IU QB Kellen Lewis vs. MICH DE LaMarr Woodley and the Michigan pass rush - The challenge doesn't get much more daunting than this one for the Hoosiers' redshirt freshman quarterback. Lewis will lead the Indiana offense against a Michigan defense that gives up virtually nothing on the ground and is one of the nation's best at getting after the quarterback.
There's little reason to believe Indiana will have any success running the ball after the likes of Wisconsin's P.J. Hill and Notre Dame's Darius Walker didn't, so that means any offensive productivity is going to come courtesy Lewis. Lewis will also be working behind an offensive line that might be missing starting left tackle Rodger Saffold this weekend, so he'll likely face plenty of pressure from Woodley (11 sacks in 10 games this year), defensive end Rondell Biggs (5 ½ sacks) and the rest of the Michigan front four.
The question is whether or not Lewis can elude Woodley and Biggs when they get in the IU backfield and then make plays with his ability to improvise. Both Biggs and Woodley are extremely athletic, so Lewis will have to do more than simply sidestep them when they're in pursuit. They'll make every effort to chase him down from behind, and they have the speed to do that.
For Indiana to have a chance to put points on the board it's going to need the sort of effort Lewis turned in a week ago at Minnesota when he threw for 321 yards and rushed for another 75.
MICH WR Mario Manningham vs. IU CB Tracy Porter - Manningham has missed the last three games with a knee injury, but he's expected back for this weekend's match-up with the Hoosiers. That's not the best of news for an IU secondary that has had its ups and downs this year, with the latest downer being the 378 yards it yielded to Minnesota last weekend.
Manningham is averaging 22 yards per reception and has scored nine touchdowns, all of which have come from at least 20 yards out. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr figures to try to get him involved early and often in an effort to get him up to speed in time for next weekend's colossal match-up with Ohio State, and Indiana can ill-afford to let him produce a big play or two in the early going. Big plays were a huge part of Indiana's defensive meltdown last weekend, and a similar smorgasbord of defensive breakdowns this weekend would be equally disastrous.
The Hoosiers figure to make some changes to their coverage schemes this weekend after last week's performance, but there will still be some occasions when Porter will be matched up with Mannningham in one-on-one coverage. When that's the case, he can't allow the Wolverine speedster to get behind him. Indiana can cope with Manningham catching the underneath for some short gainers, but it's the big play that he's known for.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Matchups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
Two Days and Counting
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