|Expect to see a lot of this: Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell picking
on Michigan’s secondary.
Rush Offense vs. Indiana Rush Defense
Michigan is currently the #2 rushing offense in the country with 331.25 yards a game. Meanwhile, Indiana has been giving up 177 yards a game to the likes of Western Kentucky, Akron, and Towson to rank #92 in the nation. This is a bad matchup for the Hoosiers. Despite the return of starting middle linebacker Tyler Replogle, who missed last week’s game with a concussion, the Wolverines should be able to have their way. Quarterback Denard Robinson is the leading rusher in the NCAA, and the only way Indiana should be able to stop him is by bruising his knee after a 30-yard run. One caveat, though – there’s a strong possibility that running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint (shoulder; 2 carries for 66 yards and 1 TD last week) and Michael Shaw (knee; 44 carries, 256 yards, 5 TDs this year) will miss Saturday’s game. That leaves sophomore Vincent Smith, redshirt sophomore Michael Cox, and freshman Stephen Hopkins to pick up the slack in the running back rotation. That shouldn’t matter too much, although those two missing players are big-play threats for Michigan’s offense.
Pass Offense vs. Indiana Pass Defense
Michigan’s quarterbacks have only been sacked once this year, and the likelihood of Indiana’s front seven catching up to Denard Robinson is low. The Hoosiers have only mustered four sacks this season in those three games against feeble opponents. The biggest matchup problem here is 2010 Denard Robinson vs. 2009 Denard Robinson. If 2010 Denard Robinson keeps up his torrid pace and throws like the 16th most efficient QB in the country, then this should be a clear victory for the Wolverines once again. I haven’t seen any evidence that Robinson will regress to 2009 form, but his performance so far this season seems too good to be true. He’s bound to have a bad game at some point, but will it happen against Indiana? Well . . . probably not.
Rush Defense vs. Indiana Rush Offense
The Wolverines have done a better job of limiting big runs in 2010. With eight men consistently in the box, Michigan’s run defense hasn’t been great (#53 in the country, 135.25 yards a game), but big plays have been rare. Hopefully that can remain true this week, too, because leading rusher Darius Willis (46 carries, 219 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 2 TDs) had an 85-yard TD against Michigan in 2009, and wideout Tandon Doss had a 25-yard TD in last year’s game, too. One of the most memorable images from the 2009 season was of Willis outrunning safety Jordan Kovacs and cornerback J.T. Floyd to the endzone. That was not a happy moment. The only guy who had a prayer of catching Willis from behind was safety Troy Woolfolk, who’s currently healing from a broken ankle. Michigan’s secondary is even a bit slower this year, as Floyd and Kovacs are back but Woolfolk’s replacement is Cam Gordon, who gets outrun by 265 lb. tight ends and MAC wide receivers. Improved play from Michigan’s linebackers – as well as the eight-man front – should be able to stall Willis a little better this year, but there will be some frustrating moments.
Pass Defense vs. Indiana Pass Offense
This is what scares me. Bad opponents or not, Indiana averages 304 yards a game through the air (#11 in the country). Michigan played a couple patsies and Notre Dame, but ranks #105 in the country in pass defense (264 yards a game) and #55 in pass efficiency defense. Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell threw for 270 yards last year, and he’s supported by some good-sized receivers with decent but not great speed. Free safety Cameron Gordon has been a liability in pass coverage, and I expect Indiana to test him repeatedly; the Hoosiers would be silly not to try. Michigan hasn’t shown the ability to shut down a decent passing game, and I don’t think this is the week that they’ll step up. Michigan fans will just have to pony up and expect some big plays through the air.
- Denard Robinson rushes for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns
- Ben Chappell increases the team’s passing average by throwing for 305 yards or more
- Michigan finally gets a big play out of the return game
- My preseason upset pick will be proven wrong because . . .
- . . . Michigan will win 45-31
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