Homecoming is always a time to be celebrated, and there are many ways to do that. Enjoying Indiana football play No. 4 Michigan may not be one of those ways.
I’m not saying don’t go to the game — people should. Rather, I wouldn’t get my hopes up on the outcome of this game.
Coming off an uninspiring loss at Nebraska, the Hoosiers are still above .500 with a 3-2 record, so that’s a good thing. That record will most likely drop to 3-3 following Saturday’s matchup, and that’s OK.
Michigan comes into the contest 5-0 and looks near impossible to beat. The Wolverines are flooded with stars, most notably junior running back Blake Corum.
Put the two together, and things don’t look so good for Indiana. But hey, there’s always a chance.
The Hoosiers play style may allow them to be competitive against Michigan. If Indiana can strike effectively through the air, the potential for a shootout is there.
However, a lot of things need to go right for that to happen. First and foremost is the availability of Indiana’s top two receivers: junior Cam Camper and graduate student D.J. Matthews.
Camper missed Indiana’s game at Nebraska due to a non-COVID illness, and his status is still uncertain for Saturday. Matthews suffered a hamstring injury against Cincinnati and has been labeled a game-time decision against Michigan.
The Wolverines have few weaknesses, but it’s more likely they will mess up defensively than offensively. The Hoosiers are going to need to apply pressure on the defense — something offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s no-huddle offense could do if Indiana effectively moves the ball.
As for Indiana’s defense, it will need its best game of the season by a large margin in order to keep it close. Michigan sophomore J.J. McCarthy will be the best quarterback Indiana has seen this season. Considering how the Hoosiers’ secondary has fared against lesser quarterbacks, something needs to change or else they’ll be in trouble.
That’s just half of the problem, and Michigan’s run game is arguably better than through the air. Corum leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in rushing touchdowns with 10, and up to this point could be considered a Heisman Trophy candidate.
However, logic can be thrown out of the window when these two teams meet. Within the past 15 years, Indiana teams played Michigan teams within one score four times, two in overtime.
Many could argue this is a “trap game” for Michigan as well. Scheduled to face No. 10 Penn State next week, the Wolverines may be looking ahead at the top-10 faceoff.
Indiana forced overtime against Michigan in 2015 and 2017. Funnily enough, Michigan played Penn State the following week both years. In 2017, the Nittany Lions were ranked No. 2, meaning the Wolverines may have been looking past the Hoosiers when they let the underdogs push them to the limit.
So does Indiana have what it takes to pull it off? Maybe, but it will require some special circumstances.
The Hoosiers are going to need to be completely healthy, then play a perfect game. I don’t remember the last time this happened for the cream and crimson — if ever.
But Indiana is supposed to lose this one, and head coach Tom Allen’s teams seem to cherish the underdog role.
So let’s have some fun this weekend.