Each week we scout Michigan's opponent. We'll start with the basics, and then explore some relevant match-ups. For those that want to know more, we'll sprinkle in a mixture of history, reflection, and philosophy for a comprehensive look.
Indiana (3-0) at Michigan (3-0)
(W) Eastern Kentucky 19-13
(W) Western Michigan 23-19
(W) at Akron 38-21
(W) Western Michigan 31-7
(W) Notre Dame 38-34
(W) Eastern Michigan 45-17
IU Players to Watch:
There is no truth to the rumors that family farms significantly decreased in Michigan in 1967 and 1987. Although it could be said you could bet the ‘family farm' that Michigan would beat Indiana in football almost every year and get away with it.
The Wolverines have won the last 15 against the Hoosiers dating back to a 14-10 loss in Bloomington in 1987. The last Michigan loss to IU, in Ann Arbor, 1967.
While Michigan fans are back on the bandwagon after a 3-0 and a likely 4-0 start, most people in Indiana are taking a wait and see approach. They are either counting down the days to basketball practice or paying attention to Notre Dame Football until they are sure the Hoosiers are a legitimate title contender. There's not much there to suggest the Hoosiers will give Michigan a scare, but Head Coach Bill Lynch has plenty to like about his team and how they've handled the change in offensive philosophy.
With Kellen Lewis (Antwaan Randle-El facsimile) off the team, Lynch has scrapped the spread and has employed the Pistol. Last year's 3-9 team was bust or boom on offense and mostly boom. Their attack was horizontal and not vertical. In the Spring, Lynch mentioned that they lacked consistency especially on 1st and 3rd downs. So out are the bubble screens hoping to gain big yards and in is a balanced attack with the goal of having as many passing yards as running yards. Last week against Akron, the Hoosiers ran for 180 yds and passed for 175 in the 38-21 win. It was Indiana's most complete win of the season. It was their first decisive win. They achieved their goal of having balance on offense.
"A lot was said coming into the year about the pistol and running the ball," Lynch said this week. "The whole idea of the pistol was to gain a system of balance that we could count on from week to week... I am more concerned with that matter than the total number of yards. What we are trying to become is more balanced and tougher to defend. I think we are heading in the right direction with our balance."
To appreciate how this Hoosier team is at 3-0 for the first time since 1990 and understand how much further they have to go, a brief summary of their three games is in order.
In the season opening win against Eastern Kentucky, 19-13, QB Ben Chappell (Jr. #4) passed for a career high 326 yards, but the team ran for only 73. They had a comfortable 19-7 lead despite numerous mistakes. There were three turnovers, eight penalties, and dropped passes. IU would be shutout in the 2nd half. The Colonels, yes that's right, the Colonels, were primed to take the lead in the fourth quarter after having 1st and goal from the IU 5 yd line. Cornerback Ray Fisher (Sr. #7, the team's # 2 receiver in ‘08) forces a fumble and IU recovers. The game would end when safety Nick Polk (Sr. #8) deflected a pass away in the endzone to preserve the victory.
Another home game would be next and it would be against Western Michigan. The week before, the Broncos lost in Ann Arbor 31-7. Once again, IU was unable to score a touchdown in the 2nd half, and needed another defensive stand at the end of the game. A chip shot FG in the fourth quarter would have iced the game for the Hoosiers, but it was blocked. With the help of three personal foul penalties plus a pass interference call, Indiana's defense for the 2nd straight week was facing a 1st and goal from the IU 5 yd line in the fourth quarter. This time, however, it was with less than two minutes left and the game on the line. Just like last week, the Hoosiers forced and recovered the fumble and hung on to win the game. Indiana rushed for 187 and passed for 185 to achieve the balance they wanted, but were 3-13 on 3rd down and their penalties went up to 13 for the game and 21 for the season.
At Akron, for their first road game of the season, the Hoosiers would get on the board first with Fisher returning the opening kickoff for a 91 yd touchdown. IU would not need a defensive stand late in the game as they made plenty throughout, tallying four interceptions off back-up Zip QB, Matt Rodgers. A balanced offense was achieved for a second straight week, and IU was able to score touchdowns (3) in the 2nd half for the first time this season. Entering the game the Hoosiers had just two touchdowns in eight trips to the red zone. That week IU finished with four TD's in five trips. IU's penalties dropped to four. The Hoosier 3rd down efficiency improved to 10-15, but they had another blocked field goal and punt blocked that was returned for a TD. Overall, though, Lynch was finally pleased with his team's overall performance.
"It was good to see in the second half that we were finally able to score some points and create some turnovers. The difference really was the turnovers and the field position we were able to play with in the second half. It was good to be able to punch a couple of them in there in the red zone which hadn't done the last couple weeks."
Match-Ups to Watch
Indiana's strength is its defensive line and in particular the defensive ends. Greg Middleton (Sr. #92) set a school record and led the nation in sacks (16) in 2007. While being double or triple-teamed in 2008, Jammie Kirlew (Sr. #57) took advantage by tallying 19.5 tackles-for-loss. By doing so he was elected 1st Team Big 10 by the media. Together, they have 40 career sacks, the best by an active tandem in the NCAA. With some solid contributions from their tackles, this formidable line will present the most significant test to Michigan in this game.
For the 2nd straight week, Michigan's offensive line will be juggling. David Moosman (Sr. #60) is expected to return after missing a week due to a shoulder dislocation. However, he won't be returning at his natural RG position. Against Eastern Michigan, David Molk (So. # 50), played the game with a broken foot. It was diagnosed this past Monday. Molk is expected to be out for the next 4-6 weeks. Moosman is expected to replace him at Center. Either John Ferrara (Jr. # 74) will start at RG or RT Mark Huyge (So. #72) will slide to RG and Perry Dorrestein (Jr. #79) will come in at RT. Expect the latter.
Michigan leads the conference in scoring (38.0 ppg) and rushing offense (270.7 ypg). IU is second in the conference in both sacks (9) and in rush defense (76 ypg). With Michigan's line reshuffling, this match-up gets more intriguing. On Tuesday, Lynch may have hinted at strategy.
"I think the longer yardage you play benefits Kirlew and Middleton even though it always doesn't show in sacks, but shows in pressures. I think we have been better in early downs to put them in third-and-long. That plays into our strength and I think the defensive staff has done a good job of mixing coverage. That was something we worked hard on in the spring and preseason."
On the other side of the ball, Lynch couldn't be happier with his QB, Chappell despite being arguably the most pedestrian signal caller in the Big 10. He's thrown three touchdowns and three picks. His longest completion is 35 yards. He hardly leaves the pocket having five rushes for 3 yards, but Chappell manages the game well and hasn't done anything to cost his team. He's been sacked just once, which makes Lynch happy.
"I think Ben has also done a great job of getting rid of the ball. Ben is very smart and I think really good quarterbacks in the passing game have a clock in their heads. They know when it's time to get rid of it. I don't think he has run for a scramble once in the first few games. He understands the passing game and knows we don't win or lose a game on stats like completion percentage. So he knows when to throw it away and play the next down."
If IU wants a realistic chance of winning, Chappell can't afford to always play it safe. He may have to start playing outside his comfort zone and hang on to the ball until the very last moment because Brandon Graham, Obi Ezeh, and Steve Brown will be coming after him.
ENJOY THE GAME!