No. 13 Indiana already has checked off two milestones this season.
They ended a 33-year drought by upsetting a top-10 team in Penn State. Then they climbed to their highest poll position since 1987. Now they're chasing a third major feat — ending a 24-game losing streak to No. 23 Michigan.
“It’s going to be talked about quite a bit. The record is what it is," coach Tom Allen said. “We talk about things pretty openly in our program, talking about the past not being predictive of the future. To me, it’s about what you do next. We talk about that as a football team."
Indiana's skid against the Wolverines (1-1) is tied for the longest active streak in the Bowl Subdivision. It shares the distinction with Texas A&M, which has 24 straight wins over TCU, and the Hoosiers' equally long losing streak against Ohio State.
Before Indiana (2-0) starts contemplating the Buckeyes and a potential matchup of the Big Ten East's lone unbeatens in two weeks, there's Michigan.
It's only the fourth time in 69 series meetings both teams are ranked and it's the first time since 1988 the Hoosiers received more points in the poll. Michigan won the matchup that year, 31-6.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has noticed a difference with Indiana this season.
“Indiana is really good,” he said, noting the Hoosiers appear more fired up. “Tom Allen does a great job, coaching the team. It’s an exciting ballclub and Tom has them playing well.”
Michigan, meanwhile, has been up and down. They dominated Minnesota on the road in Week 1, then nearly fell out of the Top 25 after a 27-24 loss to rival Michigan State — at home — last week.
Strong-armed quarterback Joe Milton has played relatively well in his first two career starts at Michigan, which hasn't yet committed a turnover.
But he's facing an opportunistic defense that already has six takeaways and is tied for third nationally in turnover margin per game (plus-2.0) .
If the Hoosiers win that battle, they just might have another major milestone to celebrate.
“It will be made a big deal about," said Allen, who has seen two of the last three meetings decided in overtime. “I think we’ve had opportunities since I’ve been here against Michigan and we haven’t been able to finish, just like Penn State. We have to clean up the mistakes and we have to finish."
When the Wolverines hired Harbaugh in 2015, some expected the Michigan alumnus to restore the luster of the FBS' winningest program. Harbaugh certainly has won his share in Ann Arbor, winning more than 70% of his games.
But he's also been criticized for losing four straight bowl games, a winless record against bitter rival Ohio State and now another loss to the Spartans. Harbaugh never bought the hype.
“I didn’t consider myself a savior then,” he said. “I don’t now.”
HART & SOUL
The Wolverines will see two familiar faces when they arrive in Bloomington: Hoosiers offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan and Indiana running backs coach Mike Hart.
Allen hired both in 2017 and both have been promoted since then. Hart is now listed as associate head coach. Before that, they were also teammates at Michigan.
Hart rushed for a school record 5,040 yards and finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting in 2006. Sheridan was a walk-on quarterback who eventually earned a scholarship, played in 12 games and made four starts for the Wolverines — experiences he now uses to relate to today’s players.
“I’ve been in a competition, I’ve been in a competition and lost it, I’ve been benched,” he said. “While it might not have been the most pleasant thing at the time, I think it prepared me to work with the players. Hopefully, they know that I know what they’ve gone through. BOUNCING BACK
Michigan understands what's at stake this week. A second consecutive loss would likely knock them out of the East Division title chase with only five games remaining before championship weekend. The Wolverines haven't won a conference crown since 2004.
“It’s not basketball or baseball, where you get to have a seven-game series,” defensive tackle Carlo Kemp said. “You get one Saturday, one opportunity.”
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.
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