It seems like Indiana is always a potential trap game on Michigan football’s schedule each season, and 2017 probably won’t be any different.
Calling Indiana a consistent trap game for Michigan football seems like a paradoxical statement when paired with the face that the Wolverines have won 21 straight contests against the Hoosiers. But really, it’s true.
Indiana’s last win in this series came in 1987. Bill Mallory’s Hoosiers beat Bo Schembechler’s Wolverines 14-10 in Bloomington. This also means Indiana hasn’t won in Ann Arbor since 1967.
But since 1987, seven games have been decided by 10 points or less. That may not seem significant at face value, but keep in mind that the Hoosiers haven’t owned a better win-loss record than Michigan since 1967.
What’s more, recent games have been even tighter. The four smallest margins of victory starting in 2009 come to an average of less than a touchdown.
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I say this to make the point that Indiana, though it hasn’t belonged in the same breath as Michigan for seven years, is playing the Wolverines closer than you’d expect.
This season, the Hoosiers won’t have a chance to break their 40-year winning drought in Ann Arbor. Michigan will travel to Bloomington on Oct. 14 for the sixth game of the season. Indiana will not be led by Kevin Wilson this time, but otherwise the Hoosiers won’t look all that different.
The story will probably stay the same: Indiana will feature a mostly potent offense that will lead to very entertaining games at the least, but the defense may not be able to get the necessary stops to actually win many games.
Michigan’s defense doesn’t look like it’s going to have a significant falling off after last season, but it’s a fact that all but one starter (linebacker Mike McCray) will be missing from the lineup. In particular, the secondary is going to be inexperienced and unproven.
Indiana’s two main concerns on offense will be getting a good ball carrier to replace Devine Redding and finding a few pieces to plug into the offense line that can replace Dan Feeney and Wes Rogers. The quarterback job doesn’t appear to be settled (it looks to be between last year’s starter Richard Lagow and redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey), but that doesn’t make it a concern. Whoever wins that jobs might be throwing to the best receiving corps in the Big Ten.
As always, though, there’s the issue of the defense not being reliable enough. New head coach Tom Allen took last season’s defense in a positive direction with statistical improvements from 2015, and that’s definitely worth highlighting. Here are some examples:
|Points Allowed||FBS Rank|
|Passing Defense||FBS Rank|
|Rushing Defense||FBS Rank|
|Total Defense||FBS Rank|
|Third Down Defense||FBS Rank|
Though Indiana managed to avoid the embarrassing 50-plus points surrendered last season, this wasn’t a defense that managed to put the clamps on many teams either. If 2017 is going to be a continued progression, perhaps that’s where the most notable improvement will come.
Indiana’s lone concern defensively will probably be on the defensive line, which is the only position unit that doesn’t return good experience from last season. Michigan has made a commitment to running the ball, but there are certainly games where that doesn’t work. If the Hoosiers can put something together to limit the Wolverines on the ground, that could mean trouble for Michigan.
This is a trap game for Michigan for the same reason it has been for the last couple seasons. Indiana has a really good offense that could force you into a shootout. Unlike previous seasons, though, Michigan may actually have to worry about how it’s going to move the ball and score.