CINCINNATI, Ohio — Indiana took to the streets Friday for its first game outside of Memorial Stadium of the 2022 season.
Indiana holds a 3-0 record and heads into a matchup with Cincinnati at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Nippert Stadium, where the real fun begins. Not only is it Indiana’s first street game, it’s also the first game in which Tom Allen and the Hoosiers are the underdogs.
According to SI Sportsbook, Cincinnati is the favorite on Saturday morning with 16.5 points and is setting up what is clearly Indiana’s toughest test to date. It’s time to see what Indiana is really made of. Because in reality, the Hoosiers have won three games as favorites while playing comfortably at their home stadium.
Likely Indiana has already won more games than it did in its disastrous 2-10 season in 2021 and feels Indiana spent three weeks proving the doubters wrong. Indiana was picked to finish bottom in the Big Ten East with a likely four-game win total.
Perhaps fast offensive coordinator Walt Bell implemented it to erase memories of last year’s Indiana offensive, which gained fewer yards and scored fewer touchdowns than any Big Ten team. Maybe it’s Tom Allen going back to his defensive play-calling roots and producing takeaways like 2020 Hoosiers did.
But before we jump to any conclusions about Indiana dashed the season’s expectations, let’s realize that Cincinnati, Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan State and others are still on the schedule. The late-game magic that Indiana used to defeat Illinois and Western Kentucky is unlikely to last playing in a Big Ten East division that’s 20-1 combined. Coming back will be particularly difficult, especially in Saturday’s matchup against Cincinnati should Indiana fall early from behind.
Last year’s game between Indiana and Cincinnati can be noted as a major turning point for both teams. Indiana lost All-American linebacker Micah McFadden to a controversial targeting call late in the first half, turned the ball twice in costly situations and was outplayed 15-0 by Cincinnati in the fourth quarter to lose 38-24.
On the other hand, Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell said this week he learned a lot about his team from beating Indiana last year. Yes, he knew quarterback Desmond Ridder and the other eight NFL draft picks of 2022 could play at a high level, but he was beginning to see the figures forming around them into a college football playoff team.
“To be as down as we were, to face what we faced on the street,” Fickell said. “I thought that really helped define us as a team.”
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It’s a loss that still hurts for returning Hoosiers, and it seems the newcomers have felt its effects as well.
“I know for a fact that those guys should have won, we should have won here last year,” Simmons said. “I know that if we go to them and play on the road and they’re our first away game, we’ll be proud of that.”
The Hoosiers will take to the field Saturday with a little extra motivation to avenge last year’s loss, but motivation alone won’t be enough to defeat a talented Cincinnati team at their home stadium.
The Bearcats have lost much of their talent over the past year, but Fickell has built one of the best programs in college football over the past few years. Cincinnati boasts a 50-16 record under Fickell, including a 22-2 stretch in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, noting the two losses to Georgia and Alabama.
Ben Bryant took over as quarterback for Ridder, and he’s completed 70 percent of the passes in three games. Despite losing nine players in the NFL draft, Cincinnati traveled to Arkansas for the season opener and brought the Razorbacks home with a seven-point loss. Culture is a word often thrown around in collegiate sport – sure, it can seem cliche at times – but it’s clear Fickell has built a sustainable football brand that can withstand the loss of talent.
If Indiana has any chance of winning this game, it’s going to take a start we haven’t seen all year. The Hoosiers have 91 points this season, but only six of those came in the first quarter of games. In their first away game of the season, Indiana will need to find a way to get an early touchdown or two to keep this game close.
Saturday’s contest also represents the toughest challenge in Parker Hanna and Caleb Murphy’s careers as offensive linemen. Hanna, a Division II transfer from West Texas A&M, stepped in for Matthew Bedford in the right tackle after Bedford ruptured his cruciate ligament torn against Illinois. Indiana’s starting center Zach Carpenter went down in pregame warm-ups last week, forcing Murphy into his first career start. Indiana passed the ball 55 times last week, but beating Cincinnati requires a balanced attack in both the running and passing game. Keep an eye on this duel in the trenches.
Defensively, Indiana is led by a group of veterans in Cam Jones, Tiawan Mullen, Jaylin Williams and Devon Matthews who aren’t intimidated by a talented opponent or a rough street atmosphere. Allen has criticized Indiana’s running defense in three games, but I think the Hoosier defense will find a key take or two to keep this game at bay.
But in the end I see Cincinnati’s 28-game home winning streak continue with a 34-20 win over Indiana. The Hoosiers will hang around, but if you settle for a few field goals too many, Cincinnati can pull away in the second half.
Related Stories About Indiana Football:
- HOW TO SEE: Indiana (3-0) travels from Nippert Stadium to Cincinnati (2-1) for a Week 4 matchup at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. Here’s how to use game time and TV updates to get the latest on scoring and see three things from Indiana. CLICK HERE
- MEET THE BEARCATS: Indiana Football carries a 3-0 record in a tough street contest against the Cincinnati Bearcats. Coach Luke Fickell and Cincinnati defeated Indiana 38-24 en route to the college football playoffs last season. CLICK HERE
- LUKE FICKELL PREVIEW INDIANA: Only fifth-rounder Jerome Ford, who transferred from Alabama to UC, was rated more than three stars by recruiting services entering the college. CLICK HERE
- CALEB MURPHY’S JOURNEY TO INDIANA: Redshirt student Caleb Murphy was thrown onto the starting lineup for the first time last Saturday after center Zach Carpenter went down with a hand injury in pregame warm-ups. Coming from West Washington High School, a Class 1A school in Campbellsburg, Indiana, Murphy always dreamed of playing in Indiana and getting started was a dream come true. CLICK HERE