Indiana is among 33 unbeaten teams and needed three comebacks to keep its record unblemished.
Coming off a nightmarish 10-loss season, a quick start is exactly what Indiana needed but staying unbeaten may prove difficult Saturday when the Hoosiers visit Cincinnati for their final nonconference game.
“Our guys are excited about that,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said of facing a 2021 playoff team. “They do understand that. Our preparation has to reflect that. It’s on our team, the leaders of this team. Talk about guys in those roles right now and that leadership has to elevate itself this week as we continue to grow.”
Indiana (3-0) is seeking a 4-0 start for the second time in three seasons but those quick starts are sandwiched around a 2-10 campaign.
Indiana scored the game-winning touchdown with 23 seconds left to beat Illinois in its season opener, then overcame an early 10-point deficit to beat Idaho in Week 2. Last week, the Hoosiers erased an eight-point deficit, scoring the tying TD with 47 seconds left and kicking the game-winning 51-yard field goal in overtime for a 33-30 win over visiting Western Kentucky.
The rallies have forced Indiana to constantly use its passing game as Connor Bazelak completed 34 of 55 passes for 364 yards last week. His 56.6 percent completion rate is the second-lowest in the Big Ten.
Cincinnati (2-1) is averaging 41.7 points per game and its 17 touchdowns are the most in the AAC. After opening with a 31-24 loss at Arkansas, the Bearcats notched double-digit wins over Kennesaw State and Miami (Ohio).
The Bearcats followed up their 63-10 rout of Kennesaw State by overcoming a 10-point deficit for a 38-17 win over Miami. Ben Bryant threw 337 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Charles McClelland added 101 yards and two rushing TDs.
“We are figuring out what ‘us’ looks like,” Bearcats coach Luke Fickell said. “I think there’s a little bit more of a calm nature than last year.”
Indiana leads the all-time series 9-4-2. The schools are meeting in Cincinnati for the first time since 1998. Last season, the Bearcats intercepted Michael Pennix three times and overcame an early 14-point deficit for a 38-24 victory at Indiana.
–Field Level Media