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Which version of Michigan football will show up against No. 13 Indiana?

Jim Harbaugh desperately needs bounce-back win

Zach Charbonnet #24 of the Michigan Wolverines is tackled by Bryant Fitzgerald #31 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the first half at Memorial Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Bloomington, Indiana.
Zach Charbonnet #24 of the Michigan Wolverines is tackled by Bryant Fitzgerald #31 of the Indiana Hoosiers during the first half at Memorial Stadium on November 23, 2019 in Bloomington, Indiana. (2019 Getty Images)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – If Michigan football wants to survive yet another trip to Indiana, it will have to look much more like the team that beat Minnesota and nothing like the one that showed up last weekend.

No college football team has seen a more dramatic single-week shift than Michigan, which blasted a top 25 team in the opener before losing as a three-touchdown favorite just seven days later.

This has been a dark week for the Wolverines, who desperately need a win at Indiana.

It’s not going to be easy. The Hoosiers replaced Michigan at No. 13 in the AP poll after shocking Penn State and cruising past Rutgers. Even though the Wolverines are betting favorites, Indiana is the team to beat in this matchup.

Winning streak

It’s hard to say which streak is more incredible: Michigan’s 33-year, 24-game current winning streak against Indiana or the 39-1 record over the past 53 years.

Either way, Michigan has dominated Indiana for a half century.

READWill Michigan lose to Indiana for first time in 33 years this weekend?

But this meeting is different. It’s the first time since 1987 that Michigan comes into the game with a worse ranking than Indiana, and that 1987 game was Indiana’s only win since 1967.

History hasn’t been kind to the Hoosiers in this matchup, but history has no bearing on Saturday.

On offense

It’s a miracle Michigan managed to score 24 points last weekend, because the offense was completely out of whack.

Joe Milton wasn’t accurate downfield. Receivers weren’t catching the ball. The offensive line couldn’t create running lanes or protect the passer.

Josh Gattis took the blame for a terrible game plan, and he certainly needs to be much better the rest of the season.

The Hoosiers have thrived off of creating turnovers, forcing three in both of their games this season. Michigan has yet to turn the ball over in two games.

Something’s got to give. If Michigan can take care of the ball and get the running game back on track, it will be able to score on this Indiana defense.

On defense

Michigan State probably could have scored a lot more than 27 points on the Michigan defense, which was scrambling just to keep up with the Spartan receivers.

Vincent Gray and Gemon Green couldn’t cut it in coverage, getting burned on a number of big plays over the top and committing multiple pass interference penalties.

But even more concerning was the complete lack of pressure from a Michigan defensive line that’s supposed to be a reliable strength. Aidan Hutchinson and Kwity Paye were nowhere to be found, and that allowed Rocky Lombardi to sit back and pick the defense apart.

Michael Penix will do the same if Michigan can’t make him uncomfortable. He’s already thrown for four touchdowns and rushed for two more this season, and the Hoosiers have plenty of weapons for him to target.

Don Brown couldn’t manufacture any pressure against Michigan State, and that was a death knell for the entire defense. That absolutely has to change, but if it’s at the expense of help for the cornerbacks, Michigan is in big trouble.

Prediction

Indiana didn’t exactly outplay Penn State in the opener, but the Hoosiers are still 2-0, and they dominated a Rutgers team that beat Michigan State just a week before MSU upset Michigan.

With how bad Minnesota has proven to be, there’s no real reason to believe Michigan should be favored against the No. 13 team in the country.

MOREWhere does MSU game rank among Michigan’s most devastating losses under Jim Harbaugh?

Maybe Michigan’s offense will revert to Week 1, and the defense will fix its issues in the trenches and the secondary. Michigan is hoping to get back some players who were injured during the Michigan State game.

But the most likely outcome feels like Indiana breaking the 24-game losing streak and beating Michigan for the first time since 1987.

I’ll take the Hoosiers in a 34-24 game.


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