Michigan: by the numbers and key contributors.

The Michigan Wolverines, like the Hoosiers, are 3-0, thanks to home blowouts against two MAC schools, including common opponent Western Michigan, and a close home win against Notre Dame, by far the highest quality opponent either team has played this season.  Yesterday, I linked to IU's NCAA "executive summary page, and here is Michigan's.  Thanks in part to an absurdly run-dominated offense against Eastern Michigan last week, Michigan is sporting a Navy-like average of 276 yards per game.  Most impressively, Michigan's leading rusher, Carlos Brown, averages only 79 yards per game.  Already, four Wolverines have exceeded the 100 yard mark for the season, including quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson.  Michigan ranks only 97th in production from the passing game at 168 yards per game, but that is  a function of the lopsided nature of two of Michigan's first three games.  In Michigan's only competitive game, the 38-34 win over Notre Dame, Forcier was 23-33 passing for 240 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.  Forcier's quarterback rating is #32 in Division I-A.  Michigan has posted top 30 numbers in total offense and scoring offense.  On defense, the Wolverines have allowed 358 yards per game, but only 19 points per game.  Against Western Michigan, nearly all of WMU's positive yardage came after the Wolverines had jumped out to a big lead.  On the other hand, Eastern Michigan moved the ball reasonably well against Michigan, and the Notre Dame game was a shootout.  Michigan protects the quarterback reasonably well, probably in no small part because Forcier and Robinson both run well, so IU's pass rush game will be strength against strength. 

 

Who are the key individuals?

Tate Forcier, QB.  Forcier became a household name in week 2 of the season with his impressive play (described above) in Michigan's upset of Notre Dame. He has played very well as a passer (again, see above) and running the ball (30/112 and a touchdown).

Denard Robinson, QB.  Robinson is only 2-8 passing, but has run for 155 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 18 carries. 

Carlos Brown, RB.  Michigan has spread the ball around, but Brown is Michigan's leading rusher with 238 yards and is averaging 8.8 yards per carry. 

Brandon Minor, RB.  Minor has been bothers by injuries, but ran for 106 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame on only 16 carries.

Darryl Stonum returned a kickoff for a touchdown against Notre Dame.

Michigan's receiving yards are even more widely dispersed than its rushing yards.  Michigan has 7 receivers who have caught 5 or more passes but no receiver has caught more than 7.  Junior Hemingway leads the Wolverines with 110 receiving yards and over 18 yards per catch, plus two touchdowns.  Kevin Koger also has caught two touchdown passes.

None of Michigan's defenders stand out statistically yet.  Linebackers Obi Ezeh and Stevie Brown are Michigan's leading tacklers, and Brown has 3.5 tackles for loss.  Michigan has sacked the opposing quarterback only three times this year, and Ben Chappell has been sacked only once, so the IU offensive line will have a chance to show that its improved protection is for real. 

I'm taking a bit of heat in the comments for my realistic/pessimistic take on the game in the Mgopodcast.  Don't let that fool you.  I am surprisingly optimistic about this game, but that is based on hunch, not on any objective evidence.  All of the objective evidence points toward a Michigan win, hence my 40-21 prediction on the podcast.  Still, this is the first time since 1967 that IU has been undefeated when playing Michigan.  In 1967, IU won 27-20 (IU's most recent win in Ann Arbor) and ultimately won the Big Ten and played in the Rose Bowl.  That would be a wildly optimistic prediction for this IU team.  On the other hand, in 1967, IU was 9 years removed from its last winning season and hadn't won more than 3 games in a season in 8 years.  That's what's fun about being undefeated.  It's easy to hope for the best.

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