The second-longest active winning streak in the FBS belongs to Michigan and its 24 consecutive wins over Indiana.
This week, that could be in jeopardy.
Going into Saturday, Indiana is the higher-ranked team at No. 13 to Michigan’s No. 23. The Wolverines are still favored by 3.5, but in a game known for being close year after year, it’s clear to everyone that the Hoosiers can’t be overlooked.
“They do a lot of things really well,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday. “Defensively, multiple looks, offensively, very good quarterback, multiple receivers, really good running back, very physical team, very fired up team. All the things that we’ve seen from Indiana year in and year out. Tom Allen does a great job coaching the team and it’s an exciting ball club and Tom’s really got them playing well.”
The Wolverines’ history with the Hoosiers has been well-documented. The matchups in 2015 and 2017 went into overtime and in 2016 and 2018 Indiana stayed within two scores. Last year’s 39-14 blowout in Bloomington was somewhat of an anomaly.
And now, Indiana — long known for showing an utter inability to beat any of the Big Ten’s better teams — pulled off a week one upset of Penn State and has momentum going into the matchup.
Perhaps some of Michigan’s previous close calls with the Hoosiers were due to overlooking them. One survey of Michigan beat writers preseason had 17 of 19 writers designate Indiana the biggest trap game. Now, it might not even deserve that label. Indiana is a flat-out good team, with a better record and a higher ranking than the Wolverines. That’s not a trap game. That’s a formidable opponent. And Michigan knows it.
“You practice it, and then understand it’s gonna be a tough game,” Harbaugh said. “Indiana’s really good, but we play good, we play the way we’re capable, we’ll be tough to beat as well.”
Coming off a loss to Michigan State, this game suddenly looms even larger. Barring some kind of end-of-season miracle, the Wolverines have little hope of a Big Ten championship or the College Football Playoff. But the road doesn’t really get easier after Indiana — their next two games are against Wisconsin and Penn State. Saturday’s game could be the difference between a winning record and a losing record.
The Hoosiers bring an offense full of playmakers — and some of the best names in the Big Ten. Quarterback Michael Penix has averaged 200 passing yards per game, and his top targets are 2019 All-Big Ten wide receiver Whop Philyor, wide receiver Ty Fryfogle and tight end Peyton Hendershot, who was named to the John Mackey Award watch list for the nation’s top tight end. Making things harder is the fact that Michigan has never faced Penix; he missed last year’s game with an injury.
“The big thing with Indiana, they have obviously a dynamic quarterback in Michael Penix,” linebackers coach Brian Jean-Mary said. “ … They’ve surrounded him with some very talented guys on the outside. Big offensive line that really gets after you. Physical up front, and a physical running back downhill type of guy that runs hard and gets the extra yard, so I feel like they’re a complete team, but like any team it kinda starts with the quarterback position, and we feel like they have a good one that will pose a good challenge for us this week.”
Certainly, the Wolverines have the talent to match the Hoosiers on both sides of the ball. They showed that against Minnesota — another team with a good quarterback and wide receiver. The question this time is whether the Michigan team that shows up Saturday more closely resembles the one from two weeks ago in Minneapolis or the one last week in Ann Arbor. The answer could determine whether the Wolverines’ season gets back on track or goes totally off the rails.
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