If ever Indiana needed a sell-out football crowd, Saturday is the day and Michigan is the opponent.
Noise matters. Home field advantage matters. A rock-the-Wolverine atmosphere is crucial.
The first couple of home games featured the kind of opponents that excited only the most zealous of fans. Michigan is different. It is big time. It is ranked, it has a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Denard Robinson and it has a very porous pass defense.
In fact, the No. 19 Wolverines (4-0) have the worst pass defense in the Big Ten, which seems ideal considering the Hoosiers (3-0) have the conference’s best passing offense.
A cynic could say that’s the result of weak opponents, and that would be right, but it is also misleading. IU is loaded at the receiver position. It has one of the Big Ten’s most accurate quarterbacks. The offensive line might not dominate in run blocking, but it’s done the job in protecting quarterback Ben Chappell.
Hoosiers officials, spurred by athletic director Fred Glass, have pushed the envelope in making the game-day atmosphere a major draw. In fact, IU has sold more than 20,000 season tickets for the first time in 13 years.
The total is 21,125, the most since 1997, when IU sold 25,654 season tickets. Indiana also has sold more than 7,000 student season tickets for the first time since 1997.
“I think people are very excited about the direction of our football program,” Glass said in a university release. “They really seem to enjoy the game-day experience at Memorial Stadium. That is reflected in the surge of season ticket sales and the outstanding response by our student body.”
Nothing spurs enjoyment like victory. A win over Michigan might even generate a few poll votes, and when was the last time the Hoosiers experienced that in football. We’re guessing it was in the early 1990s under then coach Bill Mallory.
Anyway, if the Hoosiers really want to make attending home football games a way of Cream ‘n Crimson life they have to beat a team like Michigan, and they have to do it Saturday in the most impressive of ways.
If this is a special team, it’s time to prove it, not with moral victories, not with fighting the good fight, but in being the rudest of hosts by stomping the Wolverines back to where they came from.