Every Thursday at AllHoosiers.com we will have a scouting report on the team that Indiana will face that week in the form of a Q&A with a beat writer from that team.
For Saturday’s eighth game of the season against Michigan, Nick Baumgardner,Michigan beat writer for MLive.com, has graciously accepted my invitation to talk about the Wolverines by answering the following five questions.
Here is our eighth Scouting the Opponent Q&A with an opposing beat writer.
1. I saw your story about Michigan morale this week. Do you think the elephant in the room is becoming too much of a distraction or are the players able to look by that? Is this a fragile Michigan team or do you think they'll be able to go out and and play business as usual?
BAUMGARDNER: “It's a tough question to answer, really. And it's one I'm not so sure of now. A few weeks ago, when the Shane Morris concussion firestorm went national, I wondered if there was any way they'd be able to block it all out. They did. They played hard at Rutgers, but lost. And then they came home and beat Penn State. Which was impressive.
“But after another brutal beating against rival Michigan State last week, I'm starting to wonder if this group has enough left, mentally, to pick itself back up again and deal with all the drama going on outside of their building. Their coach is fighting for his job, and appears to be losing that battle more and more every day. Their athletic director is doing the same thing, and again, he doesn't appear to be winning that fight. At least on the surface.
“I think they'll show up ready to play at home, but if they run into any type of adversity, that's when I'll start to wonder about where the group's at mentally. And if they have enough to power through it.’’
2. How would you characterize the Michigan fan base right now? Do they want this season to end quickly and start anew next year, do they still hope to salvage something here with this team, or are they so focused on getting rid of the athletic director and coach that nothing else really matters? I'm guessing it's safe to say that the natives are beyond restless in Ann Arbor?
BAUMGARDNER: “For the most part, the fans just want this year to end. They wanted it to end yesterday. The only thing, realistically, that Michigan can salvage at this point is a bowl bid. And around here, if that bowl bid doesn't involve the word "Rose" in front of it -- or at least 9 or 10 wins to go along with it -- it's not going to cut it. Making it to a lower-level bowl, to some fans, is more of an embarrassment than not making one at all. That's just how they are.
“Fans, by and large, are fed up. They want change. Whether that's with Brady Hoke and Dave Brandon, one of the two, whatever. The team is regressing on the field, which is Hoke's problem. Player development has been poor. Again, Hoke's problem. They don't really have an identity either. Off the field, fans feel taken advantage of by the athletic department's apparent quest for cash, and they routinely accuse the department of spending more time concerned about marketing the program's brand than protecting its traditions.’’p
3. What has been the biggest issue offensively with Michigan? Has it been consistency, turnovers, other breakdowns? Has that unit showed signs of promise or has it really struggled all year?
BAUMGARDNER: “Really all of the above, actually. But the turnovers have just derailed everything. You can overcome a lot of stuff if you hang onto the football (especially when your defense is sound, as Michigan's is). But the number of careless turnovers -- mostly from quarterback Devin Gardner -- have just torpedoed this offense.
“Gardner has 10 interceptions now, and 21 since the start of last season. He lost another fumble last week at Michigan State, and just rarely looks confident on the field, in the pocket and in any throwing situation. The guy we saw throw for 500 yards last year against Indiana, and 450 against Ohio State, hasn't shown up this season. And that's been the biggest of a great number of issues for Michigan on offense. ‘’
4. I would think Michigan's strategy would put an all out attempt to shut down Tevin Coleman and figure that Zander Diamont is not going to beat them. Is that your sense as well? How do you think this Michigan defense will do against Coleman, a player who has chewed up every other defense he has faced including Iowa and Michigan State?
BAUMGARDNER: “Yeah, that would be my bet. Michigan knows what Tevin Coleman's capable of, obviously, they believe he's fantastic. I do, too. I think he might be the best offensive player, pound-for-pound, in America. If he's playing on a better team, he's probably getting Heisman hype. So he's a problem, if you're Michigan, obviously. And the Wolverines respect Kevin Wilson's ability to call an offense, and his ability to work with quarterbacks.
“I think we might see a big improvement from Diamont from two weeks ago. I don't know much about him, but I do know Wilson's a great offensive coach. I'd be surprised if he's not improved in this game.
“In terms of how Michigan will fare against Coleman? That's the big question. They've faced two really solid backs this season -- Minnesota's David Cobb and Michigan State's Jeremy Langford. Cobb went for 183 yards, Langford went for 177. Michigan's basically taken the running game away from every other team its played. So how it handles itself against Coleman will be telling, for sure.
5. Finally, we always ask for opposing publishers and beat writers to weigh in with their game prediction. Myself I think it could be a pretty good game but it's hard to imagine IU going into the Big House and winning with an inexperienced true freshman quarterback playing in his second college game. How do you think this one will play out?
BAUMGARDNER: “I think this game stays close throughout. I think both offenses will make mistakes and give the opposition an opportunity to hang around. I don't think Michigan can take Tevin Coleman away, but I also don't think Diamont will have enough to help his running back. Not right now, anyway. I think Michigan wins the game, but barely. Not sure on a score yet, but I think we're looking at a game, in the fourth quarter, where both teams have a shot to win.
Again, thanks to Nick Baumgardner for sharing his expertise today with us at AllHoosiers.com.Depth Chart: No changes for Michigan game
Daily Feature: How They Fared
Wilson talks Diamont pre-Michigan