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Must-win and trap games of 2017: Indiana Hoosiers

New Indiana coach Tom Allen faces a tough stretch of games with three road games in four weeks from Oct. 21 to Nov. 11. Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 season is still several months away. But we never stop looking forward here at the Big Ten blog.

It might be ridiculously early, but we’re examining what will be the must-win game and the potential trap game for each league team this fall. Up next: the Indiana Hoosiers.

Must-win game: Oct. 28 at Maryland. As new head coach Tom Allen looks over the schedule for his first year running the Indiana program, there should be five games that make him feel pretty good about coming away with wins (FIU, Georgia Southern, Illinois, Rutgers and Purdue). There are a handful of good opportunities to bump that total to six and match the efforts of his predecessor Kevin Wilson in the last two years. Maryland (a 32-26 win for the Hoosiers last year) is on that list. A victory over the Terps also would bring the added benefit of helping the Hoosiers maintain their status as a step above the Big Ten newcomers in the East Division despite being in a transition year with a first-time college head coach. In what should be a fairly even matchup, Indiana has to show it isn’t taking a step back.

Trap game: Nov. 11 at Illinois. Among the list of opponents that should make Allen feel comfortable, the Fighting Illini might be those dangerous because of where they fall on the schedule. Going on the road after hosting Wisconsin the previous week could produce a weary roster for the Hoosiers in what would be their fifth straight weekend with a Big Ten game. Illinois coach Lovie Smith will have had the majority of a second season in Champaign to get his defense up to speed. If the game turns into a low-scoring battle, one or two mistakes could end up costing the Hoosiers. A loss might mean sweating out bowl hopes through the season finale at Purdue.