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Indiana Hoosiers at Michigan Wolverines: Preview, Predictions and Prognostications

When: Saturday, Nov. 19; 3:30p.m. ET
Where: Ann Arbor, Mich.; Michigan Stadium (107,601)
TV: ESPN
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 55-9
Last Meeting: Michigan Win, 48-41 (2015)
Line: Michigan (-23)

Michigan was on top of the college football world..well, at least the one where you exclude reigning national champion Alabama. But, that all changed with Michigan’s first big road test of the season.

Iowa kicked a last-second field goal and took down Jim Harbaugh’s crew 14-13. Now the task becomes to not let the season completely derail. After all, the College Football Playoff committee decided that Michigan was the best of the crazy five top 10 teams that lost last week.

This week comes a tricky contest with the team we like to describe as #TEAMChaos. Don’t worry though, Michigan will not be taking this game lightly after it got all it could handle in a two-overtime win last season in Ann Arbor.

Can the Wolverines remember that loss and not get caught looking forward? It has to against what is a vastly improved Indiana defense and its own question marks at key positions on offense. Let’s just say this game has the potential to be season-defining for either team.

1 Burning Question: Can Michigan Avoid the Fall?

While winning all the time is great, and it usually gets you to the top of the college football mountain when your name is Michigan, this is just year two of the turnaround for

Knowing that, a loss can also sometimes have just as great an effect on a team and a program as going undefeated for a season. This is a program full of veteran players, many of whom have been around for plenty of losing during their careers in Ann Arbor.

Harbaugh’s job will be to re-focus this team on the task right in front of them, and there are few head coaches better at finding new ways to get the attention of their teams. If Harbaugh can’t re-focus this team, Indiana is perfectly capable of keeping this game close and pulling off an upset.

If that happens, a once promising season on the national stage is over. Given all that has happened in college football this season, we’re guessing that getting this team to come out and do what is needed to win shouldn’t be a problem. Even if Wilton Speight isn’t playing quarterback this weekend.

2 Key Stats:

— 20: That is the number of games Michigan has won in a row in this streak. Yes, you have to go all the way back to 1987 to find the last time Indiana actually beat the Wolverines. Michigan has lost just nine times overall to the Hoosiers, but seven of those nine losses have actually come at Michigan Stadium, the site of Saturday’s contest. We’re not saying it’ll happen…we’re just saying (no we’re not).

— 117.5: That is the average yards per game improvement for Indiana’s defense from last season to this. Before you think Michigan is just going to work over the Hoosiers defense, remember that this group is more than capable of making stops when needed. The major issue this season has been getting the offense and defense to play off of each other. It seems as if when the defense does something good, the offense can’t capitalize and vice versa.

3 Key Players:

John O’Korn, Michigan QB: While Harbaugh may like to play mind games (you know, like not releasing an official depth chart ever this season), we aren’t going to be fooled in to thinking that Wilton Speight is going to be 100 percent healthy for this game. That means junior transfer John O’Korn is going to get his first start in the Maize ‘N Blue. It also means all eyes are going to be on him, especially when/if a mistake happens in this game. Given the improved run game this season, O’Korn may be more of a game manager than a game-winner if you will. Still, he needs to perform well when called upon or this could be an interesting game.

Tegray Scales, Indiana LB: This is a player I’ve long been a fan of, and in new defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s 4-2-5 scheme he has shined in a big way. He has six double-figure tackle games so far this season, a mark that has him tied at the top of the Big Ten and in a tie for eighth nationally. Simply put, Indiana is going to need to hear his name called early and often if it wants to make a bowl game a no-doubt situation in a rare upset of the Wolverines.

Rashad Fant, Indiana CB: While everyone is gushing over the likes of Jourdain Lewis of Michigan and Desmond King of Iowa, Fant is quietly putting together one of the most productive seasons for any cornerback in the Big Ten. Fant’s 18 passes defended and 16 pass breakups are 1st in the nation, let alone the B1G. He is also tied for 1st in the NCAA among active players with 46 career passes defended. He’ll have his hands full with quality receivers like Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson, and those matchups coupled with a likely new starting QB in O’Korn add up to this being a tell-tale matchup on the outside.

4 Staff Predictions:

Andy: Michigan 28-17
Dave: Michigan 38-10
Phil H.: Michigan 33-20
Philip R-R.: Michigan 41-24
Zach: Michigan 45-13

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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