Today’s college-affiliated football contribution to the Irony Age:
The program in Saturday night’s FIU-Indiana game that would get a greater perception boost from a win is the larger school from the larger TV market/metropolitan area, that beat a two-time defending conference champion on the road last week and has more recent consecutive winning records and bowl appearances. Heck, a more recent winning record and bowl appearance.
The other program is Indiana.
But the Hoosiers bring a charter membership in the Big Ten and a football history that, while slotting them as the Big Ten’s version of the often-woeful Arizona Cardinals, touches three centuries. They started playing football before Miami started playing a city.
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While the Big Ten has been sneered at lately among the Power Five, defending national champion Ohio State and Michigan State notwithstanding, FIU’s Conference USA got tabbed “Conference DOA” after the departures of realignment (Central Florida, Houston, SMU, East Carolina, Tulane and Tulsa) and politics (the brief death of Alabama-Birmingham football that gave Indiana its No. 1 running back, transfer Jordan Howard).
Indiana scheduled FIU to soften up its nonconference schedule, according to what Indiana athletic director Fred Glass told the Indianapolis Star in 2014.
Still, against that scenery, it took a few sentences before FIU coach Ron Turner would exit Coachspeak to admit that a win on Big Ten turf might mean a little more than beating FCS welterweight North Carolina-Central or third-year program Charlotte.
“Any win over anybody is great,” Turner said. “Last week, the win over [Central Florida] was great. A win over Indiana would be great. Whoever’s up next would be great. Any win is good. They’re a Big Ten team, a very good football team, so obviously it would be tremendous.”
Sophomore running back Alex Gardner opined: “It would put us on the map, I believe. After coming off that UCF victory, we were getting a little bit of exposure. This Indiana win will give us a lot. And we really want it.”
At least with T.Y. Hilton running by secondaries for the Indianapolis Colts, central Indiana football fans know FIU exists and maybe even know where it is. Unlike, say, the 2011 night when Hilton torched Louisville for two long touchdowns, when the game programs placed FIU in Tampa. Serious football fans in John Mellencamp Country know that FIU’s Johnathan Cyprien is entering his third season starting at safety for Colts’ AFC South rival Jacksonville.
(Several FIU players had a tough time naming any Indiana players in the NFL aside from rookie running back Tevin Coleman.)
As Gardner said, the Panthers received some national notice for last week’s 15-14 upset at UCF, which went off as a 13-to-14-point favorite. UCF is also from a Group of Five league, the American Athletic Conference, but the Knights’ success since 2010 built a better football FICO score among the college football cognoscenti than many Power 5 schools (such as Indiana).
Meanwhile, the Hoosiers, with nine players suspended, including several defensive starters, needed a two-point-conversion stop to escape with a 48-47 win against FCS opponent Southern Illinois.
The UCF win also brought Panthers players pats on the back around campus, a welcome but dangerous form of love.
“I just try to tell the players don’t let it get to your head, stay focused on the task at hand — winning a championship, taking it one day at a time,” fifth-year senior cornerback Richard Leonard said. “Don’t let that get you too big-headed.”
Most recent winning season 2011 (8-4) 2007 (7-6)
Most recent consecutive winning seasons 2010 & 2011 1993 & 1994
Most recent bowl game 2011 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl 2007 Insight Bowl
Enrollment (fall 2014) 47,736 42,634