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Game Preview: Michigan Wolverines

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Indiana has a lot of work to do if they want to get back into the CFP discussion. It involves every team from the SEC West disbanding but, most importantly, it means WINNING TODAY ... or Saturday. You get it.

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Leon Halip

GAME INFO:

Who? Michigan Wolverines (3-5 (1-3), #60 F/+) v. Indiana Hoosiers (3-4 (0-3), #82 F/+)

Where / When? Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan; 3:30 PM

TV / Radio? Big Ten Network, IU Radio Network (XM 146, Sirius 201)

Tickets? From $65 through Michigan's website, from $25 through StubHub.

Vegas? Indiana +7, 53.5 o/u

________________________________

Hahahaha Michigan is not good at football!

We've been pointing and laughing at Michigan all season, it has been a ton of fun for everyone involved. I think even diehard Wolverine fans will look back on this season and laugh. They'll harken back to 2014 and think "Hoo boy that was a hilariously bad year. Can't wait for Coach Muschamp to extinguish the dumpster fire left by Hoke and we'll be back on top!"

Think about it, Michigan. He's got HIGH D-1 EXPERIENCE and he's LIKELY GOING TO BE AVAILABLE.

That said, Michigan's terribleness has been relative. Michigan is bad, particularly by their own lofty standards. But I've seen a lot of people picking Indiana to win this game and, well, you might not want to do that with any sort of confidence. Indiana has been trending downward all season and the loss of Nate Sudfeld only made things a helluva lot worse. The F/+ Ranking, which we've used a lot around here, tells the story of IU's season:

indianaf+

I don't have our F/+ ranking for our bye weeks, as I didn't write a game preview for those, but as you can see, it's been a slow downward slide until the Maryland game, when neither side of the ball seemed capable of doing anything. After that, Nate Sudfeld's shoulder imploding in the same game in which the defense absolutely collapsed, surrendering long touchdown after long touchdown to an offensively-challenged Hawkeyes squad, finally buried the Hoosiers.

Their current ranking puts them in the company of teams like Illinois, UTSA, and Florida International. In fact, Indiana is now the worst B1G team according to F/+. We've joked quite a bit about the "darkest timeline" around here, and if falling into the same company as a UT satellite campus, perpetually-inept-except-that-year-T.Y.-Hilton-exploded FIU, and "well if we had won all those games we lost we'd be in the CFP picture!" Illinois isn't the darkest of darkest timelines, I don't know what is.

Michigan is bad. Michigan is having a horrible season that is going to get their coach fired.

Indiana's season is still worse.

This is incredibly depressing.

No doubt. But let's take a look at the raw numbers that go into that F/+ ranking and maybe we can find some good news. Remember: Michigan is a bad team, and bad teams lose to teams a lot. EVEN OTHER BAD TEAMS. I'm not saying we can't win, I'm saying there's a very strange dynamic going on right now where Michigan's relative horribleness is being perceived as them being worse than IU, and that's statistically not the case.

THE FIVE FACTORS (Weighted)
Efficiency (25%) Explosion (35%) Field Position (15%) Drive-Finishing (15%) Turnovers (10%)
INDIANA 44.4% (46th) 0.89 (44th) 32nd 87th 11.1% (15th)
MICHIGAN 37.8% (104th) 0.77 (100th) 82nd 45th 20.0% (108th)

Well, hey, look at that! Indiana has out-performed Michigan in four of the five factors this season. And while that may not surprise you, remember that this data is still being heavily influenced by the Nate Sudfeld-led Hoosiers and you can't expect them to be as efficient and explosive when Zander Diamont is running the show. Perhaps he comes out against Michigan with much more poise, but against the Spartans he looked the part of a very talented kid who was only a year removed from playing high school ball. For example, and this is only a one game sample, but the offense had a Success Rate of 23% against Michigan State, including an extra woeful 4% on passing downs.

Those MSU stats courtesy of the guys over at Punt John Punt, a stat-heavy approach to Indiana Football. They do great work and you should check them out.

The Wolverines, to their credit, have played some pretty decent defense this year. They're not the Spartans by any stretch of the imagination, but they're ranked 32nd in defensive S&P+, which means the Indiana offense probably won't have the same fireworks show they put on in the Big House last year. Furthermore, they're 11th against the run, and while elite run defenses haven't contained Tevin Coleman all year, he'll have yet another tough test this weekend.

Michigan's inability to score the ball themselves would seem to help out the Hoosiers cause, but their 87th ranked defense has made bad offenses look great all year. 93rd ranked Bowling Green scored 45, 70th ranked Maryland scored 37, and 97th ranked Iowa scored 45. Make no mistake, whatever offensive funk you perceive the Wolverines to be in, they're likely to bust out of it on Saturday. Which means Diamont and Tevin Coleman are going to have to find a way to get some points up on the board themselves, and probably a lot of them.

Devin Gardner remains the embattled signal-caller for the Wolverines, throwing 10 interceptions against only 6 touchdowns. He is completing more than 60% of his passes and has 3 rushing scores on the season. He's coming off what has to be one of the worst performances of his Michigan career, going 15 / 30 for 125 yards, zero touchdowns and 2 interceptions against in-state rival Michigan State. They have a stable of decent running backs, as Michigan always does, with three guys averaging over 4 yards per carry with at least 40 touches this season.

As far as pass catchers go, it's pretty much all Devin Funchess. The junior receiver has 41 catches this season while the next closest man has 17. He has four touchdowns on the season, but three of those were snared in the first half of the opener against Appalachian State, but it's not nearly as much of an indictment of him as it is the entire passing game being out of sorts. That said, I'm not sure if Indiana has the defensive personnel to cover a guy like Funchess, his 6'5" frame will likely be a nightmare for the Hoosiers' secondary if Devin Gardner can stay upright. He's been sacked 18 times this year.

I'm not saying this is an unwinnable game for the Hoosiers, they've got a decent shot. But the perception of Michigan is worse than the reality to this point. It's a bad season, they'll probably end up with no more than 5 wins, but they're more than capable of handling an Indiana team missing their quarterback.

You're really harshing my IUFB mellow.

I'm sorry. This has been a horrible season, and not because of the record, necessarily. This team has a lot of talent and even after debacles against Bowling Green and Maryland I thought they would still reach a bowl game and get that cathartic moment this staff and roster have been starving for. Maybe Tevin Coleman picks up the team and runs us to one ALL BY HISSELF but I'm not optimistic.

Perhaps I've let one bad performance against MSU ruin my outlook on Zander Diamont's ability to move this offense through the air. After all, MSU has made far more proven quarterbacks look pretty awful. Maybe Zander can get into a groove against lesser defenses the rest of the way, I certainly hope so. He didn't get the results anyone wanted against the Spartans but he went out there under less-than-ideal circumstances and played his guts out; can't ask for much more in that situation.

But it'd be cool if you could win this week, yeah?