois for some reason), and rooting for Indiana is like rooting for the referees....or something.  Ohio State is the only team pulling its weight on a national stage over the last 10 years, and only then it didn't seem to matter a bit in the headlines.  I can't root for Indiana to win the Leaders or the B1G because it's just going to go out there to Pasadena and realize that what they thought they were playing all year wasn't actually football.
Plus, the inaugural B1G Championship Game was an instant classic, and it's too bad that these relatively large fanbases didn't f'ing show up to the game (tickets were $14 that morning).  Can you imagine the lack of people there if Indiana made the game?  It'd look like the MAC title.

John M's picture

Can you imagine the lack of people there if Indiana made the game?  It'd look like the MAC title.

In the very unlikely event that IU makes it to Lucas Oil this year or any year, attendance will be fine.  Obviously, IU's football fan support in no way resembles that of OSU or Michigan, but it's not as if we play in front of four-figure crowds.  IU drew 41,000 last year for a game against FCS South Carolina State, and has managed to stay above the 30,000 mark since the end of the Dinardo era.  Obviously, those figures would be laughly bad to OSU or any program in the Big Ten's upper tier, but which of the 41,000 hardy souls who showed up for IU-SCSU would not be willing to attend IU's biggest game in 45 years, especially when that game is being played 50 miles from campus and in the state's largest city?  It might be a different story if the game were played in Pittsburgh or Minneapolis, but IU would draw well in Indy.  

DJ Byrnes's picture

I don't know who else is in the division, but Indiana, yeah, sure, let's get it.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

thatlillefty's picture

Something about the unbridled debauchery at Madison appeals to me.

This year, it's On Wisconsin.

tunehtraef's picture

While I can't root for another team, EVER, interesting write-up of a reason to do it. However, correct me if I'm wrong, wouldn't the following year instead of "13 and 14" to follow 12 regular season victories, we would need 13 (BIG Championship Game), 14 ("Playoff round 1"), and 15 (National Championship Game)?
And if so, wouldn't we be the first team ever to 14-0 (2002 National Champions) and 15-0?

schooey's picture

Would be bad for an already media belittled conference. 
Great read though, as usual.