IU Insider Blog: A Significant Victory

Was it a signature win? Was it the biggest win for the program in at least six years? Was it Kevin Wilson's most impressive victory in his IU tenure? Yes, yes and yes.

A fellow media member asked me moments after Indiana's 44-24 victory over Penn State Saturday afternoon to put into perspective the significance of the IU victory.

He asked if I thought it was Indiana's most significant program victory since Austin Starr (who was at Saturday's IU game by the way) hit the field goal to beat Purdue in the ‘Play 13' season of 2007?

And while there's no question that IU's win over Penn State Saturday was the most significant since '07, this one just meant so much more than that.

This was an Indiana season, like it or not, that was beginning to slip away. I wrote about this earlier in the week but I really believed it to be true. With road games coming up against Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State, and needing to win four Big Ten games to get bowl eligible, the writing was pretty clearly on the wall for this IU football team.

The Hoosiers need to win all four of their Big Ten home games. Could they win a road game, too? Absolutely although it will be far from an easy task. But if you could find a way to win your four home games in Big Ten play you would be leaving nothing to chance.

Of those four homes, if you were to rank them in descending order, I think you would have put Penn State as the toughest, followed by Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue at this point in the season. At least from a perception standpoint. And just adding to the degree of difficulty for the Hoosiers was the fact that IU had never defeated Penn State in history. The Nittany Lions were 16-0 all-time against Indiana before the Hoosiers found a way to snap that streak Saturday.

So what exactly did the win over Penn State mean? Here's what it meant: Indiana can go on the road against Michigan State and Michigan not knowing that they absolutely would have likely needed to beat one of those teams had it lost to Penn State. Of course, if you can find a way to steal a game on the road it will just give you a little extra cushion with those three huge home games still looming.

But IU's win Saturday was simply the first step of a four-step process. IU needs to win against Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue in particular and if it does the Hoosiers could go bowling this season.

What else was significant about Saturday's victory?

The Hoosiers won a rare Big Ten opener. The last time they had accomplished that feat was in 2000 when they opened Big Ten play with a 45-33 home win over Iowa. That Indiana team would go on to record a 1-6 record in its final seven Big Ten games.

Care to take a stab at the previous time Indiana has won a Big Ten opener prior to 2000? You have to go back to 1991 when Bill Mallory's Hoosiers beat Michigan State 31-0 in the conference opener. That team went on to finish 7-4 and beat Baylor in the Copper Bowl.

So think about it. That means since 1992, IU's record in Big Ten football openers had been 1-20 in the last 21 seasons before the Hoosiers beat Penn State on Saturday.

Still looking more evidence of the significance of the victory?

One thing that has been clear for a while is that IU has lacked a signature win to hang its hat on in recent years. In the Kevin Wilson era of IU football, the Hoosiers had won seven games before Saturday's win over the Nittany Lions.

Those wins were against South Carolina State, Indiana State (twice), Massachusetts, Illinois and Iowa last year and Bowling Green this season. Not exactly a Who's Who of college football.

This one is different. It comes against a storied program that even in the down times of recent years has still been playing some pretty good football. Penn State was 3-1 coming to Bloomington and a favorite against the Hoosiers.

All of those things should weight plenty heavily on the significance meter.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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