Sunday, September 27, 2015

Hoosier moment

Sunday morning, and a cool early-fall breeze is sifting through the open windows, moist earth and fading summer glory on its breath. These are the quiet hours between college football Saturday and its pale Sunday imitator, the imperial but somehow less satisfying National Football League. Time to hit the pause button, catch a breath, sift through the papers forming their usual Sunday morning drifts on the floor.

Time, for a moment, to consider this: Your Indiana football Hoosiers.

Quietly, they hung on to beat Wake Forest yesterday, 31-24, a road win for a program not noted for rampaging success on foreign soil. It wasn't Utah crushing Oregon or TCU stealing one from Texas Tech or Texas and Tennessee blowing games in spectacular fashion to Oklahoma State and Florida, but it was notable in its own way.

It lifted the Hoosiers to 4-0 on the season. And that hasn't happened since 1990.

It also marks the arrival of something even more rare in Bloomington: A home football game that actually matters, sort of, on a national scale. Next Saturday, after all, the Hoosiers get the defending national champions, Ohio State, a clash of unbeatens that might attract America's wandering eye,  
or at least its fleeting glance.

The Blob would go further than that, except for one gnawing suspicion: Ohio State seems a lot more unbeaten than Indiana at the moment.

Yes, the Hoosiers have won four straight, but they haven't, you know, won.  FCS opponent Southern Illinois raked them for 47 points in their opener, a game Indiana narrowly escaped by scoring 48. Then they beat Florida International 36-22. Then they survived Western Kentucky 38-35, and then, on Saturday, they eluded Wake Forest.

Not exactly Murderer's Row. And not exactly a case of Indiana murderin' 'em.

It's more a case of Indiana doing what Indiana always does, which is pile up a lot of points and give up a lot of points. In the Hoosiers' four wins, they're averaging 38 points while getting dinged for 32. Three of their four victories have come by a total of 11 points. And except for Western Kentucky, which is 3-1, this hasn't happened against teams that are rolling opponents of distinction themselves.

Wake, for instance, is 2-2, and the victories have come against Elon and Army. Florida International has beaten the mighty likes of Central Florida and North Carolina Central. And Southern Illinois' only victory was yesterday against Liberty.

Suddenly 4-0 doesn't look quite so shiny. Suddenly, you're looking ahead  to the clash of unbeatens, and seeing a great big reality check looming on the horizon -- even if Ohio State has pretty much gone through the motions since taking a two-by-four to Virginia Tech in its opener.

Perhaps the Buckeyes will do some more sleepwalking come Saturday. Perhaps Indiana will rise up and give them the same kind of stubborn they gave them in Columbus last year, only more of it. Perhaps the clash of unbeatens really will be a clash.

If not ... well, Indiana will always have this.

This moment. This 4-0 record. This fine Sunday morning, bright with possibility.

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