The Last Word: Forget Minnesota

There are several keys today but the mental one of not allowing the Minnesota frustration from a week ago to carry over to Illinois may be the biggest.

I made this one of my keys to the game today but I really think it will ultimately be what decides today's Indiana-Illinois game at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.

(By the way, I always say Memorial Stadium in Bloomington for the Illinois because the Illini play in Memorial Stadium in Champaign.)

But I think one of the biggest keys for the Hoosiers today is simple: Indiana has to quickly put the Minnesota game in the rearview mirror.

It would be easy to allow that debacle at the end of last week's Minnesota game ruin the season. It would be easy to mail it in from here. After all, Indiana's realistic chances of making the postseason now are miniscule.

Indiana would have to beat either Wisconsin or Ohio State on the road. And frankly, that would be a shocking development.

But on top of that Indiana would need to beat both Illinois and Purdue at home just to even have that shot.

Which brings us to today's game with Illinois. Indiana cannot allow last week's frustrating end to the Minnesota game where IU turned it over as it was driving for either a game-winning touchdown or a chip shot field goal to force overtime to carry over to Illinois.

There are two teams on this schedule that it was a given that Indiana should beat in order to continue to take steps forward: Illinois and Purdue.

Illinois, like Indiana, is 3-5 overall. But the difference is in what the teams have been able to do on offense in particular. IU has not scored less than 28 points in any game this season and is averaging 42 points per game. Illinois has a Big Ten season high of 32 against Wisconsin and hasn't scored as many as 20 in any of the other three conference games.

Want to look at comparative scores?

Illinois lost to Penn State in overtime last week in Happy Valley, 24-17. Indiana beat Penn State 44-24. Illinois lost at home to Michigan State, 42-3. IU lost on the road to Michigan State, 42-28.

So there is a pattern here. Indiana scores more points and will need to put up a big number again today to feel safe against the Illini.

There's something else working here though, too. Indiana went to Champaign last season on Oct. 27 and beat the Illini 31-17. Indiana had seven sacks that day and it was Nate Sudfeld who threw a fourth quarter touchdown pass to Shane Wynn to put the game away. So the Hoosiers should have some carry over confidence from a year ago as well.

But the most important thing is not to allow the Minnesota loss to linger. Indiana needs to get to 4-5 with a victory today and then play the game of its life next weekend against Wisconsin. That's asking a lot but that's where Indiana football is after the loss to the Golden Gophers.

If that loss lingers, however, it will be very difficult for the Hoosiers to post win No. 4 today.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch


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