Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Michigan Wolverines (7-2, #3 S&P+) v. Indiana Hoosiers (4-5, #67 S&P+)
When? Saturday, 11/14, 3:30 PM, Bloomington, Indiana
Channel? ABC / ESPN2
Vegas? INDIANA +11
Twice this season, Memorial Stadium has hosted elite teams from the top of the College Football Playoff rankings, and twice this season, Indiana has played them better than expected before wilting as the screws tightened late in the game.
This Saturday, Michigan will be the third elite team to come into Bloomington, while an early loss to Utah, coupled with (probably) the flukiest loss in college football history to Michigan State have all but extinguished Michigan's hopes of rising to the top 4 of the CFP rankings, they're as alive for the Big Ten title game as anyone. They rank third in the S&P+, fueled by the nation's best defense and backed by an offense that finds success through minimal mistakes and taking their time.
For the third game in a row, Indiana will take the field against a team most expect them to be blown out by, perhaps Indiana can keep it close into the fourth quarter again, maybe this time they can snag that breakthrough victory this program has been dying to experience in front of their fans.
THE OPPONENT: (#3 S&P+, #43 Offense, #1 Defense)
Indiana's high-flying video game offense will meet its stiffest challenge in Kevin Wilson's tenure, as Jim Harbaugh has the Wolverines playing the kind of suffocating brand of football that many traditionally associate with Michigan. For all the praise I heaped on Iowa's defense last week, Michigan is better in nearly every facet:
(S&P+ National Rank)
- Against the Run (3rd)
- Against the Pass (13th)
- On Third Down (1st)
- Overall Havoc Rate (6th)
- On Standard Downs (6th)
- On Passing Downs (8th)
You have to get into some pretty nuanced statistics to find something to knock Michigan for defensively (97th in linebacker Havoc Rate? SUCK IT, LOSERS. INDIANA'S LINEBACKERS ARE 22ND. DON'T EVEN SHOW UP.)
I'm officially out of the business of suggesting any sort of game plan for Indiana's offense. I said "don't even try to run on Iowa!" and Jordan Howard churned out yards and consumed souls in much the same way he did against the far lesser defenses on the schedule. Bottom line: Michigan's defense is good at everything, by merely attempting to move the ball you have opened yourself up to the possibility of terror and failure, so far be it from me, the amateur blogger man, to tell you how to go about it.
Because, if it were me, and Jabrill Peppers plus ten of his good friends were hellbent on preventing me from getting somewhere, I'd just find somewhere else to go. But Nate Sudfeld and the rest of the Indiana offense are far braver than I, and I'm at peace with that, because my organs will not be at an elevated risk of being liquefied on Saturday.
Offensively, Michigan is ... uh ... well, the best thing I can do to describe Michigan's offense is just shrug my shoulders. I have no doubt that they'll pile up their share of points on a fairly-maligned Indiana defense, but there's nothing overtly horrifying about that side of the ball. Jake Rudock has thrown 8 touchdowns against 7 interceptions, almost 1800 yards with a 62.8% completion percentage. He has the downfield touch of a pirate ship cannon, but has done a fine job of keeping the house from burning down.
De'Veon Smith leads the Wolverine rushing attack, but with only 526 yards (for reference, Jordan Howard has 961), as Michigan tends to hand the ball off to a variety of fellers throughout the game. Sometimes Jabrill Peppers will come in and get a touch or two, because he is a very good football player and desires to make other teams miserable in all three phases.
Receiving wise, Michigan spreads the ball much like Indiana does, with three guys getting the majority of catches and a collection of everyone else far off the pace. Amara Doboh (37 catches), Jake Butt (31 catches), and Jehu Chesson (23 catches) all have more than double the catches of the next closest guy. All three of these guys are big, 6-2, 6-6, and 6-3, respectively; and catch a large percentage of their targets.
THE HOOSIERS: (#67 S&P+, #21 Offense, #101 Defense)
A disturbing trend has developed for Indiana here in recent weeks, as the offense seems to bog down as the game wears on. Against Rutgers, Indiana hit 52 points with twenty minutes left in the game and failed to score another point after that. Against Michigan State, the Hoosiers scored a touchdown with 9:45 left in the third quarter to pull within two of the Spartans and failed to score another point after that. Against Iowa, Indiana failed to get into the endzone in the second half until there were two minutes left in the game.
As we are abundantly aware: Indiana is a team built to score points, and any success this team enjoys can rarely be achieved if the offense can't keep scoring throughout the game. Even on days where Indiana's defense plays as well as could be expected, the Hoosiers have still needed 35 points (or more) to come out victorious. Indiana was on pace to do that against Michigan State and Iowa, but a cavalcade of unforced errors and self-inflicted mistakes in the second half left the offense a disjointed mess. You would hope to see improvement in that regard, with Indiana probably needing two wins out of the next three games to go bowling, but things aren't about to get any easier against Michigan.
The good news is that the offense seems to be back to full strength. Jordan Howard looked as good as ever against Iowa, and while Sudfeld and the receivers had a bad day against Iowa, that seemed to speak more to the opponent's ability than any lingering injury concerns. The passing offense struggled mightily against the Hawkeyes, and it'll take a far better effort to move the ball effectively against the Wolverines. The drops that plagued the receivers against Iowa cannot happen if Indiana wants to be in a close game in the fourth quarter. Michigan will force you into enough mistakes as it is, no reason to bail them out with unforced errors.
STUFF TO WATCH FOR:
- A FAMILY AFFAIR? Did you know that Indiana Men's Basketball Head Coach Tom Crean is married to Michigan Football Head Coach Jim Harbaugh's sister? This is the kind of stuff you can expect to find out if you sign up for TCQ INSIDER (which involves you PayPal'ing me $38 per month for the privilege of receiving box scores scribbled onto bricks and hand-delivered through your bedroom window every morning at 5 AM).
- HEY FOOTBALL IS STILL GOING. The basketball team (coached by Tom Crean, brother-in-law to Michigan Football Head Coach Jim Harbaugh) takes the court for a real game that counts on Friday night but don't get distracted. They will beat Eastern Illinois by a million, and if they don't, you don't want to see that anyway. Make sure you're in prime shape to tailgate for another 3:30 kickoff and go to the game and have fun and stuff.
- A FAMILY AFFAIR? Did you know that Indiana Men's Basketball Head Coach Tom Cre-