KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 ET
SITE: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
SERIES: Michigan leads 51-9 (last meeting, 2009, Michigan 36-33
RECORDS: Michigan 4-0, 0-0; Indiana 3-0, 0-0
POLLS: Michigan (19 AP, 19 USA Today)
PREDICTION: Michigan 35, Indiana 28
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- The Wolverines will have to find other ways to win, if necessary, but if QB Denard Robinson can play, there is little guesswork about what Michigan will do. Robinson has rushed for more than 100 yards in four straight games and is the only player nationally with over 600 rushing yards and 700 passing yards. If he were to be out, the Michigan defense would be under the gun to carry more of the load.
-- Indiana's defense will be everything in this game. IU's passing attack is going to put points on the board, especially vs. a Michigan defense that has been generous when it comes to giving up yards through the air (the Wolverines are 105th in the FBS in passing yards allowed). The question is whether IU's defense can get Michigan's Denard Robinson off the field enough to give the Hoosier offense a chance to operate. Indiana has to run the ball better, as well, to allow the clock to grind and limit Michigan's opportunities. Keeping Robinson in the pocket when he drops back to pass will be critical as well.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
-- If Michigan's performance last week against Bowling Green is an indicator of things to come, the rest of the Big Ten will be up late trying to figure out how to slow the machine. The Wolverines had 721 yards of offense, four scoring drives of 80 yards or more, had three quarterbacks perform well and five running backs tally 50 yards or more. The reality is, the Big Ten will make things tougher, and Michigan needs a healthy Denard Robinson to be at its best.
Defensively, Michigan is bolstered by its strong showing against Bowling Green, but nobody is pretending that the issues on this side of the ball have been laid to rest. A lot is determined by how much pressure the front can exert on the quarterback; if they are effective it makes everyone look good. If they don't surrender the big play, the Wolverines can keep their psyche in balance.
-- Indiana hangs its hat on its passing game, and QB Ben Chappell has a number of talented receivers to turn to. WRs Damarlo Belcher, Tandon Doss, Terrance Turner and Duwyce Wilson all are playmakers, and TE Ted Bolser is a big target in the red zone who also has the speed to outrun linebackers. IU's offensive line has done a great job of pass blocking, but it hasn't opened a lot of holes for RB Darius Willis. Willis lit up Michigan for 152 yards on 16 carries a season ago, but he has yet to duplicate that performance this season. Indiana's running attack has been less than impressive and ranks 96th in the country in average yards rushing per game.
IU's defense hasn't given up a lot of points, averaging just 19.3 points allowed per game, but the Hoosiers' tackling left something to be desired last week vs. Akron. Indiana doesn't do a good job of wrapping up after the initial hit, allowing opponents to squirt free. The Hoosiers say they will do a better job of flowing faster to the ball and finishing the job at the point of impact, but whether or not they get the job done remains to be seen. Indiana's defense didn't fare well vs. Towson's shifty Chris Hart, which makes stopping Denard Robinson that much more of a challenge.
Wolverines: Michigan has thoroughly dominated the series against Indiana, historically (51-9) and recently (16 consecutive wins). The only loss for the Wolverines in the last 32 meetings was 14-10 in 1987 ... Coach Rich Rodriguez is 2-0 in Big Ten openers with a 27-25 comeback win over Wisconsin in 2008 and a 36-33 win over Indiana last year. Both of those game were at home. ... Discipline has been a strong suit for the Wolverines through four games. Michigan is averaging fewer than five penalties a game, putting it in the Top 20 nationally for the fewest infractions. ... The Wolverines also are ranked high in turnover margin, having forced eight while committing four, two of them on special teams. The plus-one margin is tied for 17th nationally. ... RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, a redshirt freshman who has battled injuries this season, made his collegiate debut in the fourth quarter of the Bowling Green game and broke loose for 61 yards on his first carry. The Wolverines had five running backs rush for more than 50 yards in last weekend's rout of Bowling Green. ... Second in the nation in total offense (562.75 yards per game), the Wolverines are 18-for-19 in scoring in Red Zone opportunities (11th nationally) with 17 of the scores touchdowns. ... On the negative side, the Wolverines are allowing 400 yards a game in total offense, last in the Big Ten and only 93rd out of 120 FBS teams.
Hoosiers: Indiana was 3-0 heading into the Michigan game a season ago, and after the tough loss in Ann Arbor, the Hoosiers only won one more game the rest of the season. The Hoosiers are looking for the sixth 4-0 start in program history ... Indiana scored 33 points vs. the Wolverines last season, the most for a Hoosier squad in series history. IU is currently averaging 41.3 points a game, 10th best in the country. ... QB Ben Chappell has completed 71 of 98 (72.4 percent) of his passes this season and has thrown nine TDs vs. zero interceptions. In fact, the Hoosiers have yet to turn the ball over this season. ... Chappell's top two receivers, Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner rank 1-2 in the conference in receptions per game with 7.0 and 5.67 averages, respectively. Belcher's 94.7 ypg receiving also tops the league. ... Chappell will tie Tim Clifford for the Indiana all-time No. 5 spot for touchdown passes with his next scoring toss. Chappell has 30 in his career. IU's all-time leader is Kellen Lewis with 48. ... The Hoosiers are allowing only 338.3 ypg in total offense with their new 3-4 scheme. ... Indiana has only three interceptions on the year, but all three picks have led to Hoosier touchdowns.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
QB Denard Robinson -- The fleet sophomore from Florida had 129 yards rushing in just nine minutes of action against Bowling Green before leaving the game with a tweaked knee. His availability for the Big Ten opener at Indiana is called "good to go" by Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.
QB Tate Forcier -- After starting all 12 games a year ago, Forcier did not play in the first three games of 2010, but he had an impressive debut last week when he went 12 of 12 passing.
WR Roy Roundtree -- After his third 100-yard receiving game of his career -- a nine reception, 118-yard effort against Bowling Green -- the redshirt junior has to be attracting more defensive attention.
DB Jordan Kovacs -- The former walk-on who was second on the team in stops a year ago is tied for the Michigan lead with 35 tackles after four games.
LB Tyler Replogle -- Replogle is a leader on defense and one of the hardest hitters in a Hoosier uniform, and he certainly remembers last season's near-miss. Replogle's presence in the middle will allow Indiana to limit Michigan's short-passing attack and force the Wolverines out of their comfort level.
QB Ben Chappell -- Chappell must continue to play flawless football to keep the Hoosier offense on the field. Chappell's poise sets him apart, and if he can make accurate throws to move the chains, IU is going to be in good shape.
CBs Richard Council and Matt Ernest -- Indiana's secondary as a whole must play a great game to avoid giving up big plays, but Ernest and Council, in particular, must stay in position and be ready to lay a lick on Robinson when he comes out of the backfield. One of these two players may have to make a big play to give IU a shot at winning.
RB Michael Shaw (knee, doubtful), RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (knee, doubtful) S Mike Williams (concussion, doubtful), S Carvin Johnson (knee, questionable), S Marvin Robinson (shoulder, probable), LB Brandon Herron (ankle, probable).
PK Nick Freeland (hip, probable), LB Tyler Replogle (undisclosed, probable).
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