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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Michigan kicks off critical stretch for IU

Senior wide receiver Shane Wynn celebrates after scoring a touchdown in IU's homecoming game against Michigan State on Oct. 18 at Memorial Stadium.

Michigan and IU’s seasons stand at a crossroad.

The Wolverines and Hoosiers sit sixth and seventh in the Big Ten East Division, respectively. Each has three wins to their credit.

Both teams will enter Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., coming off losses to Michigan State. Michigan fell to its in-state rival 35-11 last weekend, and the Hoosiers lost to the Spartans 56-17 two weeks ago.

It’s crunch time for the Big Ten rivals. Just past the halfway point in the season, there is little margin for error for both programs to win the necessary six games to become bowl eligible.

Each team fights an uphill battle where a loss Saturday would be a blow to any hopes of a postseason.

But despite recent struggles — the Hoosiers have lost two in a row and three of their last four — IU Coach Kevin Wilson’s goal has remained ?the same.

He wants to be coaching in ?December.

“You guys (in the media) said we couldn’t be a bowl team,” Wilson said. “I think at 8-4, we would be. And at 7-5 and 6-6. All we’ve talked about is there’s a lot to play for, not to feel sorry for ourselves, not to have any excuses about anything.”

Since the Hoosiers’ Sept. 20 upset win against then-No. 18 Missouri, IU has lost its starting quarterback and three of four games by a combined score of 138-61.

A few players have downplayed any sense of must-win urgency, but seniors Nick Stoner and Mark Murphy both conceded that time is running out on the season and their careers.

Coincidentally, the last time IU won in Ann Arbor was 1967, the season IU made its lone Rose Bowl appearance.

To be eligible for their first bowl appearance since 2007, the Hoosiers (3-4, 0-3) will need to beat three of their five November opponents: Michigan on Saturday, Penn State, Rutgers, Ohio State and Purdue.

Each win makes the postseason goal increasingly realistic.

Each loss only digs a deeper hole.

If IU were to lose to Michigan (3-5, 1-3) on Saturday, the Hoosiers would need to win three of their final four games. Lose again to Penn State, and IU would need to win out.

IU spent its second bye-week of the year on self-assessment.

Wilson said the team didn’t begin looking at Michigan until last Sunday, opting to instead use the week off to improve internally and rest before the team’s final five games.

“We talked a lot with our team weeks ago that this week was set up to be a week to get us to a point to finish strong because we thought the last five games would be critical to our season,” Wilson said.

Michigan will no doubt be following a similar mentality.

The Wolverines and Hoosiers are mostly fighting the same battles just past halfway through the season.

Down to third-string quarterback Zander Diamont, IU passed for just 11 yards against Michigan State.

Michigan’s scoring and total offense rank last in the Big Ten.

Senior quarterback Devin Gardner is yet to throw for more than 200 yards in a game this season and has thrown 10 interceptions.

Michigan Coach Brady Hoke said Monday that he hasn’t brought up bowl games. It’s homecoming for Michigan, and he’s been playing that up.

He didn’t comment much on long-term goals. He’s focused more on IU.

“Beat Indiana,” Hoke said when asked about goals. “That sounds like a good one.”

Neither team can clinch any sort of bowl Saturday, but a poor performance could certainly help postseason dreams evaporate.

The team is well aware of the road ahead but, like Hoke’s Michigan team, IU is taking things on a game-by-game basis.

The first step against Michigan kicks off at 3:30 p.m.

“That’s the thing; they’re all winnable, but if we don’t focus on this one right now, they’re all losable, as well,” Murphy said.

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