This season is the last time until at least 2015 that I have to say that IU has a losing record against every other member of the Big Ten. IU has a 5-3-1 record against Nebraska, and IU and UNL do not play in 2011 or 2012, so the Cornhuskers can't pull ahead of us until 2015 at the earliest. Still, even considering IU's losing records against all current Big Ten teams, the Michigan series stands out. The Hoosiers 9-51 record against Michigan is IU's worst, other than against Penn State, by both number of wins and by winning percentage. One thing that stands out about the series, of course, is that in approximately 110 years as conference brethren, IU and Michigan have played only about half the time. Also, Saturday's game will be Michigan's 19th trip to Bloomington, compared to 42 games played in Ann Arbor. As many of you already know, until around 1960, the Big Ten football schedule was quite irregular in couple of ways. First, there was no regular rotation of Big Ten opponents. From 1900 through 1943, IU and Michigan played only 11 times, and not at all from 1904 to 1924. Second, there was no automatic home-road split. While some series (including the IU-Purdue series) enjoyed scheduling parity, only one of the first 25 IU-Michigan games was played in Bloomington. Every offseason, I say that I'm going to read up on this in the offseason, and I haven't done it yet. My guess is that a combination of the power held by the elite programs, and the revenue benefit to both teams of playing in 100,000-seat Michigan Stadium as opposed to the 25,000 seat old (10th Street) Memorial Stadium, led to the disparity. As far as I can tell, the Big Ten changed this setup in around 1960. Of course, IU's current Memorial Stadium opened in 1960. I have no idea if this is a coincidence, or if the Big Ten was waiting for IU to move into a stadium that wasn't so much smaller than even the smallest Big Ten stadiums of the time.
In any event, while nine games don't make for many highlights, there have been some high points for IU. The most recent, of course, was in 1987. IU scored its only win over a Bo Schembechler-coached Michigan team with a 14-10 win that put IU in first place in the Big Ten. A punt block by IU's Bill Reisert set up IU's first touchdown, a pass from Dave Schnell to Ernie Jones (see video below). Coming two weeks after IU's 31-10 win over Ohio State in Columbus, the win vaulted IU to #11 in the AP poll.
Prior to 1987, the last win for IU over Michigan was a 27-20 win in Ann Arbor in 1967, when Michigan was nearing the end of its pre-Schembechler doldrums and IU was on the way to the Rose Bowl. The Hoosiers held their own against Michigan in the 1950s and 1960s, scoring wins in 1954, 1958, and 1959 before a six year layoff from 1961-66.
The 1945 team, IU's only undefeated team and only outright Big Ten champion, handed Fritz Crisler and Michigan their only Big Ten loss, a 13-7 win in Ann Arbor (while the 1967 team is justifiably remembered well by IU fans, consider that the 1945 team won the Big Ten while playing only one conference home game, the finale against Purdue).
Of course, with a 9-51 record, it's inevitable that many of the most memorable games in the series are IU losses. The 2009 game has quickly gained a place in Hoosier infamy. IIn the fourth quarter, Darius Willis put the Hoosiers ahead with an 85-yard TD run...
...but Michigan retook the lead, and IU's final chance at victory ended with a controversial interception call in favor of Michigan. The message boards have been busy relitigating this call all week, and I don't intend to do so here. I think it was the wrong call, but when I think about why IU lost last year's game, I think about IU's failure to capitalize on a huge advantage in net yardage by settling for field goals or nothing when they reached the red zone. Still, here it is.
The 1979 game, famous for an intentional fumble that set up Michigan's dramatic game-winning touchdown on the final play, is here.
Finally, the game that sits with me most was the 1999 game in Bloomington. IU played the Wolverines, who went on to win the Orange Bowl, to the final play, a catchable Hail Mary pass into the end zone by Antwaan Randle El to Jerry Dorsey. IU stormed back from a 17-0 deficit to score 24 unanswered points but couldn't close the deal against Tom Brady and the Wolverines.
So, there it is, the good and the heartbreaking (I'll leave the demoralizing for others). Hopefully IU can add a rare positive note to this history on Saturday.