BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana head football coach Tom Allen has not shied away from the hype as his Hoosiers are set to host second-ranked Ohio State Thursday night in what many are calling the biggest home opener in school history.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Allen told Indy Sports Central. “Our kids have embraced it all along the way once we found out who we were going to be playing to open up the season. It hasn’t happened for Indiana in a very, very long time to open with a conference opponent, and Ohio State makes it even more special.”
It’s the first time there will be a Big Ten match-up on the season’s opening weekend since 1996 and the first time the Hoosiers have opened with a league game since beating Northwestern 30-0 in 1982.
“Our kids are excited,” Allen said. “They’ve worked extremely hard all spring, summer and through fall camp, so we’re ready to take advantage.”
Taking advantage will be a tall task. The Buckeyes are one of the perennial powerhouses in college football and are coming off a trip to the College Football Playoff last season.
Mentally, they’ll have plenty of motivation after being shutout in the national semifinals against eventual champion Clemson. Also, Kevin Wilson, who was forced to step down as IU’s head coach in December, is making his debut as OSU’s offensive coordinator.
Physically, the Buckeyes’ roster returns several key core players and boosts elite-level speed.
“It’s a challenge for sure,” said Allen. “It’s about proper angles. It’s about being in great position. It’s about technique, so our guys have bought in to all of that. In order for us to breakthrough, the next step is to make critical plays at critical times and containing their speed is going to be a factor in those moments.”
The Hoosiers will need a solid performance from quarterback Richard Lagow, who had an up and down season last year. The senior tossed 19 touchdowns, but also threw 17 interceptions.
“I expect him to take the next step in his development,” Allen said. “He’s done a great job this spring growing as a player, growing in his knowledge of our system. With a new offensive system, he’s had to learn all of that, but I expect him as a senior to be a leader of our football team. We’re starting to see signs of that and it’s very encouraging.”
“Just like all of us, we have to do it on game day.”