MICHIGAN: Three Days and Counting

Hoosier Nation continues its day-by-day preview of the Indiana-Michigan Big Ten opener. Today we look at three of the key match-ups when the Hoosiers face the Wolverines...

IU DEs Darius Johnson and Adam Replogle vs. MICH QB Denard Robinson Indiana's defense faces a supreme challenge this weekend when it goes head-to-head with Robinson, the Wolverine's ultra-athletic quarterback who ranks first nationally in rushing (172.0/game) and second in total offense (354.8/game). While every player on the Hoosier roster will play a role (and have an eye) on the Michigan sophomore, Johnson and Replogle will have an important job Saturday. From their defensive end spots, both will need to do everything they can keep to keep containment when Robinson drops back to pass and keep him from getting out of the pocket where he can make big things happen via the run or the pass. Even in those situations Robinson is more than capable of turning a negative play into a positive, but there's less of a chance of him breaking off the home run plays he's produced consistently this season if he's having to weave his way through the heart of the IU defense. Johnson and Replogle might very well end the afternoon without a sack of Michigan's quarterback, but they could still play a very big role in IU's success if they're able to keep him in the pocket.

Indiana's turnovers vs. Michigan's turnovers – There's very little reason to think this game won't put the IU scoreboard to the test. Michigan ranks second in the nation in rushing offense, and it will be going up against an Indiana defense that ranks 92nd against the run (despite the fact IU has faced three sub-par opponents). Indiana's passing attack, meanwhile, ranks first in the Big Ten and 11th nationally, and Ben Chappell will have a chance to pick apart a Michigan defense that ranks 105th against the pass through the season's first month. Points should be plentiful Saturday, and the only thing that might be capable of stopping the other team's offense is turnovers. With that in mind, Indiana could have an advantage. Through three games, Chappell has yet to throw an interception and IU has lost only one fumble. Michigan, in contrast, has turned the ball over four times in four games, including three fumbles. Michigan has made up for some of its mistakes by forcing eight turnovers out of its opponents, leaving it tied with Indiana with a +1.0/game turnover margin (which is 17th nationally). This figures to be one of the more telling stats on the afternoon.

IU WR/KR Tandon Doss vs. MICH WR/KR Daryl Stonum – Whether it's in the passing game or on kickoff returns (which should be common Saturday afternoon), Doss and Stonum are potential big-play makers. Doss has been relatively quiet in his first two games back (8 catches, 102 yards, 1 TD), but he's clearly a difference-maker on offense. Expect to see him take on a much expanded role this weekend as Indiana will likely look to open up the playbook against the Wolverines. Doss had five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against Michigan last season and also ran the ball three times for 41 yards and another score. It's hard to imagine IU won't do everything it can to get Doss 10-15 touches offensively Saturday. Stonum, meanwhile, leads Michigan in yards/reception with 15 catches for 226 yards, and he's also the Wolverines' primary kickoff returner. He's averaging a pedestrian 21.0 yards/return so far this season, but he averaged nearly 26 yards/return a season ago and 31.0 yards/return against Indiana last fall.

Coming Up
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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