ANN ARBOR, Mich. – As poorly as Michigan's season is going, a loss to Indiana would be a significant low point.
The Wolverines have won 18 straight games against the Hoosiers and 33 of the last 34 in the series, a run of dominance that has withstood the downturn in Michigan's fortunes in recent years. The Wolverines won 63-47 last year and, despite everything that's gone wrong this season, are still favored to beat Indiana on Saturday.
"We have talked about this being Homecoming. We have talked about, as a team, staying together," Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said. "I think there's a huge commitment on our football team, to each other and the accountability. For us, this is the next game and we've got to get ready for the next game."
Michigan (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) is coming off a 35-11 loss at rival Michigan State, and the Wolverines can only afford one more loss during the regular season if they want to be bowl eligible. With a trip to Ohio State still to come, Michigan's postseason hopes would be in serious trouble if it loses any of its next three games against Indiana (3-4, 0-3), Northwestern and Maryland.
Indiana came close to snapping its run of futility against Michigan in 2009 and 2010, but the Wolverines and then-coach Rich Rodriguez won by three and by seven in those games.
Michigan has scored at least 31 points in its last nine games against Indiana.
"Offensively, they lit us up last year and had a big game," Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said. "The quarterback has made plays, has been very dynamic against us. (Devin) Funchess, the receiver, one of the better players in the league, a top pro prospect kind of guy."
Here are a few things to watch for when Michigan tries to extend its winning streak in the series:
OFFENSIVE REPRIEVE: Michigan's offense has been the primary culprit behind the team's struggles, but if last season's matchup is any indication, this game could be a high-scoring one. After scoring 63 points against Indiana, the Wolverines lost five of their last six games last season and struggled to protect quarterback Devin Gardner. This year has been more of the same.
QUARTERBACK PROBLEMS: The Hoosiers lost their top two QBs — Nate Sudfeld and Chris Covington — to injuries. Zander Diamont started in a loss to Michigan State two weekends ago and managed only 11 yards passing.
Indiana had an open date last week, so the Hoosiers have had time to work on their passing game.
COLEMAN'S STREAK: Indiana's Tevin Coleman managed 132 yards rushing against Michigan State's impressive front, extending his streak of consecutive 100-yard games to nine. The Wolverines have been solid against the run for much of this season, although they had a hard time with Michigan State's Jeremy Langford last weekend.
TURNOVER WOES: Michigan comes into this game with a minus-14 turnover margin — for an average deficit of 1.75 per game that ranks as the second-worst mark in the nation. The Wolverines do have a dynamic deep threat in Funchess, but all those giveaways have really hurt.
ATTENDANCE: Earlier this season, Michigan drew 102,824 for a home game against Miami (Ohio) and there was talk that the school's decades-long streak of surpassing 100,000 was in jeopardy. The Wolverines had a good crowd for its most recent home game — at night against Penn State — but the loss at Michigan State may have dampened spirits again among the fan base.
Homecoming is always a draw, but with a less celebrated opponent in town, the attendance figure Saturday will be worth watching.