At least in part, comments made by people inside the Nebraska football program seemed to fuel Indiana’s 38-31 win in Lincoln last month. IU Director of Athletics Fred Glass made that clear with his remarks after the game.
If the Hoosiers are at their best when running on anger, Saturday’s contest against Michigan should at the very least be interesting.
It seems the Wolverines have been fanning the flames since 2018.
You might recall that Michigan took issue with how Indiana got in the way of the Wolverines’ annual drubbing at the hands of Ohio State last November.
In the week prior to their 23 point loss to the Buckeyes, Michigan’s seventh straight loss in the series, there were several plays by both IU and the Wolverines that seemed to cross the line.
Of course most Indiana fans know by now that Michigan’s Chase Winovich instigated things on that day after he intentionally stepped on the bare leg of Hoosier offensive lineman Simon Stepaniak with his cleat.
That fact didn’t stop folks connected to the Wolverine program from blowing up IU head coach Tom Allen’s cell phone after the game.
“I got a whole bunch of nasty text messages and e-mails because of how physical our team played,” Allen said this May at an alumni event. “They didn’t think that we were playing very nice.”
The then No. 4 ranked Wolverines prevailed 31-20 on that afternoon in Ann Arbor before traveling on to meet their fate in Columbus the next week.
Although Indiana’s style of play wasn’t popular in Michigan, Allen saw something that he liked that day from his young squad. And he didn’t seem to be overly concerned with what his neighbors to the north who were contacting him thought about it.
“We went to Michigan last year, and things didn’t finish the way that we wanted to, but I promise you this,” Allen said. “They knew they played the Indiana Hoosiers, and they didn’t like it.”
Perhaps Allen saw some of the attributes on that day that led him to use the word “grit” as his one word for the 2019 bowl eligible Hoosiers.
Allen at least saw some of the early markers of the kind of team that he wants to build on that November afternoon.
And he also wanted Michigan to know that they should be expecting more of the same when they visit Bloomington this year.
“I’ve got news for those fellas up there,” Allen said. “That’s how we’re going to play. Physical, mean and nasty. And that ain’t going to change.”
See Also: Indiana vs. Michigan — Game Day Primer and Prediction
Fast forward to this year’s meeting at IU, and once again the talk coming out of Ann Arbor no doubt has the attention of Indiana’s fiery head coach.
Yet again the schedule has placed Indiana between Michigan and their regular season ending contest against Ohio State.
Of course our suggestion that Michigan was looking past IU last year is just playful speculation. But Wolverine starting quarterback Shea Patterson erased all doubt when it comes to this Saturday’s meeting at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.
Have a listen to Patterson’s comments after Michigan’s convincing win over Michigan State this past weekend.
"We're gonna enjoy this win, but in the back of our minds we know we got one more big one to go," Shea Patterson told me.
"We gotta go on the road to Indiana, but our eyes are still set on the last one.” pic.twitter.com/AA9rc1vNOP
— Brad Galli (@BradGalli) November 18, 2019
In an era of boring cliches, Patterson’s remarks are somewhat stunning. He’s no doubt now wishing that he could replace them with a “we are just taking it one game at a time” canned response.
Irrespective of his remarks, there are plenty of reasons for Patterson to be confident right now.
After all, Indiana has not defeated Michigan since 1987, and after a slow start to the season, the Wolverines (8-2, 5-2) have been dominant over the last three weeks. Included in that stretch is a 45-14 win over Notre Dame and a 44-10 win over Michigan State.
“They’re playing their best football, watching them on film the last couple days,” Allen said on Monday of Michigan.
Michigan is on a roll, and they’d like nothing better than to cruise right past IU and get ready for Ohio State while riding a wave of confidence.
But while the Wolverines have dominated the series with IU, the games have generally been close over the last decade. And Despite Michigan’s strong play of late, the Wolverines enter Saturday’s game as just an 8.5 point favorite against Indiana.
With the Buckeyes on their brains could Michigan be in for another close call with the Hoosiers?
The recent history says yes, and with the bulletin board material stoking the fire, at least one thing is certain.
Allen is going to have his team ready for a “physical, mean and nasty” game. He’s already told us so.
His remarks on Monday regarding No. 15 Michigan were of course toned down.
“…a lot of respect for them and their coaches and the talent that they have and how they have recruited and they are who they are historically,” Allen said of the Wolverines.
But if the Hoosiers (7-3, 4-3) pull off their first victory in the series in 32 years?
Well, you can probably expect to hear once again from the IU inner circle, this time on just what they thought about all of this noise coming from Ann Arbor.
To do that though, first they’ll need to win.
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