BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — When Kevin Wilson watches tape of Indiana State, it doesn't look like another small-school program trying to prove it can play with college football's big boys.
The Indiana coach sees a team that plays hard, has a winning attitude, can run the ball and stops the run. He sees a team ready to post a third straight winning season and that is tough enough back up the talk about winning a conference title and vying for a national championship.
"That's the culture that wins on my son's little league team, it's what Jim Harbaugh has going on in San Fran, it's why the Patriots are so good," Wilson said. "You can coach it up, scheme it up, run the wishbone every play or whatever, and at the end of the day it's about effort."
Wilson expects nothing less from his Hoosiers after last season's debacle.
Indiana lost its final nine games, posted its first winless Big Ten season since 1995 and was the only BCS conference school that failed to defeat another Football Bowl Subdivision team.
Wilson, who was accustomed to playing in BCS bowl games when he was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, has called 2011 a humbling experience — one he obviously does not want to repeat.
So when the Hoosiers and Sycamores meet in Saturday night's season-opener, Indiana will finally have a clean slate.
"Everybody's starting new," Hoosiers quarterback Tre Roberson said. "We can't wait to go out and play and start getting some wins."
The Hoosiers have gone almost 50 weeks since celebrating their last victory — 38-21 over Championship Subdivision foe South Carolina State.
And ending that skid against the Sycamores will be a challenge.
Coach Trent Miles has completely changed the image of Indiana State's program.
When he arrived in 2008, the Sycamores were mired in a losing streak that eventually reached 33 games. Since ending the skid, Indiana State has won 13 times and has shed its lovable-loser image.
What would a win at Indiana mean?
It could give Shakir Bell, runner-up for last year's Walter Payton Award, a leg up on the top FCS honor. It could help defensive lineman Ben Obaseki make an even stronger case to NFL scouts who are already coming to Terre Haute for a peek. Plus, it would be the signature victory for the players who inspired this remarkable turnaround after being shunned by the bigger school.