Ninth in a series that examines a stretch of games that could make or break the season for each Big Ten team.
Up next, Indiana
Key stretch: Penn State (Oct. 1), Illinois (Oct. 8), at Wisconsin (Oct. 15), at Iowa (Oct. 22)
Breakdown: The Hoosiers might have the Big Ten’s toughest road schedule -- Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan -- so they need to play well at Memorial Stadium to have a realistic shot at reaching a bowl game. Big Ten play opens with consecutive home contests against Penn State and Illinois, teams that could challenge in the Leaders division but also have some question marks. Illinois will be playing its first road game Oct. 8. Indiana then travels to Madison, where it got embarrassed 83-20 last season. First-year coach Kevin Wilson has the need to turn the page on the past, but Hoosiers players haven’t forgotten what happened the last time they faced Wisconsin. The stretch wraps up with a trip to Kinnick Stadium, where Indiana played well in 2009 before a fourth-quarter collapse. If Wilson wants to get some buzz in Bloomington, IU needs to win at least one of these.
Prediction: The Hoosiers will be underdogs in all four games, and they have more question marks than any of their opponents. But a favorable September schedule provides a chance to gain confidence, particularly on defense. It wouldn't shock me if Indiana splits the home games, so I'll go with 1-3.
More key stretch