The Hoosiers have played Harbaugh’s Michigan teams tough the last three years, losing in overtime twice and in a hard fought game two years ago. Indiana also comes to town a week before ‘The Game.’ It’s cliché to talk about, but something to think about; after all, Harbaugh’s 1986 squad was undefeated before falling to Minnesota at home a week before traveling to Columbus.
“It would be a good idea” not to look ahead, Harbaugh said when asked Monday.
“They score a lot of points, and they’re really good on defense,” he added of the 5-5 Hoosiers. “They always have been tough games with us. Two ties, two overtime games, a 20-10 game here in 2016 … we’ve always looked at them as a really tough opponent.
“I think the reason why they are good on offense, they attack, throw downfield, have backs that run hard. They’ve always had a good line, and defensively we feel like we know what they do, and they are really good at covering up problems. Any kind of problem they have, anything the opponent is doing to them, they have calls, ways to get that addressed.
“It’s a big challenge. They do a great job.”
On personnel, Harbaugh said junior cornerback Lavert Hill was being evaluated for concussion protocol. His status for Saturday is unknown. The better news — sophomore defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon is back after battling the flu, and sophomore defensive end Kwity Paye hit his funny bone and is fine.
“He should be good,” Harbaugh said. “He had never been hit on the funny bone before. It’s scary the first time that happens.”
Harbaugh credited defensive line coach Greg Mattison for his work with the group while they’ve gone through several different looks this year due to injuries.
“Greg’s done a great job,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of contributions from a lot of guys on the defensive line. Chase Winovich has been a stalwart, no question about it. Rashan [Gary] got defensive lineman of the week this week, so it was great having in him back in the lineup this week. Kwity Paye and Josh Uche have done a great job.
“Bryan Mone is having a great season. Aubrey Solomon has played very well, and Lawrence Marshall is having his best year. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to Greg Mattison too, for the great job he does consistently with the defensive line.”
Redshirt freshman receiver Tarik Black is the other one still working his way back from injury. There are some routes that make more sense to run with him while he’s recovering, Harbaugh said.
“He’s progressing good, just fully engaged with the trainers and us with him on the things he can do,” Harbaugh said. “We’re going to have him do [more], keep progressing more.
“Some certain types of routes we’re saying may be not as good. It puts more pressure on that outside part of his foot. He’s becoming more confident with it, and the coaches have done a really good job with the doctors and trainers on being able to get him out there without taking unacceptable risks.”
• Other than junior quarterback Shea Patterson, who was on the money with 260 yards and three scores in extremely windy conditions, the receivers were the most impressive position group against Rutgers. Harbaugh credited them for catching a number of knuckleballs.
“The biggest thing is the way they catch the ball,” he said of the group. “All our pass receivers, still, the amount of drops is so low right now for the year. The way they’re catching the ball is really good.
“This past game was really good. It was tough catching the ball. I dropped two in the pregame, and I pride myself on catching them all. So those two drops by me and none by the receivers, which was outstanding. They continue to be really good at that.
“The separation they’ve gotten in the passing game, precision, how they run the routes has been really good, and the third thing I would point out is the blocking. Nico Collins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Grant Perry are really doing the best job of the receivers in terms of blocking on the perimeter. Those three are at the top of the list.”
Patterson has gotten better each week transitioning from pure spread to more of a hybrid. Every system is a bit different, Harbaugh noted, but he’s getting the read and progressions down.
“He makes really good decisions when he throws the ball, throws really accurate balls, sees the field really well,” Harbaugh said. “From the first game he played here, that was really evident with him, that there are not a lot of times where it could have gotten intercepted. The fact that he makes really good decisions and throws the ball really accurately is the highest percentage of the reason for 17 touchdowns and three interceptions.”