While last week was utterly disappointing for the Michigan Wolverines (9-1) and their fans following the 14-13 last-second loss to Iowa, everything is still right out in front of them heading into the last two weeks of the regular season. Win out and you are in the College Football Playoff. That starts this Saturday at home against Indiana.
The Hoosiers (5-5) are also coming off of a disappointing loss last week, falling 45-31 to Penn State after heading into the fourth quarter with a three-point lead. Indiana is running out of chances to gain bowl eligibility for a second consecutive season and will need to either upset the Wolverines this week or it will come down to the its annual in-state matchup with Purdue next Saturday.
Both teams hope this Saturday will be a springboard as they head into the final week of the regular season.
Indiana at Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 19 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: Michigan -23
Three Things to Watch
1. Goals Remain the Same
It had been 358 days since the Wolverines last lost a game, but Michigan’s hopes for an undefeated season came crashing to a halt this past Saturday as they fell to the Hawkeyes on a last-second field goal. Even with the loss, not much has changed for the Wolverines as they head into the final two games of the regular season. Win out and they are in the College Football Playoff. Assuming Penn State wins out as well, with the head-to-head victory over the Nittany Lions, Michigan would secure a spot in the Big Ten Championship Game and a win there would lock in a spot for the Wolverines in the final four. “We know we still have opportunities, even the national championship,” sophomore tailback Karan Higdon said after the game. “We’ve just got to win out and do what we’ve got to do to put a stamp on our season.” Winning out starts this Saturday at home against Indiana
2. Who Starts at Quarterback?
There has been a debate this week on social media amongst some of the writers who cover the Michigan program as to the extent of the Wilton Speight shoulder injury. Since the initial rumors of a broken collarbone, head coach Jim Harbaugh came out publicly stating “the report you’re referring to that he’s out for the season, I have not heard that from the doctors so that’s incorrect.” As it stands now, regardless if Speight is out for the season or not, it looks as if backup John O’Korn will get his first start in the Maize and Blue on Saturday. O’Korn has appeared in seven games thus far, going 13-of-18 for 114 yards and two touchdowns in mop-up duty. The former Houston transfer does have previous starting experience, though, going back to his freshman year where he started 11 games for the Cougars and set a school freshman record with 28 touchdown passes. Expect the play-calling to be relatively conservative with some quarterback rollouts and check-down passes as they ease O’Korn into his new role as the starter.
3. Repeat of Last Year
The last time these two teams met it was a double-overtime thriller in Bloomington. The Hoosiers racked up more than 500 yards of total offense on the Michigan defense, including 238 rushing yards and two touchdowns from running back Jordan Howard. Indiana also got a superb performance from quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who threw for 220 yards and had zero turnovers. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, neither player is still around, but Indiana still has some offensive weapons that can present some problems. Quarterback Richard Lagow is second in the conference in passing yards. Running back Devine Redding has started to come on of late with five total touchdowns and two 100-yard performances in the last three games. And the Hoosiers have three wide receivers in the top 11 in the Big Ten in receiving yards. If Indiana is to have a shot on Saturday, the offense needs to have a repeat performance of last season.
While most focused on how poorly the Michigan offense played last week, the defense also struggled, getting pushed around by the Hawkeyes in the running game. With a backup quarterback likely to be under center this week, look for the Wolverines’ defense to put this game on its shoulders to take some pressure off of the offense and prove that last week was just a bad showing. While their place in the College Football Playoff all but depends on how they fair against Ohio State next week, an impressive showing won’t hurt Michigan’s resume one bit and Jim Harbaugh’s charges should have no trouble this Saturday at home against Indiana.
Prediction: Michigan 38, Indiana 10
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. For more College Fantasy Football insight, Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.