In most seasons, the Hoosiers' biggest focus falls on the Purdue game. That is the outing that IU fans always circle on their calendar and point to as the biggest game of the season.
This year is different.
This season, the Old Oaken Bucket game will still be important, but Hoosier fans hope it will be the culmination of a special season. In 2010, the focus is on a foe the Hoosiers haven't been beat since the last years of the Reagan administration and have only knocked off nine times in 60 meetings.
That would be the same team that is ranked either No. 19 or 20 in the nation, depending on which poll you prefer, and has already scored a road win over Notre Dame. So what makes the Hoosiers -- a program with one Big Ten championship to its credit since 1945 -- think they can hang with the mighty, mighty Wolverines?
IU likes its chances for two main reasons. First, the Hoosiers are holding a grudge from last season's game in Ann Arbor, which saw IU nearly pull off an upset when Michigan needed a disputed interception in the closing minutes to hold onto a win. With the bulk of the offense returning to the field to take on Michigan this year, there will be no fear of the UM defense. Second, Indiana is playing with a lot of confidence and has been pointing to his game since the end of last season. The players know this game could send a message to the college football world, and with the game being played in Bloomington in front of what should be a raucous crowd, the Hoosiers believe the planets are lined up for something special.
Of course, Indiana is going to have to do a better job defensively of making stops with the initial hit, and IU can't allow Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson to run all over the field. That said, the Hoosier offense is potent, and considering UMass dropped 37 points on Michigan earlier this season, Indiana believes it can put up big numbers.
The bottom line on this game is it can be considered the biggest IU game since the 2007 Bucket game, and it certainly could prove to be pivotal to the future of IU football. Should Indiana pull off the upset, it could launch IU on a special season and will certainly make going to a bowl a lot easier. If Indiana gets blown out at home, more than a few critics will start to point to the game as a reason why head coach Bill Lynch shouldn't be given a contract extension at the end of the season. A blowout loss could snowball on the Hoosiers and derail the year.
A close loss to Michigan could point the season in either direction, but with all the attention the players have put on this game, Indiana needs to come out with its collective hair on fire in pursuit of a win. Anything less than a spectacular effort will bring the critics running in Bloomington.
--Indiana was 3-0 heading into the Michigan game a season ago, and after the tough loss in Ann Arbor, the Hoosiers only won one more game the rest of the season.
--Indiana scored 33 points vs. the Wolverines last season, the most for a Hoosier squad in series history. IU is currently averaging 41.3 points a game, 10th best in the country.
--QB Ben Chappell has completed 71 of 98 (72.4 percent) of his passes this season and has thrown nine TDs vs. zero interceptions.
--Indiana has yet to turn the ball over this season.
SERIES HISTORY: Michigan leads Indiana 51-9 (last meeting, 2009, 36-33 Michigan).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Indiana hangs its hat on its passing game, and QB Ben Chappell has a number of talented receivers to turn to. WRs Damarlo Belcher, Tandon Doss, Terrance Turner and Duwyce Wilson all are playmakers, and TE Ted Bolser is a big target in the red zone who also has the speed to outrun linebackers. IU's offensive line has done a great job of pass blocking, but it hasn't opened a lot of holes for RB Darius Willis. Willis lit up Michigan for 152 yards on 16 carries a season ago, but he has yet to duplicate that performance this season. Indiana's running attack has been less than impressive and ranks 96th in the country in average yards rushing per game.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: IU's defense hasn't given up a lot of points, averaging just 19.3 points allowed per game, but the Hoosiers' tackling left something to be desired last week vs. Akron. Indiana doesn't do a good job of wrapping up after the initial hit, allowing opponents to squirt free. The Hoosiers say they will do a better job of flowing faster to the ball and finishing the job at the point of impact, but whether or not they get the job done remains to be seen. Indiana's defense didn't fare well vs. Towson's shifty Chris Hart, which makes stopping Denard Robinson that much more of a challenge.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We don't look at (the Michigan game) as a true test. Those other games (non-conference wins) meant a lot. It took plays to win the game. Those weren't high school teams we were playing. They wanted to win just as much as us. We had to battle it out to win those games." -- WR Terrance Turner dismissing the idea that Indiana will be playing its first "real" game vs. Michigan after beating three cupcakes to start the season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Michigan at Indiana, Oct. 2 -- Indiana (3-0 overall, 0-0 in the Big Ten) is off to a hot start and playing with a lot of confidence, but the Hoosiers know they will only start to turn some heads if they can beat Michigan and prove to the world they are for real. IU hasn't beaten the Wolverines since 1987, and after coming close a year ago in Ann Arbor, Indiana is hungry to pull off the upset and start to gain some national respect.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Indiana's defense will be everything in this game. IU's passing attack is going to put points on the board, especially vs. a Michigan defense that has been generous when it comes to giving up yards through the air (the Wolverines are 105th in the FBS in passing yards allowed). The question is whether IU's defense can get Michigan's Denard Robinson off the field enough to give the Hoosier offense a chance to operate. Indiana has to run the ball better, as well, to allow the clock to grind and limit Michigan's opportunities. Keeping Robinson in the pocket when he drops back to pass will be critical as well.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
LB Tyler Replogle -- Replogle is a leader on defense and one of the hardest hitters in a Hoosier uniform, and he certainly remembers last season's near-miss. Replogle's presence in the middle will allow Indiana to limit Michigan's short-passing attack and force the Wolverines out of their comfort level.
QB Ben Chappell -- Chappell must continue to play flawless football to keep the Hoosier offense on the field. Chappell's poise sets him apart, and if he can make accurate throws to move the chains, IU is going to be in good shape.
CBs Richard Council and Matt Ernest -- Indiana's secondary as a whole must play a great game to avoid giving up big plays, but Ernest and Council, in particular, must stay in position and be ready to lay a lick on Robinson when he comes out of the backfield. One of these two players may have to make a big play to give IU a shot at winning.
--Indiana P Chris Hagerup and DT Larry Black, Jr., both will face siblings who are suited up for Michigan. Hagerup's brother, Will, is Michigan's punter, and Jibreel Black is a freshman for the Wolverines.
--PK Nick Freeland has missed the last two games with a hip injury, but he is expected to be back in the lineup for Michigan.
--LB Tyler Replogle was held out of IU's last game vs. Akron, but he will be back in uniform against the Wolverines.
--QB Ben Chappell is the most accurate passer in IU history, completing 61.7 percent of his attempts. He went 21 of 38 passing for 270 yards vs. Michigan last season.
The TSX Files: Indiana Midweek
The Michigan Insider Top Stories
Peoples-Jones' Electrifying Touchdown GrabWatch Donovan Peoples-Jones blow by his defender for the 55-yard touchdown grab to give Detroit (Mich.) Cass Tech an early 7-0 lead over Detroit King in the PSL championship game.
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 5:48 PM
Preview: Michigan vs. IllinoisPreviewing Michigan's upcoming game against Illinois.
The Michigan InsiderYesterday at 7:23 AM
Tory Carter says Harbaugh “a Great Coach”Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County fullback prospect Tory Carter may be committed to LSU, but Jim Harbaugh and Michigan are working hard to change that.
The Michigan InsiderThursday at 4:35 PM
Michigan Still #1 with Otis ReeseThe Michigan Insider made it to the Peach State last Friday where we saw Leesburg (Ga.) Lee County and 2018 Wolverine commit Otis Reese suffer their first loss of the season.…
The Michigan InsiderThursday at 3:40 PM