The number 23 will surely be mentioned on Saturday when the Michigan Wolverines travel to Bloomington to take on the Indiana Hoosiers (7-3). The writer of this game preview wasn't even born yet the last time the Hoosiers defeated Michigan in a football game, as the Wolverines are currently on a 23-game win streak in this series, with the last Indiana victory coming back in October 1987.
If there ever was a chance to steal one from the surging Wolverines, this might be the year to do so with the Hoosiers having one of their best seasons in recent memory. Already bowl eligible, the Hoosiers (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) have not achieved a nine-win season since 1967 and can do so with a pair of victories to close out the season. And while the Wolverines (8-2, 5-2) are playing their best football of the season at the moment, there is the danger of looking ahead towards next week with The Game against Ohio State looming.
Storylines aplenty for this one.
Michigan at Indiana
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 23 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Michigan -9.5
When Michigan Has the Ball
It’s been a total transformation for the Michigan offense the last three games. In that span, the Wolverines have averaged over 40 points and 400 yards per game on that side of the ball with an average margin of victory of 32 points. And perhaps better news — it’s been both the run and the pass that have gotten the job done depending on the opponent. Against Notre Dame in the rain, the Wolverines ran the heck out of the ball to the tune of 303 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Last week against the dominant Michigan State run defense, the Wolverines went to the air with quarterback Shea Patterson, who might’ve played the best game of his career with 384 passing yards and four TDs in the blowout victory.
Where might the balanced Michigan offense look to attack on Saturday against the Hoosiers? This might be a game where the Wolverines keep the ball on the ground, as Indiana ranks fourth in the Big Ten currently in pass defense, allowing just 176 yards per game through the air. Expect to see a heavy dose of UM running backs Hassan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet.
When Indiana Has the Ball
What’s the status on Whop Philyor? Indiana’s best playmaker on offense suffered a concussion in the loss last week to Penn State, and his status remains up in the air heading into Saturday’s contest. The junior slot receiver is the quick and shifty type of player that has given Michigan's defense fits in the past, especially over the middle of the field against slower linebackers, so having Philyor available would be a huge boost to the Hoosiers' offense.
Should Philyor not be available, Ty Fryfogle, Nick Westbrook and Donavan Hale will be relied upon more Saturday. The injury bug also hit the quarterback position for Indiana as starting quarterback Michael Penix was ruled out for the season in mid-October. Veteran backup Peyton Ramsey has filled in admirably in his place, completing better than 70 percent of his throws with four TDs and one interception in the last three outings.
Finding balance between the pass and run may prove challenging for the Hoosiers against the Michigan front seven, as the Wolverines have been dominant over the last six weeks in stopping the run. During that span, opposing teams are averaging just 2.0 yards per carry with only three rushing TDs. Sophomore running back Stevie Scott will have his hands full trying to find running room.
Twenty-three straight games is a LONG time, and this has the ripe smell of an upset brewing with an Indiana football team playing some really good football at the moment. The last two matchups between Michigan and Indiana in Bloomington have both gone to overtime with the Maize and Blue eventually squeaking out a win. That happening a third straight time is not far-fetched at all. Expect a run-heavy approach on Saturday from the Wolverines, with Shea Patterson making just enough plays in the end to win and setting us up for a showdown next week in The Game.
Prediction: Michigan 30, Indiana 24
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.