DECKER: No Denying Signficance of Saturday

Bloomington – Deny it all you want, but there's no question the bowl ramifications of Saturday's Indiana-Northwestern match-up are on the Hoosier players' minds. When you're a team that's been to only one bowl game in the last 15 years, how can it not?

Bloomington – Deny it all you want, but there's no question the bowl ramifications of Saturday's Indiana-Northwestern match-up are on the Hoosier players' minds.

When you're a team that's been to only one bowl game in the last 15 years, how can it not?

The same goes for Coach Pat Fitzgerald's Northwestern squad. While postseason bowl berths haven't be as rare in Evanston as they've been in Bloomington, the bowl eligibility finish line isn't something to be taken for granted on the north side of Chicago, either.

So, when Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell says he's giving very little thought to the importance of winning Saturday to enhance IU's bowl chances, I say…

I'm not buying it.

With identical 4-3 overall records, both know that a win Saturday puts them within one win of bowl eligibility with four games remaining. Both also know that dropping to 4-4 with a loss won't make a postseason bowl bid impossible, but it certainly makes it a great deal more improbable.

"We have smart guys on our football team and they have goals and aspirations," IU Coach Bill Lynch said.

Those goals and aspirations were enhanced significantly by last weekend's 27-14 win over Illinois. After successive losses to Michigan, Ohio State and Virginia, the victory over the Illini was one Indiana had to have it was going to be able to keep a straight face when talking about the postseason.

More than likely, this is one in Evanston is one Indiana has to have as well. After the match-up with Northwestern, Indiana's next three foes (Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State) are a combined 18-3. Even the season finale against a 2-5 Purdue team seems a whole lot more daunting after the Boilermakers' stunning upset of Ohio State this past weekend.

Lynch isn't denying the importance of the game, or the fact that its significance is rolling around somewhere in each of his players' heads. What he wants to make sure of though, is that it's in the back of their minds and not foremost in their thoughts.

"That's a human condition – we all want to look ahead and play out the variables and all that. But it always comes back to get you in sports. You better take care of today," Lynch said.

That's what Indiana started doing Monday when it began its preparation for Northwestern. Lynch's hope is that the one day at a time, one play at a time approach will ultimately result in the team reaching its ultimate goals.

"We talk all the time about controlling the controllables," Lynch said. "My biggest concern is how we practice today and getting that message across to our players. Hopefully they're setting personal goals for how they practice today and what they want to get accomplished today. Then, we'll regroup and do it again Wednesday and then again Thursday and Friday and then we'll play a game Saturday.

"Whenever you start looking long term, that's when you're not at your best."


Peegs.com Top Stories