No. 4 Michigan hopes to avoid trap vs. Indiana

By Keith Dunlap, The Sports Xchange
No. 4 Michigan hopes to avoid trap vs. Indiana
Michigan Wolverines cheerleaders practice their routines. File photo by Gary Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

The answer will be obvious from players and coaches on No. 4 Michigan, but the question directed toward the Wolverines will be just as apparent going into a Big 10 battle with Indiana on Saturday.

Is this a trap game for Michigan?


One step away from finally getting to fully focus on archival Ohio State and what will be a matchup in Columbus with likely everything at stake on Nov. 24, Michigan has one last hurdle to clear before the showdown against the Buckeyes.

Indiana will come to Ann Arbor for a 4 p.m. kickoff, and believe it or not, the Hoosiers are a team that have given Michigan some trouble in recent years despite the fact Michigan has beaten Indiana the past 22 times the teams have met.

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Two of the last three years, Michigan and Indiana have gone to overtime. In 2016, Indiana played Michigan tough in Ann Arbor, holding a 7-3 lead at halftime before ultimately succumbing, 20-10.

"They score a lot of points and they're really good on defense," Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh said. "They've always just been tough games with them. Two overtime games and a 20-10 game here in 2016. I've always just looked at them as a really tough opponent. They attack, they throw the ball downfield and have backs that run hard. They've always had a good line. Defensively, we feel like we know what they do, but they're really good at covering up problems."


Naturally, Michigan is saying all the right things about how it is focused solely on the Hoosiers.

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It will be the home finale for the Wolverines, who are on a nine-game winning streak following a season-opening loss at Notre Dame.

Michigan sits atop the Big 10 East standings with a 7-0 conference, one game ahead of Ohio State.

There's a possibility that Michigan can clinch its first ever trip to the Big 10 title game, but that will require Ohio State beating Maryland.

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Otherwise, no matter what, a trip to the Big 10 title game will come down to the contest in Columbus.

But Michigan is playing for more than just a conference title, as winning out would likely put the Wolverines in the College Football Playoff.

All that separates Michigan from a playoff berth is Indiana, Ohio State and a potential rematch with Northwestern in the Big 10 title game.

That is why staying focused and beating the Hoosiers is still important.

Indiana is coming off a 34-32 home win over Maryland on Saturday, which snapped a four-game losing streak after the Hoosiers started the season 5-1.


Indiana will need to win one of its last two games, against Michigan or in the season-final against rival Purdue, to become bowl eligible.

Indiana does have some playmakers that can test Michigan's stingy defense, which once again is one of the country's best.

Indiana sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions this year, while freshman running back Stevie Scott has rushed for 894 yards and eight touchdowns on 178 carries.

But facing the vaunted Michigan defense might the biggest challenge Indiana has faced this year.

"They obviously are very, very talented and they play a lot of types of coverages that we need to have answers for," Indiana head coach Tom Allen said. "They do a lot of different things. (Defensive coordinator Don) Brown is as good as it gets. He does a phenomenal job and their players respond to him, and they play their tails off. They're so fast and physical, and he's got them rolling."

The last time Indiana beat Michigan was in 1987.

Michigan leads the all-time series, 57-9.

"We know what they've accomplished this year," Allen said of Michigan. "They're playing at a high level and Coach Harbaugh's got them doing a lot of great things. So great opportunity, great challenge for the Hoosiers this weekend."


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