Preseason practice is in full swing, and kickoff is just around the corner. To get you ready, we're analyzing every Big Ten team's complete 2013 schedule.
Last but not least in our series: the Indiana Hoosiers.
Nonconference opponents (with 2012 records)
Aug. 29: Indiana State (7-4)
Sept. 7: Navy (8-5)
Sept. 14: Bowling Green (8-5)
Sept. 21: Missouri (5-7)
Leaders Division games
Oct. 5: Penn State
Nov. 9: Illinois
Nov. 16: at Wisconsin
Nov. 23: at Ohio State
Nov. 30: Purdue
Oct. 12: at Michigan State
Oct. 19: at Michigan
Nov. 2: Minnesota
Gut-check game: Indiana gets its first five games at home, including the Big Ten opener against Penn State. The Hoosiers have never beaten the Nittany Lions in 16 tries, though several of the games have been close. If Indiana truly wants to take a step up, it needs to be ready for this game, and it gets a bye week to prepare.
Trap game: Watch out for Bowling Green. The Falcons won eight games a year ago and should be one of the top teams in the MAC this season. Plus, the game comes after Indiana will be focusing on the option versus Navy and before an anticipated game versus Missouri. This is the type of game that could make the difference between the Hoosiers being a bowl team or staying home for the postseason.
Snoozer: The Indiana State game won't draw a lot of eyeballs outside of the state. Still, the Sycamores played IU tough last year, and it is an opener. Plus, this game might be the first time we learn who the starting quarterback is for the Hoosiers.
Noncon challenge: Missouri gagged during its first year in the SEC, but the Tigers still have a lot of talent. They've also got a lot of potential firepower, which could make this game a shootout between two high-powered offenses. For sure, it represents a major test for the young Indiana defense.
Telltale stretch: The four-game stretch that includes Missouri, Penn State and road games at both Michigan and Michigan State should show us whether these Hoosiers are really improved and ready to contend or still far away from the top of the Big Ten. One or two wins would be huge for IU's postseason hopes. Mostly, though, Indiana simply has to survive this stretch.
Analysis: There is a lot of optimism around Bloomington this preseason, thanks to Indiana's high-powered offense and 19 returning starters. Eight home games on the schedule is also helpful in the team's quest to make it to the postseason for the first time since 2007. But the schedule is by no means easy. Navy, Bowling Green and Missouri each bring their own unique challenges, while the opening three games of Big Ten play are very difficult. There are only four road games, but all four -- Wisconsin and Ohio State, plus the Michigan schools --- are the kinds of games that Indiana has rarely won in its history. The Hoosiers are good enough to compete with and beat the likes of Minnesota, Illinois and rival Purdue. The season will likely come down to whether they can take of business against similarly talented teams at home and pull off an upset or two somewhere along the way.
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