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BLOOMINGTON – College football is back, and No. 17 Indiana will kick off with its highest expectations since coming off a Rose Bowl berth in the late 1960s.

Right out of the gates, a stiff challenge awaits the Hoosiers: A road trip to No. 18 Iowa.

“Great opportunity for this program to play on the road there in Kinnick Stadium,” says head coach Tom Allen. “It’s going to be great atmosphere, great to have the fans back and it’s going to be a tough and challenging environment to be in, without question.”

If there was any question at quarterback, Allen answered it, saying Michael Penix Jr. is 100 percent ready to start.

“The doctors say I’m good,” smiled Penix, who tore his ACL last November. “I feel good, so I’m good. I’m gonna go out there, trust everything and play football.”

For the first time in 52 years, Indiana has a spot in the preseason AP Top 25. Coach Allen thinks that respect actually comes with a similar challenge a team that’s overlooked also faces this time of year.

“In the past,” Allen explains, “those distractions have been negative distractions, people telling you what you can’t do and judging you based on your past. And now you have to be able to block out the positive distractions and people, maybe some people saying that they’re expecting you to do more things than you’ve maybe done in the past. You still have those that continue to doubt, but that’s a part of it and that’s okay.”

“I really don’t pay attention to any of the outside stuff,” adds Penix. “I stay focused, locked in, and try to do what’s best for the team.”

“Our coaches say ‘The Hoosiers don’t beat the Hoosiers,'” continues senior linebacker Micah McFadden. “It comes down to us knowing what we have and everybody doing their job.”

The job at hand: A Hawkeye team with similar aspirations, hoping to kick off the season and conference play with a win. Kickoff is set for Saturday, September 4 at 3:30 p.m.