Hang on to your heart medication, Michigan is headed for a night game at Northwestern after playing five consecutive games decided in the last 24 seconds of regulation or overtime. The Wolverines are 3-2 in those games and are now 5-0 all time in overtime after ending Iowa's 22-game home winning streak with a 23-20 OT win. Coach Lloyd Carr won't say whether his team will have tailback Mike Hart (foot) or linebacker LaMarr Woodley (forearm) back for Northwestern, but he did say, "We have been the most unlucky team from an injury standpoint I've ever been around." Michigan's injury luck is changing for the better at one spot. Right tackle Jake Long played for the first time all season and cleared a path for Jerome Jackson on the winning 1-yard touchdown run. Long's return, though, didn't stem the bad luck. Equipment manager Jon Falk got hit on the sideline when action went out of bounds and broke his leg. He had surgery Monday and will miss his first game in 32 seasons Saturday at Northwestern. Iowa drove for a tying field goal at the end of regulation. That's the third time in as many games Michigan's defense has failed to stop an opponent from driving for a tying or go-ahead score. Carr must be concerned about that, given Northwestern' offense averages 37 points per game.
Someone wake Illinois head coach Ron Zook from the dream he's experiencing. No, not the nightmare. The dream. After all, despite a 63-10 beat down by Penn State, Zook says, "Every day I feel better and better. We're going to get where we need to get." He might be right, if where they need to get is buried 6 feet deep. On the heels of five straight losses in which it hasn't come within three touchdowns of its opponent, Illinois gets No. 15 Wisconsin this week in Champaign. In its two home losses in the league, Illinois has been beaten by a combined 100 points. Michigan State applied an earlier 61-14 beating. Zook is toying with the idea of changing quarterbacks, having rotated Tim Brasic and Chris Pazan without much success against Penn State. Defensive end Xavier Fulton (knee) is out this week and could be gone for the season. Penn State's 63 points set a record for an Illinois opponent at Memorial Stadium.
Rushing and stopping the run loom as Indiana's biggest challenges in a gauntlet of closing games the Hoosiers must weather to gain a bowl bid. Michigan State, the opponent Saturday in East Lansing, averages 225 yards per game on the ground. Ohio State came to Bloomington going for 165 a game and put up 240 yards rushing. As for running it themselves, the Hoosiers managed just 42 yards on 26 tries against OSU and rank last in the league in that category at 141 yards per game. Redshirt freshman James Hardy had his streak of touchdown catches broken at seven games, but he could feast on MSU's short cornerbacks. The Spartans' 19 TD passes allowed is one shy of the most by any team in the league. Head coach Terry Hoeppner expects to be much more competitive the next time Ohio State comes to Bloomington. That won't be until 2009, due to a break in the series after next season. "We'll get it done," Hoeppner said. "I can't wait."