ANN ARBOR, Mich. – There’s no sugarcoating it: Last week was a shocking, unmitigated disaster for the Michigan football program.
Not only did Michigan lose to Michigan State, it also lost several players to injury during the game. Recruiting has already taken a hit since the game, and we even learned safeties coach Bob Shoop hasn’t been with the team.
It has the feel of a situation that could quickly spiral out of control, if it hasn’t already. What Michigan really needs, more than anything, is to return to the field and get back in the win column.
Jim Harbaugh has been criticized this week perhaps more than at any other time in his Michigan tenure. Most fans understand beating Ohio State is a tall task, but losing to a bitter rival at home as a three-touchdown favorite is much less forgivable.
In the past, playing Indiana would be a much-needed rebound game at a time like this. But not anymore.
This Indiana team is good. Ranked No. 13 in the country, the Hoosiers are off to a 2-0 start behind the heroics of Michael Penix and a playmaking defense.
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Through two games, Penix has scored six total touchdowns while passing for 408 yards. He hasn’t been perfect, but he has the ability to shred a defense with a receiving corps led by Whop Philyor and when the game was on the line, he came through time and again in the Penn State game.
A Michigan secondary that got shredded by Rocky Lombardi and an unproven group of wideouts last weekend looks primed for the taking, so Penix could have a breakout game.
Defensively, Indiana has forced three turnovers in each of the first two games. Joe Milton needs to be extremely smart with the football, as the Hoosiers picked off Sean Clifford twice in the opener and Noah Vedral three times last week.
Milton wasn’t terrible against Michigan State, but he missed some throws that really could have opened up the offense. It’s clear downfield passing won’t be a strength for the Michigan offense, so Milton needs some help from the running game to relieve some of the pressure.
Penn State averaged nearly 5 yards per rush against Indiana, but Rutgers had much less success. If the Michigan team that couldn’t move at all between the tackles last week shows up again, scoring could be difficult.
One game doesn’t make or break a season, but Michigan already used its mulligan last week when it forgot to show up against the Spartans. Now there’s no room for error, and everyone -- from Harbaugh to the rest of the coaching staff to the players -- desperately needs a win in Bloomington.
The Wolverines have won 24 straight in this matchup since 1987, but Saturday will be the toughest of them all.