No. 19 Michigan poses 1st real test for Hoosiers

Indiana coach Bill Lynch wants his players focused solely on

football all week.

Good luck, given the hype in Bloomington.

With No. 19 Michigan heading to town for Saturday’s Big Ten

opener, fans are asking the one question players won’t: Can the

Hoosiers pull the upset?

Indiana’s fans have been pointing to this game as the season’s

first big measuring stick since the schedule came out, and many

believe it will dictate how the rest of this season goes.

It’s too hot a topic for even Lynch to discuss.

”This team has been an easy team to coach,” Lynch said.

”That’s why I’m confident they understand that the level of play

and intensity has to go up.”

There is reason for hope in Bloomington. A year ago, the

Hoosiers came within a whisker of winning their first game at Ann

Arbor since 1967. Tate Forcier ruined the celebration with a

26-yard TD pass to Martavious Odoms with 2:29 to go, giving the

Wolverines an unforgettable 36-33 victory that kept their winning

streak intact.

”I remember what happened,” Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell

said with a wry smile after Saturday night’s win over Akron.

Fifty-three weeks later, the storylines are virtually the same.

Both teams are unbeaten. Both have proven they can score. Both are

concerned about giving up too many points, and Michigan is ranked,

again, while Indiana is not.

What has changed is the perception of the game. A year ago,

nobody outside Indiana’s locker room thought the Hoosiers could be

competitive against one of their long-standing nemeses. Now, it’s

anybody’s guess.

The conversations have returned to 1987, the last time Indiana

beat Michigan, or 1990, the last time the Hoosiers started 4-0, or

2001, the last time Indiana won its Big Ten opener.

But the Hoosiers (3-0) aren’t talking about any of that.

”Any team we play, we think we can beat the team. We never go

into a game saying, `I hope we win,”’ receiver Terrance Turner

said Monday. ”If you’re a competitor you want to win every game

you play. We have more and more players with that same

attitude.”

Why not?

The Hoosiers have scored at least 35 points in all three games

this season, and have had winning margins of 15 points or more all

three times as well. Indiana has stayed relatively healthy, and

Chappell is playing like a fifth-year senior, completing 72.4

percent of his passes, while throwing nine touchdowns and no

interceptions.

And now, against a much better opponent than Towson, Western

Kentucky or Akron, Chappell knows he and his teammates have to be

even better if they want to rewrite history.

”I watched quite a lot of film yesterday, and I’ve tried to get

somewhat comfortable with them,” Chappell said. ”They are similar

to last year defensively. I think they’re better. I think they had

a lot of young guys last year and they were getting used to that

system. So, now they’ve had a year in it and they’re moving around

a lot. They’re a good team.”

Good enough to give the Hoosiers worry.

Indiana’s defense has given up several big plays to mobile

quarterbacks during the first month of the season, and it has

struggled to stop the run. Last weekend, Akron churned out 160

yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry, something that must get

fixed before Denard Robinson and the Wolverines (4-0) come to town

this weekend – even if Robinson is gimpy after bruising his left

knee.

But will that be enough for the Hoosiers to, finally, beat

Michigan after 16 consecutive losses? Perhaps.

”Everything has to be ratcheted up because (Michigan) is a team

on a roll,” Lynch said. ”I had an opportunity to watch all four

of their games and they really have improved each week. Denard

Robinson is scary good.

”We have our work cut out for us, but I know our guys are

pretty excited about it.”