After starting the season 4-0, Indiana looked like a team that might be a serious competitor in the Big 10. Since then, they have lost five straight. The Hoosiers have played tough against all of their opponents, including Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa. Although the scores may not show it, they were in those games late into the 4th quarter.
Rushing Offense against Indiana
Since Kevin Wilson took over at Indiana, they have been considered a team that could score anytime and anywhere – but the same can be said for their opponents.
Struggling to stop run, Indiana has allowed 175 yards rushing per game and 21 touchdowns. Four players have made 50 tackles or more in their 3-4 scheme. Linebacker Marcus Oliver leads the Hoosiers in tackles with 79 and has also forced four fumbles. Middle linebacker TJ Simmons and safeties Jonathan Crawford and Chase Dutra round out the top tacklers on this Hoosier squad.
Ty Isaac has made his way out of the doghouse and back onto the depth chart. He sits third on the list, next to Derrick Green. Other than that, the Wolverines will roll out De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson to shoulder the load on the ground- which continues to be a very nice combo in the Michigan backfield. Jabrill Peppers should see some snaps as well.
The running game is Michigan’s bread and butter. Indiana hasn’t stopped the run all year and they won’t start here.
Passing Offense against Indiana
Coming off of a 337 yard passing performance against Rutgers, Jake Rudock takes on another defense that gives up plenty of big passing plays. Indiana allows an average of 337 yards per game through the air and 13 yards per catch.
Safety Jonathan Crawford leads the team with two interceptions, but cornerback Rashard Fant might be the most impressive defensive back. He not only leads the team, but is also among the nation’s leaders in pass break ups with 13. The sophomore has also contributed 38 tackles but has yet to reel in that first interception of the year.
Senior defensive end Nick Mangieri is a three year starter. He is one of the most improved players on this leaky defense, bringing seven sacks to the table. If he isn’t blocked, he could wreak some havoc in the backfield.
Rudock had his best passing game of the season last week against Rutgers and will look to build on that performance this week. Jake Butt, Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh continue to be a very reliable bunch in the receiving game.
Last year against Indiana, Rudock was 19 of 27 for over 200 yards and two touchdowns while playing for Iowa.
Michigan has the better athletes against a mediocre secondary. Indiana doesn’t play good enough pass defense to keep the Wolverines from scoring through the air.
Rushing Defense against Indiana
Indiana brings a two-headed monster in the running game. Running backs Jordan Howard and Devine Redding are both capable of breaking open the defense for a big play. Both backs have contributed seven touchdowns a piece in this spread attack.
Howard is the man to fear in this offense though. The Southern Miss transfer averages 137 yards per game and 6.1 yards per carry. He may very well be the best back Michigan has faced since Utah’s Devontae Booker. If he can find some holes, the Wolverines could have some issues.
Michigan’s defense will have their work cut out for them. Indiana runs an up-tempo spread system that will prevent fresh bodies from entering the game on a consistent basis. This is big, since Michigan tends to use several lineman throughout the game. One, because they have a couple of very good players, and two, to keep the pressure up with fresh linemen.
Linebackers must be prepared to run (and run a lot) with the amount of plays Indiana runs per minute (2.76).
Although Indiana averages 185 yards on the ground, Michigan is coached well enough to know what’s coming and how to stop it. Indiana may get over 100 yards, but 185 yards would be shocking.
Passing Defense against Indiana
Quarterback Nate Sudfeld is talented and experienced. The senior has thrown for 15 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards in eight games. He also leads the Big 10 in passing yards per game with 278.
Indiana’s spread offense features three receivers that come in with over 30 catches. Rickey Jones heads the group with 41 catches and five touchdowns. Outside of Jones, Indiana has several options to go to which is the beauty of the spread. The Hoosiers have eight players with nine catches or more.
Michigan’s defensive backfield was back to their old ways last week, not allowing over 100 yards to the Rutgers passing attack. That may be hard to top this week, since Sudfeld is light years ahead of Rutgers quarterback Chris Laviano when it comes to performance. Jarrod Wilson had the lone interception last week and should have opportunity for another against Indiana’s high flying aerial attack.
Michigan defensive backs will face an experienced quarterback in Sudfeld, but he will feel the pressure all afternoon. Although he doesn’t make many mistakes, it will be tough to complete passes with the Wolverine d-line breathing down his back.
Special Teams against Indiana
Michigan will watch the tape and fix the issue that led to a 98 yard kickoff return touchdown and 67 yard punt return by Janarion Gant last week. Expect the special teams to redeem themselves and play better.
Indiana is no slouch in the special team’s game. Damon Graham and Mitchell Paige both have experience returning kicks and will try to exploit the same things that Rutgers did last week.
Indiana kicker Griffin Oakes is 12 of 14 on field goals.
Wolverines athletes will outmatch anything the Hoosiers come up with.
Prediction: Indiana 17 – Michigan 37
Indiana’s offense plays well enough to put up some points but never stops a soul. Michigan comes away with a big win heading into Penn State week.
Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
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