It's been quite some time since fans have felt comfortable with a Michigan team that's favored by double-digits on the road. This week, Michigan will travel to Indiana to face-off against the Hoosiers. Can U-M continue its recent winning ways on the road during this interesting three-game stretch?
The Michigan Insider previews the upcoming game against Indiana.
Last Meeting: Michigan defeated Indiana 34-10 at home in 2014.
What a win means for Michigan: If Michigan has postseason aspirations, these last three games are must wins for the program. The final three-game stretch has two away games and a home game against a top five opponent in Ohio State. A win against Indiana is obviously huge here (and the reasons don't have to be outlined.) Of course, with recent road woes, a win on the road would be big for the program. Having the team prepared for road games is something that I'm sure Jim Harbaugh has made a huge focus for this program. A win against Indiana is something they should accomplish and, it won't mean much as far as ranking implications go, these are the games U-M must win if it wants to compete for a conference championship.
What a win means for Indiana: Who doesn't want to play the role of the spoiler? That's exactly what Indiana would be if it defeated U-M on Saturday. Of course, it would love to defeat the Wolverines simply because U-M has dominated the series (a 34-10 victory a season ago proves that) and it would love to get on track. The team has some firepower and the university needs to find some confidence in head coach Kevin Wilson. A victory over a rising U-M team could certainly bring it back (if it ever left).
Player to watch: We won't single out a player from Indiana this week. Instead, we'll bring an entire unit into the conversation... the Hoosier offense.
Record aside (4-5, 0-5 in conference), this Hoosier offense has some firepower in it. Guys like quarterback Nate Sudfeld, running back Jordan Howard and receivers Ricky Jones and Simmie Cobbs Jr. are all capable of scoring on any given down. The Hoosiers have been able to score on the best teams in the conference but the porous defense has gotten in their way multiple times.
This is where U-M's defense must come to play. Sure, the offense should be able to score points on the poor Hoosier defense, but can the Wolverines defense avoid the mental errors and get back to what it was early in the season? Sudfeld will test the secondary as they love to pass the football. Sudfeld currently has over 2200 yards passing with 15 touchdowns and only throwing five interceptions. U-M's running game has also been an issue as of late, allowing over 130 yards to Rutgers a week ago. Indiana has two players that could move the football on the ground as well in Howard and Devine Redding. Howard is nearing 1000 yards on the season (961) and has seven touchdowns on the ground. Whereas Redding has added 463 yards on the ground and has also contributed seven rushing touchdowns.
The big question is, of course, can the U-M defense step up and shut down the Hoosier offense? Ryan Glasgow's health could be an issue but there's nothing there to prove that it can't.
What they're saying: All quotes used from IUHoosiers.com.
Head coach Kevin Wilson on U-M from last year to this year: "Well, I think, one, they've not been far off now. They got 10 guys, starters back from last year. They were last year, what, top two, three, four in most defensive stats. Prideful team. I think as probably they've cleaned up their offense, there's probably more team unity, team synergy, where I think last year it was some of their issues. The way they played offensively they struggled, took the air out of the team, the defense. I think as the offense has gotten cleaner, played solid over there, playing solid football, winning football, they're different, but they're similar to Iowa. They've got it going in all three phases and complementing each other. They're good in many areas, but the defensive strength, it was a really good defense, now it's being complemented the way the offense is playing. They're taking care of the football. They've got nice balance on offense, kicking it well. All of that is helping the defense play great."
Wilson on Rudock: "I think the first game they struggled. They had a couple interceptions, maybe one for a pick six. Might have been the balance of that one loss. They basically had victory in hand in their other loss. He's kind of played winning football since the first. That goes back to Coach Harbaugh and his pedigree as a quarterback. They do a great job. They use multiple tight ends, do a good job of personnel running the ball, protecting the quarterback, getting one-on-ones. He's a veteran player in a really good system. He's getting some great coaching on how to play the game. Playing it well. Playing it very well."
Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns on U-M defense: "They're going to bring a lot of challenges. Easily, arguably one of the best defenses in our league. They're stopping the run at a high level, not allowing a lot of points. They're stout up front, very strong. Backers are veteran. They're experienced. Their secondary is as aggressive. Quite honestly, in all phases they're going to be a challenge."