Create and Convert on Turnovers At the start of the season IU Coach Terry Hoeppner said he was challenging his defense to score 10 touchdowns this season. With two regular season games to go, the unit has just one this year – a fumble return for a touchdown by John Pannozzo in the Hoosiers' 41-10 loss to Ohio State three weeks ago.
That needs to change if Indiana is going to bring an end to its 38-year drought in Ann Arbor. The defense must not only be a whole lot better than its been the last four weeks - Indiana is giving up an average of 41.8 points and 492.0 yards/game during the four-game losing streak – it's going to need to create turnovers. If the unit can do that, Indiana needs to be able to turn those Michigan miscues into touchdowns and create some much needed momentum against an improving Michigan squad.
Of course, creating turnovers is easier said than done. Michigan tailback Mike Hart, who leads the team with 573 rushing yards, hasn't fumbled in his last 386 touches. The sophomore tailback has only one fumble during his Michigan career, losing the ball near the Iowa goal line in Michigan's Big Ten opener a season ago. Quarterback Chad Henne, meanwhile, has thrown only seven interceptions in nine games, and the Wolverines have a +4 turnover margin this season.
Indiana's task doesn't get any easier when you consider three of the team's forced fumbles this season were caused by Pannozzo and strong safety Aaron Mitchell, a pair of big hitters who are both expected to be out of this weekend's contest with hand injuries.
While it's not exactly a formula for a handful of turnovers, Indiana needs to find a way to make those sorts of impact plays on defense. Whether it's Ben Ishola or Victor Adeyanju making a big hit on Henne or cornerbacks Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors making a tide-turning play in the secondary, someone is going to need to create the sort of the opportunities that the unit hasn't been able to make in quite some time.
Hit Michigan in the Mouth-If there's one thing you can count on from Michigan football teams, it's that they'll come out and try to intimidate from the opening snap.
Whether it's an extra pop from a blocker after the whistle has blown or some talking on the field, the Wolverines will try to intimidate and ultimately let Indiana know from the start that they're misguided if they think they are going to come in Ann Arbor and knock off the Wolverines. It's an attitude and approach that's been prevalent ever since Bo Schembechler was coach, and it's built on a foundation of success that rivals just about any football program in the country.
Indiana can't back down. If officials are stepping between players after the snap, that's likely a good sign for the Hoosiers.
While Michigan is ranked No. 21 in the country and is the two-time defending Big Ten champion, it's not as explosive offensively as either Michigan State or Minnesota, and its defense isn't as formidable as Ohio State's. The Wolverines are averaging only 28.3 points/game, including just 26.2 since conference play opened. If the IU defense can create a couple of turnovers and the special teams units can play to a stalemate – both big ifs – Indiana has a chance to hang around in this contest.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Key Matchups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do to Win
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
On Saturday – Hoosier Gameday
Two Days and Counting...
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