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Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Key stretch: Indiana

By Brian Bennett

A little more than five weeks to go before preseason camps begin. As we continue to count down toward the season, we're taking a look at the key three- or four-game stretch in the schedule for each Big Ten team.

Up next, a team hoping to get to a bowl game: the Indiana Hoosiers.

Key stretch: at Michigan on Nov. 1, Penn State on Nov. 8, at Rutgers on Nov. 15

Breakdown: The Hoosiers must find a formula that gets them to at least six wins this season. Since the nonconference schedule includes a road game at Missouri and a potentially tough one at Bowling Green, IU will likely need at least three conference victories. More than likely, they will need one in this stretch to have a chance. While winning in the Big House has never been easy for the Hoosiers, they have put up a lot of points on the Wolverines in the past three years, including last year's 63-47 loss. This game also comes after a bye week for Kevin Wilson''s team. Indiana upset Penn State last year at home, and pulled away for a shockingly one-sided score. The Nittany Lions won't overlook this game on the schedule this year, but given some of their depth issues, IU will have a chance again. And Rutgers might provide the Hoosiers their best opportunity to score a victory in the East Division. It's a little hard to imagine a scenario where Indiana goes bowling without beating either Big Ten newcomer, Maryland or Rutgers.

Prediction: The Hoosiers have a top-flight offense, which gives them a puncher's chance in just about any game. But if their defense doesn't improve significantly, it may not matter. We're in believe-it-when-we-see-it mode for a program that has been to one bowl game in the past 20 years. So we'll say Indiana goes 1-2 here, either repeating the Penn State upset or, more likely, winning at Rutgers. An 0-3 mark wouldn't be surprising. A 2-1 or 3-0 run through this stretch almost certainly means it's a banner year in Bloomington.