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IU was a good sparring partner for Michigan’s prize fight vs Ohio State

A battle before the big battle

Indiana v Michigan Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It was a cold and gray skied day in Ann Arbor on Saturday that had the makings of a smash-mouth football game.

Michigan’s last game of the year at The Big House would be against the Indiana Hoosiers, a team who has taken them to overtime in two of the last four seasons.

IU plays Michigan tough.

Michigan may have prevailed 31-20, but they were down at the half 17-15 and had to make adjustments in order to get the job done.

The Hoosiers came into the game with a 5-5 record, needing just one more victory to become bowl eligible. Michigan wasn’t the only team that had something to fight for.

What transpired was the equivalent of what we see in boxing:

- Michigan was clearly the better team, but IU got their licks in, landed some punches, and did enough to prepare Michigan for tougher tasks ahead.

- Like a good sparring partner, Indiana was able to push Michigan. They showed the Wolverines there may be a few things they need to work on before they face Ohio State.

- During this “sparring match”, Michigan was able to fine-tune their strategy before the session was over. By the end of the game what once worked for Indiana started getting stopped with regularity.

Football isn’t always pretty (especially in the cold), not every game can be a blow out.

But if there was a week to have a game that wasn’t smooth sailing from whistle to whistle, this may have been the best week to face a bit of adversity.

Michigan’s defense gave up some chunk pass plays via crossing patterns and perfectly placed long passes by QB Peyton Ramsey, who also picked up 51 yards on well timed scrambles. IU was 9-of-17 on third down, a good conversion rate. Hoosier RB Stevie Scott had a fine day, rushing for 139 yards.

On offense, Michigan scored on 8-of-11 possessions, an impressive number, but 6 of those scores resulted in field goals, not touchdowns. Shea Patterson let a pass sail that was picked off.

Even on a day where some things weren’t going right, Michigan still racked up over 500 yards of total offense, the offensive line didn’t allow a sack, Patterson rushed for 68 yards, and Karan Higdon for 101. The time of possession battle was won by Michigan, having the ball for nearly 12 more minutes than Indiana did in the game.

The U-M defense ended up holding Ramsey to just 16-of-35 passing for 195 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, IU was 0-for-3 on 4th down, they out scored the Hoosiers 16-3 in the second half.

By the time the game was over it’s fair to say the final score was deceiving, Michigan was never really in much danger of losing this one. Indiana may have had a good gameplan going into the fight, but Michigan was able to take those hits, wear IU down, and ultimately hit them harder.

This was the type of game that will motivate players to improve and correct the mistakes they made. They know there are certain things they allowed to happen against Indiana that they can ill afford to happen against Ohio State next week. It was also the type of game they can be proud of winning, Indiana gave Michigan everything they had, all their strength and might, and Michigan had to dig down and show them they’re the mightier, stronger, and tougher squad.

“Big Ten play, you’re not gonna roll every team every week, not everything’s gonna go your way,” Patterson said after the game.

Patterson is right. When a team in the NFL like the New Orleans Saints wins 21-18 over the Cleveland Browns you don’t hear about how the Saints didn’t blow out the Browns, they simply got the job done. Because it’s the NFL, and it’s tough to win in the NFL, no matter who the opponent is.

The same is true about college football. Most games won’t be easy wins, and it’s nearly impossible to have a 30+ point margin of victory every week, you’re not gonna roll every team.

But what Michigan can do is keep preparing how they have been all season long, with the one week at a time approach. This week, the College Football Playoff is on the line, The Big Ten East Championship is at stake, and it’s good that Michigan had a bit of cold water thrown in their face by IU before facing Ohio State. That’s what a good sparring partner does, keeps your skills sharp and pushes you to your limits by presenting a challenge.

With that said, onward to Ohio State, and as Jim Harbaugh once said it’s time to strap on the iron jock and work like crazy and get the job done.