BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Starting guard Jacob Bailey understands how big this weekend could be for the Indiana Hoosiers.
They haven’t started 2-1 in Big Ten play since 2007, haven’t won back-to-back home conference games since 2006 and haven’t beaten two ranked teams in the same season since 2004.
Bailey, an Indianapolis native, wants to help change all that Saturday against No. 10 Nebraska (5-0, 2-0) .
“That’s obviously in the back of our heads a little bit, but that’s not our goal,” the fifth-year senior said when asked about pulling a second upset in three weeks. “Our goal is to win one game at a time. It just so happens the next game is against Nebraska and it’s a highly-ranked team.”
After ending a seven-year bowl drought last season, the Hoosiers (3-2, 1-1) are three wins away from becoming bowl eligible for a second straight season. It would be the first time in a quarter-century Indiana has achieved that feat. After upsetting No. 17 Michigan State in overtime two weeks ago and giving No. 2 Ohio State its first serious challenge before falling 38-17 last weekend in Columbus, the Hoosiers certainly look like they will be in the mix Saturday.
“I knew that I wanted to be a part of an Indiana program that kind of turned this program around,” Bailey said. “We’re not there yet. We still have a ways to go. But I think definitely, in the last five years, you’ve seen constant and consistent improvement. That’s really been our mantra since I got here.”
There’s no doubt the Hoosiers are playing better.
In Wilson’s first five seasons, the Hoosiers allowed 40 or more points in 28 games including five times last season. This year, under new defensive coordinator Tom Allen, the Hoosiers still haven’t allowed 40 and despite giving up 290 yards rushing to the Buckeyes, trailed by only one score in the third quarter.
The Hoosiers even deferred after winning the coin toss, quite a change for a team that has built its reputation on scoring points and winning shootouts. That’s not necessarily the case anymore.
“I think that’s already being spread around,” linebacker Tegray Scales said after his third straight game with 10 or more tackles.
But the high-scoring Cornhuskers pose a different kind of challenge for a revamped defense that has primarily used its nickel package as the base defense. Nebraska brings the nation’s No. 23 rushing offense (234.2 yards).
Wilson has seen all this before.
He matched wits with Nebraska multiple times in his last previous stop, at Oklahoma, and still believes Nebraska is one of the nation’s premier programs, and he hopes that a big, boisterous crowd will give the Hoosiers a boost as they try to pull off another signature win.
Bailey can’t wait.
“That’s every week playing in the Big Ten East,” he said when asked about playing a third consecutive ranked foe. “With this team on the rise, playing another team that’s probably going to be top 10 in the country, it’s a great opportunity to see where we’re at.”
Note: Wilson continues to say All-American guard Dan Feeney (concussion) is making progress and could return this week. Feeney has already missed three games.
AP’s college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org