Two teams enter this weeks game needing a win. The Indiana Hoosiers head back north to face the Michigan Wolverines this weekend. The Hoosiers fell to Michigan State last week while the Wolverines suffered a loss in quadruple overtime at Penn State.
The loss bounced Michigan from the AP Top 25. IU (3-3, 1-1) is looking to steal another win and inch closer to bowl eligibility. Michigan (5-1, 1-1) is still clinging to the possibility of a BCS bowl game and needs a win to remain competitive in the Legends division.
If ever the Hoosiers wanted to test their defense, this will be it. Michigan has potentially the most explosive offensive that IU will face all season. IU and Michigan feature the third and fourth highest scoring offenses in the Big Ten, respectively. The Hoosiers are averaging nearly 42 points per game, while the Wolverines are at 39.
Defensively, IU is giving up nearly 33 points per game, just above Purdue at the bottom of the conference. The Wolverines are holding opponents to an average of 23.3 points.
Michigan hasn’t played that many quality opponents. Penn State is a bit of an enigma, Notre Dame has been up and down this season, and the rest of their opponents are not very good. But despite the talent gap, those opponents have largely kept the games close. Michigan defeated Akron and Connecticut by a total of seven points.
Here’s what we’ll be looking for:
- Patience. Michigan likes to play it safe on defense and not give up big plays. They stiffen up in the red zone and will give up yards, but not points. IU’s QBs (be it Nate Sudfeld or Tre Roberson) have to be patient and take what the defense is giving them. IU will likely have success underneath and will be able to dink and dunk their way down the field. Coach Kevin Wilson loves the big play, quick strike offense but it would be wise to play ball control against Devin Gardner and Co. Michigan has been suspetible to the big this season as well especially on the outside (a place where Cody Latimer makes his living). A lot of underneath passes with some deep shots sprinkled in should lead to a big day for the passing game.
- Contain Gardner. Gardner is a dangerous dual threat quarterback. He leads the Wolverines in rushing and averages 5.5 yards per carry. He has 17 touchdowns this season (11 passing and six rushing). He’s completing 58.9 percent of his passes and his numbers plummet when he is pressured. IU has to put pressure on Gardner and maintain gap control. If the Hoosiers flood the holes, Michigan will struggle to run and Gardner won’t have room to take off. That’s probably wishful thinking as Indiana has been awful against the run this season.
- Free Coleman. IU needs to create space for Tevin Coleman. If he is successful on the ground, it will really open things up for the passing game. The problem is that Michigan is giving up just under 90 yards rushing per game. The Hoosiers have averaged almost 173 yards on the ground per game (nearly the same as the Wolverines). So something will have to give. Michigan has a stout defensive line, so it would be wise to attack the edges and get Coleman free on stretch plays. That will also open some devastating play action attempts off rollouts.
- The Shootout. The Hoosiers are likely looking at a shootout. I don’t expect the defense to get all that many stops tomorrow, or the rest of the season. The offense is going to have to carry this team once again. Hopefully, Michigan will be indecisive on offense in terms of play calling and it will get them in trouble, like it did against Penn State. Consistency will be key for the Hoosier offense, and if they can do that, then they can keep up with any offense in the conference.
- The Trap. Not for IU, but for the Wolverines. Penn State was a disappointing loss for Michigan. The Hoosiers have the joy of being sandwiched between that and in-state rival Michigan State. The Wolverines will head to East Lansing next week and there is a real possibilty that they will overlook the Hoosiers. That isn’t something IU can bank on, but if an NFL team can do it (looking at you Colts) then so can a college program.
Make no mistake, IU can win this game. But it is highly unlikely. A lot is going against the Hoosiers. The road game, Michigan coming off a disappointing loss (and wanting to pound an opponent), and with this horrible defense.
IU suffers another loss, this time to Michigan in a close game, 42-35.
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