CHICAGO — Indiana coach Tom Allen says Ohio State’s Aug. 31 trip to Bloomington to play the Hoosiers will be “the biggest home opener in the history of Indiana football.”
Allen made that statement at the Big Ten Football Media Days on Monday. And the three Hoosiers players representing IU at that event were all on board with their coach pumping up that match-up.
“I don’t think it’s hype, I think it’s the truth,” Indiana linebacker Tegray Scales said.
“Usually you play smaller schools or out of conference teams or someone of that nature. I agree with him, it probably is the biggest opener in history,” Scales said.
Cornerback Rashard Fant said, “A lot of people don’t think we can beat Ohio State. I think it’s all about staying level headed. It’s a big game. It’s the biggest game in IU history, that’s the way you should want it. You want all eyes on you against the best of the best.”
Quarterback Richard Lagow said, “It adds urgency, if nothing else. It adds urgency to summer camp, it adds urgency to the offseason. We opened with Florida International last season. No disrespect to them but it’s a little different this year.”
Another element adding to the hype is that Indiana’s head coach last year, Kevin Wilson, is now OSU’s offensive coordinator.
Allen was less outspoken about the return of his predecessor than he was about the magnitude of the game.
“The media is going to make a big deal about him being there. But it’s not about us,” Allen said.
Allen, who was Indiana’s defensive coordinator last season, was named head coach in December after Wilson resigned because of what was called “philosophical differences.”
Ohio State has not lost to Indiana since 1988 and has a 22-0-1 record against the Hoosiers in that time span. However, the Buckeyes have had close games the last two times it played in Bloomington, winning 34-27 in 2015 and 52-49 in 2012.
The last time Ohio State opened a football season against a Big Ten opponent was in 1976 against Michigan State. The Buckeyes’ last opener against a Big Ten opponent on the road was when it went to Michigan State in 1975.
NEVER ON FRIDAY: Allen, a former high school football coach, also weighed in on the Big Ten playing games on Friday night and said he is against it.
“I’m very concerned about it. I’m not going to sit here and try and make a big issue in terms of what I think. My history as a high school coach for 15 years is strong. It’s who I am, it’s how I started, and it’s been so many years.
“I think that’s a special night. I don’t like playing games on Friday night. I think that’s high school night. But it’s not always my decision, but I’m one of those I’m not going to just not tell you what I believe,” he said.
“I think that’s a situation where I would prefer that we didn’t. But I understand there may be factors outside of my control for that. But to answer your question, I would like to keep that night special for high school football. That means a lot to me.”
LAURINAITIS JOINS BTN: Former Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis will join the Big Ten Network as an on-air contributor this football season.
Laurinaitis had “probably the best screen test I’ve ever seen,” BTN president Mark Silverman said on Monday at Big Ten Football Media Days. “We think people who watch James are going to be very impressed.”
The Big Ten Network has also added former Michigan and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards and former Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton.
Laurinaitis will appear in an Ohio State-specific show, along with long-time BTN host Rick Pizzo, which will be on Fox Sports Ohio.
Silverman also announced that Lisa Byington, who has been a sideline reporter for the Big Ten Network, will become the first woman to call play-by-play on a Big Ten Network game when Bowling Green plays at Northwestern on Sept. 16.
HIGH ON LEWERKE: Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Brian Lewerke, who will be the Spartans’ starting quarterback, does some of the same things as Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook, who are both in the NFL now.
“He compares favorably with Kirk Cousins in a lot of ways, and really Connor Cook. They both played in their third seasons, they both started playing in their third season, so they had an opportunity to be redshirted, had an opportunity to be a redshirt freshman, play a little bit and then come on down as a redshirt sophomore,” he said.
“He’s got game experience. He’s almost up to 220 pounds, he’s got a great arm, he’s very cool under pressure. I think he understands our players. He knows our players very well, knows things schematically. I think he’s a very quick learner.
“He has all the attributes that we need to be an outstanding, championship-type quarterback,” Dantonio said.
RETURN OF THE FCS: The Big Ten has reversed a policy of not allowing its member schools to play FCS schools in football.
If a team has only four Big Ten home games, it will be allowed to play an FCS school.