Many head coaches in college football generally downplay a top-25 ranking, usually calling it a distraction that can’t be redeemed for an automatic victory in their team’s next game.
But when it’s a team making its first appearance in the rankings since 1994 as Indiana did Sunday, coming in at No. 24, the head coach – in this case, Tom Allen – can take a few minutes to recognize the achievement.
“I’m proud of our guys for being recognized in the top 25,” Allen said Monday at his weekly news conference. “Doesn’t really mean anything in regards to on the field. You have to keep proving it.
“Much more work to do. At the same time, not oblivious to the fact it hasn’t happened in 25 years, something that our guys do take a lot of pride in, being recognized in that regard.”
The Hoosiers (7-2, 4-2 Big Ten), who debuted in the poll after a bye week, will be the fourth ranked opponent for Penn State this season when they visit Beaver Stadium on Saturday, a venue where they are 0-10 since their series began in 1993 and 1-21 overall.
Allen conceded he told his team last week that he expected the ranking after the bye week, but he felt three months ago it was something that was likely.
“I told our team in fall camp I thought they were a top 25 football team,” he said. "I’m sure nobody else would even have said that. It was said in the privacy of our meetings. I believed it. I just said, ‘Guys, you’re doing what I expected you to do.’
“I’ve been very clear from the beginning, if you don’t believe, then I don’t want you around us. That is a mindset that I have. I want players that believe. If you don’t believe we can go to Penn State and win at Penn State for the first time in program history, then don’t get on the bus. That’s bottom line – if you don’t believe, we’ve got no chance.”
Winners of four straight games, Indiana has shown strength on both sides of the football. The Hoosiers are first in the Big Ten and 15th in FBS in passing offense (308 yards per game) and rank in the top 20 nationally in pass defense (ninth, 176.3 yards per game) and total defense (16th, 310.2).
Allen compared Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford to Trace McSorley, who spent the previous three seasons at the helm of the Nittany Lions.
“He’s so much like McSorley, who was such a tough kid, competitor, always found ways,” he said. “He can beat you with his legs, his arm. He’s a tough kid that takes a lot of hits but never seems to get dinged up. He does a good job throwing the football on the perimeter, down the field.”
The Hoosiers will try to make a statement Saturday much as Minnesota did in its 31-26 victory over Penn State last weekend. Allen said there is “zero level of satisfaction that we have accomplished anything yet.
“We’ve got a lot of things ahead of us,” he said. “Our goals that we have for our season are still out there. We’ve got to work hard to accomplish those goals. That’s part of handling where we are.”