Despite its recent five-game skid, Indiana has an opportunity to reach its ultimate goal of a bowl game.
No. 15 Michigan, however, may have other ideas when it takes on the Hoosiers this Saturday at 3:30 at Memorial Stadium.
"Another great challenge with Michigan," Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. "They're 7-2, top 15. Our guys are excited to prep and play. Expect another strong crowd to help us and be fired up out there for the guys' Senior Day."
Saturday's game presents another opportunity for IU's 13 seniors to achieve something they have yet to see in their college careers: a winning record.
A 4-8 record their freshman year was followed by a 5-7 record their sophomore year. They stumbled to 4-8 again during their junior campaign after a shoulder injury sustained by Nate Sudfeld - one of those seniors - in Week 6 of the 2014 season ended his senior season prematurely.
Now the Hoosiers are staring at a 4-5, but it a much better position to achieve what has eluded them for so long.
"Kind of reflected on it a little bit yesterday the day after the game, really want to finish strong at Memorial Stadium," Sudfeld said. "Obviously we want to win regardless, and I want to play well. Definitely appreciate the time I've had here, but we've still got a lot of football to play."
Michigan boasts the Big Ten's best total defense, holding opponents to 240 yards per game and a total of nine touchdowns to this point of the season. In contrast, Indiana has given up a conference-worst 504 yards per game and 43 total touchdowns.
Opponents' offenses have been able to put up those numbers largely due to Indiana's lack of success defending on third down and allowing first down conversions.
The Hoosier defense has allowed opponents to convert on 45.2 percent of third downs, worst in the Big Ten. Those opponents have also collectively gained 222 first downs against IU's defense.
Combine that with just one takeaway created since the Rutgers game on Oct. 17, and it becomes clear why the defense has looked so sluggish.
"With our play that we've worn down, we're not getting pressure on the quarterback," Wilson said. "Got a little bit too much time. again, we kind of keep looking systematically, you want to tweak some things."
"Certainly he competition that we've faced has increased since our first four games," IU defensive coordinator Brian Knorr added. "There's plays where we're very, very close, and those are the plays, along with the third down stops, along with being able to take the ball away, that we didn't get ... when you play opponents like Iowa, Michigan, you've got to be better than them and we've got to find a way to generate turnovers, generate sacks."
In a way, this weekend's game will be a mini family reunion. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is the brother-in-law of IU head basketball coach Tom Crean.
Back in February 2012, Harbaugh served as an honorary manager when Crean and the Hoosiers took on North Carolina Central.
"We talk or text sometimes daily, weekly," Harbaugh said during the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference. "I'm always following what the basketball team is doing at Indiana. I know they play Friday night, might be an opportunity to swing over there and catch some minutes. Hopefully that works out - shoot, I'll make it work out."
But Harbaugh's primary focus will be Indiana's football team, which will face a Michigan team that is playing "very, very good football," according to Wilson.
"We're going to have to find all three phases to contribute against what is a really, really good football team as we finish the home slate with three to go," Wilson said.