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Michigan Wolverines vs. Indiana Hoosiers Preview and Prediction

Nate Sudfeld

Nate Sudfeld

Indiana and Michigan have met 19 times since 1988 and not once have the Hoosiers come away victorious, including last year’s 34-10 loss in which the Wolverines allowed just 191 yards on offense.

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Unlike last year, though, this season’s matchup has high stakes on both sides.

For the Hoosiers, there are only three more opportunities left in the year to secure bowl eligibility, something they have not accomplished since 2007. The Wolverines find themselves smack dab in the middle of the Big Ten race following the Michigan State loss last week against Nebraska.

Plenty of motivation on both sides should result in a very intriguing matchup on Saturday.

Michigan at Indiana

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Michigan -11.5

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Three Things to Watch

1. Five-game slide
The five-game losing streak the Hoosiers are currently in the midst of can be a bit deceiving. Outside of the blowout loss to Penn State, Indiana has played each of its opponents right until the end, including three Top 10 teams in Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa. Each of those matchups went into the fourth quarter a one-score game, but ultimately resulted in an Indiana loss and another step closer to yet another bowl-less season for the Hoosiers. For the Hoosiers to reach their goal of making a bowl game in 2015, they knows it’s not good enough anymore to just be competitive — they need to start winning and they must do it quickly.

2. A healthy Jordan Howard
During Indiana’s four-game win streak to start the season, running back Jordan Howard had a combined 675 rushing yards, good for the top spot in the country in rushing yardage. Then injuries occurred and Howard was held out for two weeks due to an ankle injury suffered against Ohio State. The former UAB transfer was in his early-season form this past week against the No. 9 rush defense in the country in Iowa, rushing for 174 yards and two touchdowns. The result was the same as it had been the past month, ending in a loss, but the Hoosiers' offense is much more dynamic with Howard in the backfield. Job number one for the Michigan defense is trying to limit Jordan Howard.

3. Keeping pace

Michigan State’s loss last week to Nebraska has opened the door for the Wolverines to get right back into the thick of the Big Ten East race and a possible chance at the Big Ten title game. Because the Wolverines lost to the Spartans, Michigan would need its in-state rivals to fall once more this season, and that could very well happen in two weeks when State travels to Columbus in a showdown with Ohio State. If Michigan State lost that game, then the Big Ten West would be decided by the Michigan-Ohio State matchup the last week of the year, assuming the Wolverines were able to run the table until then. There is a lot that needs to happen, but thanks to the Spartans' loss last week, Michigan is back in the championship hunt.

Final Analysis

Not that Michigan wouldn’t have been up for this matchup, but the Spartans' loss last week should provide the Wolverines with some added urgency to secure another Big Ten victory against the Hoosiers. Indiana has enough firepower on offense in quarterback Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard to challenge the Michigan defense, but the questions remain the same — can it get the necessary stops on defense in crunch time? The prediction here is no. A second-half surge from the Wolverines should put this game away late.

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Prediction: Michigan 34, Indiana 20

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and current writer for Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2.