BLOOMINGTON — Drama is coming.
Intrigue is coming.
Big-time challenge is coming.
Oh, yes. Ohio State's juggernaut is coming to Indiana's Memorial Stadium on Aug. 31 in a season opener generating Cream 'n Crimson football buzz rarely found in June — or any time.
Yes, it includes former Hoosier coach Kevin Wilson.
“I'm thrilled,” athletic director Fred Glass says.
The Buckeyes again project as a national title contender. ESPN's Preseason Football Power Index rates them No. 1 based on factors such returning starters, the last four years worth of offense, defense and special teams, four-year recruiting ranking and head-coaching tenure.
IU will counter with first-year head coach Tom Allen and a program that has played in two straight bowl games, but that hasn't had a winning record since 2007. Still, it has a dangerous defense and a potentially high-powered offense under new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord.
It comes in at No. 60 in ESPN's power index.
On the down side, the Hoosiers have lost their last 22 games against Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 12-0 against Big Ten teams in season openers, with four of those wins against IU.
Allen's response — bring it on.
“I would say Ohio State as the opener definitely creates a sense of urgency. I've said that many times. I believe that.
“There is no question when you play Ohio State, it's a different feel. When you know that, according to some polls, the No. 1 team in the country is coming to town, you'll get a different response. I like it. I think it's great. I think our program needs this. It creates an atmosphere and an urgency our guys are benefiting from. We want to take full advantage of that.”
A cynic would say, good luck.
An optimist would say … good luck.
Coach Urban Meyer is 61-6 in five seasons at Ohio State. That includes the 2014 national championship. He is 39-2 against Big Ten teams.
The Buckeyes return quarterback J.T. Barrett, who is 26-4 as a starter, and enough other talent to field two top-20 teams.
The game is set for a Thursday night and will be televised on ESPN to help open the college football season.
That's an enormous amount of exposure for a program that needs it.
The key — making the most of it.
Glass wouldn't want it any other way.
“I like the Big Ten pushing to have conference games earlier in the schedule. When they offered that, we put our hand up and said we'd like to be involved with that. We worked it out with (Ohio State athletic director) Gene Smith.
“We'll have an 8 o'clock kickoff. Prime time. All the back stories that go along with that. I can't imagine a better way to start the Allen era than that Thursday night of a holiday (Labor Day) weekend.”
Then there is the Kevin Wilson factor. He was basically fired after last season for undisclosed “philosophical differences” that had nothing to do with his 26-47 six-year Hoosier record. He wound up as the offensive coordinator at Ohio State. His mission — boost an offense that scored zero points in last season's playoff semifinal loss to eventual national champ Clemson. Expect a major passing attack upgrade.
“There will be side stories about that,” Glass says. “That won't be the focus for Tom. In terms of the substance of the game, it's Indiana and Ohio State.”
How rare is this kind of opener? IU hasn't started with a Big Ten team since 1982, when it beat Northwestern 30-0. Ohio State last opened with a conference team in 1976, and smashed Michigan State 49-21.
This will be the first time the Hoosiers will have hosted Ohio State in a season opener. They have pushed the Buckeyes hard in recent years. In 2012, they lost by three points. In 2015, it was by seven points. Last year it was by 21.
Allen's main message in his head coaching debut season is “break through.” This game, Glass says, would be the perfect way to do it.
“I hope (the Buckeyes) come in No. 1. That's all we need.”
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