Michigan has played its best football late in the 2019 season.
But the No. 13 Wolverines can’t afford to look past improved Indiana in their final road test of the season on Saturday in Bloomington.
Michigan (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) has won three straight since a 28-21 loss at Penn State, a stretch that has included wins over No. 15 Notre Dame, at Maryland and over in-state rival Michigan State. Michigan has outscored its past three opponents by an average of 32 points.
“You can’t plant potatoes one day and expect potato salad the next day,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said, when asked about his team’s improvement during his weekly press conference. “It takes time to develop.”
Senior quarterback Shea Patterson is coming off his best game in a Michigan uniform. Patterson, a former transfer from Ole Miss, passed for 384 yards and four touchdowns in Michigan’s 44-10 win over Michigan State.
With a showdown against rival No. 2 Ohio State at home looming on Nov. 30, the challenge for the Wolverines is to keep their focus on the Hoosiers. Indiana is among the top offensive teams in the Big Ten, ranking second in the conference in total offense (448.0 yards per game) and first in passing (314.3 yards per game).
“They are as challenging an offense as any in our conference,” Harbaugh said. “Fast, dynamic receivers who can catch the ball and run with it. Really good up front. And their (running) backs are really impressive.”
Indiana (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) is coming off a 34-27 loss at then-No. 9 Penn State. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak and knocked the Hoosiers out of the AP Top 25, where they were ranked last week (24th) for the first time since 1994.
“We’ve got to just keep getting better,” Indiana football coach Tom Allen said. “Every time we take that field, we’ve got to play a little better as a football team.”
Indiana junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey threw for a career-high 371 yards in the loss despite the Hoosiers losing their leading receiver, junior Whop Philyor, to a concussion in the first quarter. Philyor, who has 61 catches for 863 yards and three TDs on the season, was in concussion protocol this week and was questionable for Michigan.
Facing the Wolverines will present Indiana another opportunity to build its bowl resume and knock off a Top 25 team. The Hoosiers are 0-3 against ranked teams this season and 0-13 against ranked teams in Allen’s three-year tenure.
Indiana will honor its 16 seniors in its home finale. Several have played key roles to IU’s success this season, including wide receivers Donavan Hale and Nick Westbrook, offensive linemen Simon Stepaniak and Hunter Littlejohn, kicker Logan Justus and linebacker Reakwon Jones.
“It’s our next game, just another opportunity to go out, especially for these seniors, Senior Day, the last time they get to play on that field,” Ramsey said. “It’s one of our season goals ahead of us but it’s also a chance to go play, to go compete and go show what we’re capable of doing.”
–Field Level Media