Big Ten Media Days isn't happening as planned, but we can always pretend!
We didn't have Big Ten Media Days this year, so we took matters into our own hands by holding an entirely fake, online version with hypothetical questions to each Big Ten Head coach – and sometimes even some even more hypothetical fake answers.
Here's how it works: Each of our interviewers poses a question (some serious, some absolutely not serious) followed by an explanation as to why that's an important question to ask and/or how the question might be answered – with some impersonation, of course.
*puts on moderator credential* Let us begin with the strange gentleman with the podcast.
Johnny Ginter: Tom, you are 0-13 against ranked teams since you took over as Indiana's head coach. I don't think anyone is surprised by that, because, you know... it's Indiana. How many ranked teams do you think Indiana will lose to this season? My money is on three. That feels like a good number.
Super sneaky, by the way, scheduling Western Kentucky, Ball State, and then UConn as three of the first four games of the season. Too bad COVID messed that all up (although probably wouldn't have helped you much with that ranked team thing).
One of the biggest reasons that we should all wait to make fancy polls and whatnot is because early season out of conference games against inferior competition is essentially meaningless. I actually think that Tom Allen is a pretty good coach who is making Indiana consistently better, but for that program to finally make its leap to relevance, it is going to have to beat a team with a pulse at some point. Losing every game against ranked opponents in 2019 and then losing their bowl game is an indicator of how far Indiana still has to go.
Dan Hope: How does Indiana become competitive with the Big Ten East’s blue-bloods?
Tom Allen led Indiana to its most successful season in nearly three decades last year, as the Hoosiers won eight games for the first time since 1993. Allen was rewarded with a new seven-year contract, showing Indiana’s faith that he is the right man to lead the Hoosiers long-term.
But while last season was a big leap forward for a program that hadn’t finished a season with a winning record since 2007, the next step to building on that success would be to become a true Big Ten contender, and that will be an even bigger leap. The Hoosiers haven’t defeated Ohio State since 1988 or Michigan since 1987, while they have just one win in 23 games against Penn State and just three wins in their last 17 games against Michigan State.
If the Hoosiers are going to win more than eight games in a season, they’re going to have to start finding a way to win against those four teams, given that they play those four teams in divisional play every season. Allen will need to take Indiana’s recruiting efforts and talent development to new heights to make that happen.
Matt Gutridge: Coach Allen, since the 27-27 tie in 1990, Ohio State has won 25* straight against your Hoosiers. 25 consecutive wins is the currently longest active winning streak against an opponent in the FBS. Your program also has an active 24-game losing streak to Michigan. Will either of those streaks come to an end this year?
*officially it’s a 24-game winning streak for Ohio State because the NCAA vacated the Buckeyes’ 2010 win. NCAA sanctions be damned.
Tom Allen, probably: "You’re slacking, Matt. The 25-game winning streak Ohio State has against us is also the longest winning streak the Buckeyes have ever had against any opponent...ever. We’re making history in Bloomington, baby! That’s better than the 21-game winning streaks for Ohio State against Wisconsin (1960-80) and Northwestern (1972-2003).
"At some point, we are going to have to do something to end the unwelcome results against OSU and Michigan. I know the kids and my staff do their best to win games, but 49 straight losses to those two programs is disheartening. However, I’m only responsible for six of the 49 defeats. I don’t want Hoosier fans to suffer any more than necessary, so maybe if the coronavirus gave us a year of not playing football against the Buckeyes and Wolverines it will be a good thing. Although we did take Michigan to overtime in 2017, my first year as head coach."
Zack Carpenter: How impactful was it to have Sampson James remain in the program and do an about-face when he entered the transfer portal?
Indiana had three running backs enter the transfer portal since the start of the 2019 season, including Ohio State commit TreVeyon Henderson’s brother, Ronnie Walker, who transferred back to his home state to play for the Virginia Cavaliers. James initially flipped from Ohio State to Indiana during the recruiting process, where he was ranked the No. 10 running back in the country and the No. 3 player in the state of Indiana in the 2019 class.
James entered the transfer portal on March 2, but four days later it was reported that he decided to return to the Hoosiers after all. He wasn’t a star in Indiana’s backfield, but during his freshman campaign in 2019, he played in all 13 games, including two starts, and was third on the team with 275 yards rushing on 81 attempts.
Getting James back in the fold is critical for Indiana’s depth and power at the position as Tom Allen is leading this program into a resurgence. The Hoosiers could be one of the Big Ten’s more surprising teams in 2020 as they seek a second straight eight-win season, and they could sneak up on some teams this year.
Ramzy Nasrallah: Hi IU’s coach, last year prior to the Ohio State game you themed your pregame speech around Columbus, OH hero Buster Douglas knocking out Mike Tyson, certainly an interesting choice of metaphor. This season the Buckeyes are big bullies again and people are wondering if you can give us a glimpse of what your pregame theme is going to be.
Maybe Neil Armstrong? Jesse Owens? Ulysses S. Grant? Annie Oakley? The Wright Brothers?
Tom Allen, probably: "Honestly I was thinking about going with Purdue. Seems to work for Purdue."
Kyle Jones: Coach Allen - You return a trio of playmakers to the third-ranked offense in the Big Ten last year with QB Michael Penix Jr., WR Whop Philyor, and TE Peyton Hendershot. Can you generate enough of a running game without Penix to balance the potentially dynamic passing game and keep him healthy for the first time in his young career?
Philyor was one of just four receivers in the Big Ten to break the 1,000-yard mark last fall while Hendershot was second among all B1G tight ends in both catches and receiving yards. Despite signs of serious talent and promise, Penix, has seen both of his first two seasons in Bloomington end early due to serious injury. Without competition for the first time following the transfer of Peyton Ramsey to Northwestern, the Hoosier coaches are placing a major bet on their QB’s ability to stay healthy.
Meanwhile, though, Stevie Smith returns as IU’s starting running back after finishing fifth in the conference in rushing. The 6'2" bruising back struggled against the conference’s best defenses, especially without Penix on the field, and finished the season just 19th in the conference in yards-per-carry at 4.75. Penix looked poised and confident in the RPO game last fall, but Smith must be able to carry some of the burden if the Hoosiers want to finally beat a team with a winning record and break into the conference’s upper echelon.
David Regimbal: You've given Ohio State several scares in recent years, highlighted by the games in 2012, 2014 and 2015. I'm recalling an instance from the 2012 game specifically in which I, then a 23-year old man/kid , violently gasped when Cody Latimer rushed to convert a two-point attempt to make it a 52-49 game late in the fourth quarter.
That gasp startled the infant baby of a dear friend of mind awake, setting off an eerie chorus of screams that I can still hear to this day. That infant baby is a fourth-grader now, and by some deep magic of remembrance, he still becomes unsettled when I'm around.
My question is: Can you knock it off? Your stubborn efforts to beat Ohio State have impacted at least one relationship that I can think of, and I'm just one person. Think about the damage you're causing.
What's detailed above are true events, and the interviewer is working very hard to repair a relationship that is very much important to him. Please, Indiana, stop making your football games against Ohio State unnecessarily close.