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What’s At Stake: No. 23 Michigan at No. 13 Indiana

Take quick look at what's on the line when No. 23 Michigan takes on No. 13 Indiana.

Michigan was dealt a crippling blow last weekend with a 27-24 defeat at the hands of in-state rival Michigan State. The Wolverines’ schedule is daunting, and they could ill-afford a loss to a team that, on paper at least, they were better than.

All of that is in the rearview mirror today however, as Michigan looks to bounce back against a challenging opponent in the Indiana Hoosiers.

It’s odd calling a program that hasn’t beat Michigan since the late 80s a challenge for these Wolverines, but Indiana has come close on several occasions in recent memory to knocking off Michigan. And this Hoosier team has already proven itself after beating Penn State in Week 1.

The Wolverines enter this contest looking for answers. The Spartans exposed Michigan’s weakness in the defensive secondary, and showed how dependent the Wolverines offense is on running the football. It’s up to head coach Jim Harbaugh and coordinators Josh Gattis and Don Brown to come up with a game plan that puts their players in the best spot to be successful.

That didn’t happen a week ago. Brown left his inexperienced corners alone on an island to get torched by Michigan State’s receivers. Gattis repeatedly put his offense in third and long situations by attempting to force the ground game to produce against a loaded defensive box. Those game plans and the inability to adjust once the Spartans proved them ineffective falls on Harbaugh and his coaching staff.

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That’s what is at stake today against the Hoosiers. This Michigan team, once again, is unlikely to compete for a Big Ten championship in 2020. That’s fairly clear after how bad the Wolverines looked a week ago.

But there’s still something to be gained against Indiana, not only for this season, but next year as well. Harbaugh needs to prove that he’s still the man for the job in Ann Arbor. That’s a topic that has been discussed and debated all week after the loss to MSU. Gattis needs to show that his “Speed In Space” offense can work against good defenses, not just overmatched ones like we saw in Week 1 against Minnesota.

Don Brown has the most to prove. He’s fielded some outstanding defenses in his four-plus years at Michigan, but Big Ten opponents are beginning to catch on to his schemes and philosophies, and they’ve made him pay for it. What other cards can he play to make this an effective defense again? What answers he can muster against the Hoosiers.

Lastly, how does Joe Milton respond to the adversity he faced a week ago? How far do Michigan’s offensive coaches trust him? Will they let him sling the rock on first and second down? Will they let him air it deep to his speedy receivers? Is he capable on connecting on explosive plays down the field?

The Wolverines can’t erase the damage that was done a week ago by the Spartans, even with a road win over a Top 15 opponent today. But Michigan can provide some answers, and with a bounce back victory they can take the first step towards restoring the faith that is quickly slipping away from a frustrated fanbase.