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No. 24 Indiana has belief heading to Penn State

Belief is at the center of the program head coach Tom Allen has been building in Bloomington.

Allen believed his team was a top 25 group during fall camp. He believes that his team will end the droughts that have loomed over the Hoosiers for decades.

And if anyone doesn’t believe those things, Allen doesn’t want them there.

Indiana players celebrate their win over Northwestern. (Jared Rigdon/HN)

“If you don’t believe we can do great things here, do special things in Bloomington with our football program, then I don’t really care what we have or haven’t done in the past,” Allen said.

It’s why belief is the most important thing Allen wants his players bringing with them to Penn State.

Allen and his No. 24 ranked team have fulfilled on many of those promises, but hey still have more to go.

With each passing week, the Hoosiers have reached a new milestone. After beating Nebraska on the road, for what is to this point the biggest win of Allen’s tenure as head coach, and clinching bowl eligibility, they wanted more. After beating Northwestern to clinch the first winning season in over a decade, checking off one of the three numbers Allen began is introductory press conference with nearly three years ago, they wanted more. After being ranked in the AP Poll for the first time since September 1994, they wanted more.

Even for a team that has never experienced this type of success, even for a program where getting to a bowl game is normally enough, they want more.

They aren’t satisfied yet.

With each step taken, IU has had its moments for celebration. After beating Nebraska, a Chucky doll was at the center of postgame locker room celebrations. Allen had the giddy joy of a little kid as he ran into the tunnel in Lincoln. They danced in the locker room after they beat Northwestern to get a seventh win. They had their own celebration story when they saw IU breach the top 25 poll and Allen congratulated them all at Monday’s team meeting.

But the celebrations didn’t last long. With each passing moment of triumph Allen has his team’s leadership have returned the focus back to the task at hand, beating whomever is on the schedule that coming week.

This week, that’s one of IU’s biggest tests yet, traveling to Penn State.

IU’s four game Big Ten winning streak gives it a belief it hasn’t had in trips to Penn State of years past. Allen and his team truly believe they can win. It’s not just saying it either, they mean it.

“As a coaching staff, as players, I want players that believe, just like this week,” Allen said. “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.”

Allen has tried to forget about his last trip to State College, Pennsylvania. Saquon Barkley returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and in a flash IU trailed 28-0 by the end of the first quarter.

And this year he saw his team falter against an opponent of that caliber as Ohio State blew out IU earlier this season.

As much as Allen has wanted to put both behind him, he wants them to be learning experiences too as his team walks onto the field.

“It was tough reality that we weren’t where we want to be,” Allen said. “But what do you do? You feel sorry for yourself or you go back to work. We chose to go back to work and get better. So now we have a chance to line up again against a team of that same caliber. We’ll see where we are.”

IU will face a Penn State team coming off its first loss of the season, a program altering upset for Minnesota. For the first time, IU has film on how it can attack Penn State’s weaknesses, following suit to what head coach P.J. Fleck and Minnesota were able to orchestrate.

IU has beaten Penn State once, ever. It came in 2013 in Bloomington. Even as a 14.5 point underdog (nonetheless one of IU’s closest margins in years), even as ESPN’s FPI gives it just a 10% chance of winning, IU believes this year is different. It has since the beginning of fall camp.

It’s why they all believe this year will be the second.

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