BLOOMINGTON, Ind. In case youve been under a rock or vacationing on a tropical island, the operative word surrounding Indiana University football in 2017 is breakthrough.
You cant miss the tag on social media, and its entirely possible that first-year head coach Tom Allen has a quota of times he must say breakthrough daily.
But in all the hype and hoopla that surrounds the impending season, maybe defining just what breakthrough actually means would be helpful.
To that end, Merriam-Webster offers that it is an act or instance of moving through or beyond an obstacle or a sudden advance especially in knowledge or technique.
The primary obstacle for the Hoosiers is, quite frankly, themselves. It is a matter of execution, of their ability to make plays and of their inability to make mistakes in crucial situations that will determine the outcome.
What makes the task more challenging, perhaps moreso for those outside looking in than those inside looking out, is the backdrop of history. The past is an unforgiving obstacle in its own right that seemingly dogs every step taken toward success on the Memorial Stadium turf.
That history tells us that IU hasnt had a winning season since 2007, an anomaly that occurred just once in the past 23 years.
Furthermore, Indiana hasnt won more than eight games in a season since going 9-2 on the way to the Rose Bowl in 1967.
In that context, we now know why an advance in knowledge or technique is necessary, even if that advance is only to seven wins instead of six.
Perhaps the greatest misconception, however, is what the Hoosiers need to do to achieve that breakthrough.
Its easy to get sucked into what Allen himself calls the biggest home opener in IU football history (theres that word again), what with the return of Kevin Wilson, the Buckeyes top-five ranking, the arrival of ESPN GameDay and so on.
But whether Indiana beats Ohio State or not, that will not be what dictates a breakthrough. A win would certainly be monumental, but should the Hoosiers pull the shocker only to turn around and lose at Virginia the following week, nothing will truly be gained. Even worse, should the Hoosiers lose to the Buckeyes only to turn around and lose at Virginia the following week, it would be more of a breakdown.
As a matter of fact, I would argue that the game in Charlottesville might be the most pivotal of the season.
Indiana returns home after that and should dispatch Florida International and Georgia Southern. A trip to Penn State and a home date with Jim Harbaughs Michigan Wolverines ensue two more opportunities to flip the ledger in a positive direction.
That brings us to the halfway mark of the season, where with a win at Virginia, Indiana sits 3-3 at worst, possibly better with an upset or two or three.
The second half of the season starts with another formidable challenge at Michigan State, then another must-win at Maryland.
Wisconsin comes to town next, and history suggests we should just hit fast-forward on that scary movie.
Indiana finishes at Illinois, home to Rutgers and at Purdue this is where the breakthrough comes. If the Hoosiers take care of business as they should, something we all know cannot be taken for granted then that seven-win bottom line will indeed be reached.
If not, history will repeat itself and IU football will remain the definition of insanity instead of breakthrough.
Defining IU's breakthrough - South Bend Tribune
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