ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Michigan is one win away from setting up a de facto College Football Playoff elimination game against Ohio State, and standing in its way is a team that's been very pesky during the Jim Harbaugh era.
In terms of results, no Big Ten matchup has been more one-sided than Michigan-Indiana. The Wolverines have won 22 straight games against the Hoosiers and 37 of 38 since 1968.
But since Jim Harbaugh arrived in 2015 and breathed new life into the Michigan football program, Indiana has been inches away from breaking that streak.
Last 3 matchups
In 2015, Michigan went into Bloomington as a heavy favorite against an Indiana team that had lost five games in a row. Yet with five seconds remaining, the Wolverines were down seven points on fourth and goal from the 5-yard line.
Jake Rudock connected with Jehu Chesson for a touchdown, and two overtimes later, the Wolverines escaped Memorial Stadium with a victory.
The Wolverines welcomed Indiana to Ann Arbor after a heartbreaking loss to Iowa in 2016. Michigan had College Football Playoff hopes and Indiana was simply hoping to sneak into a bowl game.
But once again, the 25.5-point favorites couldn't pull away, as the Hoosiers held a 10-6 lead with less than 20 minutes to play. De'Veon Smith eventually saved Michigan's season with a pair of impressive touchdown runs, but it was an ugly win in a string of underwhelming performances to end the season.
Last season seemed like a good chance for Indiana to pull off an upset as a touchdown underdog at home. It looked like Michigan would avoid the matchup's typical drama, however, leading by 10 points with less than four minutes to play.
It was Indiana's destiny to create some angst for Michigan fans, though, and the Hoosiers scored 10 points in the final minutes, including a last-second 46-yard field goal by Griffin Oakes.
After a Michigan touchdown to start overtime, Indiana got down to first and goal from the 1-yard line. But Michigan's defense stepped up, causing two negative runs and an incomplete pass to set up a Tyree Kinnel game-winning interception.
The 2018 matchup is almost an exact replica of two years ago, as the Wolverines host Indiana with a possible Big Ten-deciding game at Ohio State on deck. Just like in 2016, Michigan is 9-1 and Indiana is 5-5 coming into the game.
Michigan is looking at a possible College Football Playoff berth and Indiana is looking to reach bowl eligibility. Sound familiar?
There's one major difference between the 2016 team and this year's Wolverines. In 2016, Michigan was incredibly dominant against strong teams early in the season and struggled against Michigan State and Iowa right before the Indiana game.
This season, Michigan is getting better each week and has shown no sign of letting up, no matter who's on the opposite sideline. Indiana appears to be running into a buzzsaw, as Michigan has won two straight games 42-7 and five straight by at least 14 points.
Indiana has played a grueling Big Ten schedule but found a way to come up with a big win at home against Maryland last week. It snapped a four-game losing streak and put Indiana in a good position to clinch a bowl game in the final two weeks.
Like most Indiana teams, this one has come extremely close to pulling off major upsets only to fall just short. In September, Indiana trailed then-No. 24 MSU by seven points with under four minutes to play. The Hoosiers hung around against Ohio State before getting crushed in the fourth quarter.
The closest call came against Penn State, as Indiana held a one-point lead late in the third quarter and ultimately lost 33-28.
How Indiana matches up
Indiana ranks outside the top-60 in the country in total defense, total offense, scoring defense and scoring offense. Michigan has imposed its will on every Big Ten opponent except Northwestern, but Indiana has earned its reputation as a thorn in Harbaugh's side.
The last three Michigan teams were much more talented than Indiana, but that didn't translate to one-sided final scores. If this game is close heading into the fourth quarter, all the pressure will be on the Wolverines.
Tom Allen's team struggles defensively and can't run the ball, so it will have to win the game on the arm of Peyton Ramsey.
The sophomore quarterback is having a nice season, completing 67.3 percent of his passes for 2,335 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Ramsey doesn't pose much of a downfield threat. Despite connecting on more than two-thirds of his pass attempts, he's averaging just 6.47 yards per attempt, and the Hoosiers have just three completions of more than 40 yards this season.
Running back Stevie Scott is averaging 5 yards per carry this season and has found the end zone nine times. He's approaching 1,000 total yards on the season, so he's a weapon the Michigan defense will have to watch closely.
Ramsey can also make a difference with his legs, rushing for 266 yards and four touchdowns despite taking more than 100 yards' worth of sacks. It will be tough for Ramsey to run on a Michigan defense that shut down Trace McSorley two weeks ago, but he will need to be a running threat.
It will be difficult for Indiana to score this weekend, as it is for any team going up against Don Brown's defense.
Michigan continues to grow on offense, especially as Shea Patterson quietly becomes one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. Michigan is much better than Indiana and has much more on the line, so this game shouldn't be much of a challenge.
But that was supposed to be the case the last three years, too.
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