October 12, 2017
There was a torrential downpour Saturday night, the Michigan football team turned the ball over five times — including three second-half interceptions — and the Wolverines were upset by Michigan State, 14-10. You may have heard already.
Now, there’s no dancing around it: No. 17 Michigan (1-1 Big Ten, 4-1 overall) will have to use the loss to the Spartans as motivation because, barring some help from around the Big Ten, the Wolverines can’t win the conference with another loss. They aren’t blind to that fact, as fifth-year senior center Patrick Kugler was quick to acknowledge Monday that Michigan will probably need to win out to accomplish their preseason goals.
The first step on that daunting path begins in Bloomington this Saturday.
The Wolverines will face Indiana (0-2, 3-2) with hopes of redemption, no matter how slight it may be. The Daily breaks down the matchup:
Michigan pass offense vs. Indiana pass defense
For fifth-year senior quarterback John O’Korn, his 270-yard performance against Purdue may have been a deviation from the norm. O’Korn completed 16 of his 35 attempts for 198 yards against the Spartans, and threw three interceptions to make matters worse. Make no mistake, weather played a factor last Saturday and O’Korn was the victim of some questionable play calling once the storm hit Ann Arbor.
But the Wolverines’ offensive line isn’t doing O’Korn any favors and the Hoosiers have enough talent to give Michigan trouble. Rashad Fant has proven he can be a shutdown corner, recording 22 pass break ups as a sophomore (second nationally) and notching another 17 last year (tied second nationally). His counterparts haven’t fared so well, allowing an average of 298 yards against Ohio State, Virginia and Penn State.
Still, linebacker Tegray Scales is the star of a Tom Allen defense that isn’t afraid to blitz, and the Hoosiers could spend a lot of time threatening O’Korn given the state of the offensive line.
Overall, it’s hard to bet on this Wolverine offense right now.
Michigan rush offense vs. Indiana rush defense
Sophomore running back Chris Evans and sophomore left guard Ben Bredeson both said that Michigan has focused on reestablishing its run game in practice this week. If a back fumbled, he had to run a lap. If a back carried the ball too loosely, he had to sit out of practice for roughly 10 minutes.
And given that the Wolverines have fumbled eight times — losing six of them — through five games, that all makes sense. If Michigan shows a dedication to the run game and takes care of the ball better, it wouldn’t be surprising.
But there is also this to consider: when the Hoosiers faced Penn State on Sept. 30, running back Saquon Barkley managed just 56 yards on 20 carries for an average of 2.8 yards per carry.
Indiana pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense
Like the Wolverines, the Hoosiers have themselves a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey, who led his team to a 27-0 win against FCS opponent Charleston Southern last week.
Ramsey fared well in his starting debut, completing 32 of his 41 passes for 321 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while also rushing for 54 yards and another touchdown. Now, though, Ramsey is facing an entirely different challenge.
Michigan still boasts the top overall defense in the nation and the Wolverines’ secondary is allowing just 126 passing yards per game — good for second in the country.
Like Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke, Ramsey presents a threat both on the ground and in the air, but it’s difficult to imagine him besting this defense in his first Big Ten start.
Indiana rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense
The Hoosiers average 3.6 yards per rush. Michigan is holding opponents to 2.6 in the same category.
The Wolverines allowed only one first down in the second half against Michigan State, continuing their affinity for shutting down opponents late in games.
Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is coming off a performance that featured 10 total tackles (3.5 for loss). His supporting cast is more than formidable and if the past is any indication, the first half will be ugly and the second half will only get uglier.
This one could be the most competitive phase of the game.
Indiana’s Griffin Oakes is a perfect 5-for-5 on field goals this year, with his longest conversion coming from 51 yards. Wide receiver J-Shun Harris is averaging 22.8 yards per punt return with two touchdowns. And the Hoosiers are averaging 18.4 yards per kick return.
Michigan, in its own right, has redshirt junior James Foug, redshirt freshman Quinn Nordin, and freshmen Donovan Peoples-Jones and Brad Robbins.
Since missing two field goals in the season opener against Florida, Nordin has been perfect. Foug has held the kickoff spot from the beginning, recording 21 touchbacks in his 31 attempts. Since taking over as the starting punter, Robbins is averaging 41.6 yards per punt. Peoples-Jones may fall behind Harris, as he averages just 12 yards per punt return, but he has returned one for a touchdown.
The Wolverines are walking into a Homecoming matchup in Bloomington, but they do so with a point to prove. The Spartans left a sour taste in Michigan’s mouth for the second time in three years, and the Wolverines know they can’t afford another upset — especially with matchups at No. 7 Wisconsin and No. 3 Penn State left on the docket before a home conclusion against No. 9 Ohio State.
As Kugler put it Monday: “Everyone’s just got to sack up. It’s time to go.”
Pick: Michigan 16, Indiana 3