ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Jim Harbaugh has one of the youngest teams in college football, and this weekend he'll see how they bounce back from a loss for the first time.
Michigan lost its perfect record at home last weekend against Michigan State, and now the Wolverines will hit the road for a must-win game at Indiana.
The expectation is that Michigan will travel to Bloomington angry about last weekend's letdown and take it out on the Hoosiers, and dominate from start to finish. While Michigan has completely owned Indiana for the better part of three decades, the games have become dangerously close.
Look no further than Michigan's last trip to Bloomington. In Harbaugh's first season in Ann Arbor, the two teams matched up in mid-November after Michigan had already lost two games.
Michigan absolutely needed a victory, but with five seconds left on the clock, Indiana held a seven-point lead. Jake Rudock miraculously found Jehu Chesson in the back of the end zone for the tying score, and two overtimes later, Michigan found a way to escape with a win.
Last year's matchup was eerily similar to what Michigan will face this weekend.
A previously undefeated Michigan team had just lost its first game in upset fashion at Iowa, and quarterback Wilton Speight was knocked out of action. Backup John O'Korn took over to start against Indiana in a bounce-back game.
Michigan trailed 7-3 at halftime and needed a pair of long touchdown runs from De'Veon Smith to survive.
This time, O'Korn will have to work his magic on the road, where Indiana has been much tougher against the top teams in the Big Ten. In Week 1, the Hoosiers led Ohio State with under 20 minutes to play before running out of gas.
Concerns for this year's matchup
Michigan doesn't have the offensive firepower to overwhelm Indiana as Ohio State did with 29 points in the final 20 minutes. It will be up to the defense to hold Indiana's potent offense in check.
Just as Michigan's elite defense will keep the Wolverines in every game, the offense gives them a chance to lose every weekend.
If the defense only had to worry about opposing offenses, Michigan would be in good shape. But the defense has to worry about two offenses: its opponent's and its own.
Michigan's offense has continually put the defense in tough spots this season with turnovers and short fields. Of the five turnovers against Michigan State, four gave the Spartans a drive starting in Michigan territory. It's a miracle that Don Brown's defense only allowed 14 points.
Indiana is no pushover this season. Since playing tough against Ohio State, the Hoosiers are 3-1 with three blowout wins and a 31-point loss to Penn State. This is clearly a second-tier team in the conference, but that might be where Michigan is trending, as well.
30 years of pain
In today's college football landscape, it's almost unheard of for a team to go more than 15 years without losing to a conference opponent. But for Indiana, this month marks the 30-year anniversary of the last time it beat Michigan.
That's right, Oct. 24, 1987, was the last time the Hoosiers topped Michigan on the football field. Michigan lost by an all-too familiar score of 14-10 in Bloomington. That victory snapped a 15-game winning streak for Michigan over Indiana.
When Michigan takes the field this weekend, it will do so with a 21-game winning streak against Indiana. Michigan has won 36 of the 37 meetings since 1968.
During this 21-game streak, even the truly awful Michigan teams have owned Indiana. The 2009 and 2014 teams, which failed to qualify for a bowl game, both beat Indiana in Ann Arbor.
But the games have become much more competitive. Over the last decade, three of the six matchups have been decided by a single possession, and only 2014 was truly a blowout.
What to expect
It's hard to predict what this Michigan team will do on any given Saturday, but Harbaugh's teams don't typically have two bad weeks in a row.
O'Korn has to take care of the ball, but Michigan's real problems lie in the offensive line and receiving corps. If the Wolverines can't block or catch the football, it won't matter how much O'Korn improves.
This isn't the same Indiana team that Michigan's offense broke records against in the 2013 shootout, or the one that allowed 48 points in 2015. Tom Allen is a defensive-minded head coach, and there are plenty of weaknesses to exploit in Michigan's offense.
As always, the turnover battle will be a deciding factor in the game. Michigan can't waste possessions and give Indiana short fields if it hopes to win on the road.
The Wolverines better not look ahead to Penn State, or they'll leave Bloomington with a second-straight loss.
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