Other stuff here: Ace FFFF!
||Michigan vs Indiana
Ann Arbor, MI
||3:30 PM Eastern
October 19th, 2013
||overcast, low 50s, 30% chance of rain, 10 MPH winds
Indiana is the new Northwestern, an outfit with an irritatingly good offense whose defense gets clubbed so regularly that they struggle towards bowl eligibility. They've given up 450 rushing yards to Navy, 35 points to Indiana State, 45 to Missouri, 42 to previously-moribund Michigan State.
If only Michigan's rushing offense could be described as "moribund"…
Run Offense vs Indiana
This is high up in a search for "nihilists" thanks to Midnight Maize
Michigan's coming off the worst tailback performance in the history of the program in game I charted and have the tailback a +6.5 for the day, so the foxhole is crowded with atheists. Nihilists. What have you.
The good news(?) is that if there is a program on the schedule that provides an ability to get healthy, it is the extremely permeable Hoosiers. Leaving aside the Navy game, here are Indiana's outings against BCS competition:
Two hammerings and then Penn State providing a little sobriety about the performance of Michigan's rushing defense last week. Ace noted that their line is bad and their linebackers are bad, so they are bad. Think Indiana.
Of course, we're all in this foxhole waiting for the next shell in re: Michigan's running game. It got so bad against Penn State that savior Chris Bryant was pulled for walk-on Joey Burzynski, who didn't do any better against Penn State's loaded-up box. This week damn near anything might happen at guard, including an honest-to-God start for Burzynski or tackle Erik Magnuson getting his first career start at a position he has not played in his career at Michigan. Or both! After a miserable game in Happy Valley, reports are that Kyle Kalis's job is under siege as well, and deservedly.
This is time to full-on panic. Michigan's already pressed that button once with a mid-season switch; they are now pounding it. What's more, the previous move was plausible—Glasgow is major-college-sized and had played a lot of center in the spring and Bryant was a guard who had been injured for a while. Sticking a 6'1" dude and/or a tackle in when both weigh a 70s-era 285 pounds is not plausible.
Michigan will have to be better against Indiana if only because futility on the level of last week only comes around once every 64 years, if that; also Indiana is horrible. But no one's going to be talking about how the line is finally on the right track after this one.
Key Matchup: Guards versus anyone. Is the DT/interior OL matchup an advantage for Indiana? Think about that.
[Hit THE JUMP for WHY U HAVE TO BE GOOD AT OFFENSE]
Pass Offense vs Indiana
The Devin Gardner Yards Per Attempt And Turnover Extravaganza visits the Hoosiers this weekend, promising events in all directions. Indiana's hasn't been miserable in the YPA department this year but the consistency with which they give up yards has led to some outlandish statlines:
- James Franklin, Missouri: 32/47, 343 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
- Christian Hackenberg, PSU: 30/55, 340 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
- Connor Cook, MSU: 22/31, 235 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT
55 attempts from a true freshman and a MSU quarterback over 200 yards passing. Wonders. They acquired five sacks in those three games, a 3.6% rate that Michigan would be disappointed by. Indiana will drop deep and let you have underneath stuff without harassing your quarterback much. They hope you make some mistakes, please, and have no illusion they will cause any themselves.
So how in the hell does that interact with the God-Emperor Of Amplitude? Probably a lot like James Franklin did, bombing it to Dorial Green-Beckham for a 41-yard catch and seven others besides. Marcus Lucas also went over 100 yards in that game and a third receiver neared 80. Our DGB is Devin Funchess, Lucas is Gallon, and oh right Franklin threw two interceptions while running for 61 yards.
Sounds about par for the course what with Funchess establishing himself a terrifying actual wide receiver who occasionally puts his hand down, Gallon's consistent excellence, and Gardner's tendency to be awesome just before he puts his hand in a meat grinder.
Key matchup: Gardner versus himself, always.
Run Defense vs Indiana
On defense is where it gets hairy. Indiana's adopted a passing-oriented jet-tempo spread offense, what with Nate Sudfeld being about as mobile as his offensive line. Against MSU Indiana called 23 runs against 52 passes; against PSU the ratio was to 32 to 45. Those runs tend to be successful against middling defenses like—sigh—Penn State's but only found erratic success against MSU and little against Mizzou.
The MSU number is one 64-yard touchdown in the first quarter and 27 additional carries for an average of 2.9 yards a pop.
Indiana's main guy here is sophomore Tevin Coleman, who's used IU's tuneup games and a couple of Big Ten bursts to grab an impressive 6.1 YPC; he's also a frequent target on passes with 16 receptions. Coleman has decent power, good speed, and is comfortable with one-cut zone running the likes of which are familiar to Michigan fans. This is his long touchdown against—sigh—Penn State:
This is going to be the usual call for plenty of Quinton Washington, as the pass rush threat a second three-tech brings is not worth the decreased run efficiency, especially against a screen-and-short-pass-mad offense.
Michigan's going to have to be on top of a lot of misdirection here, as IU will zone read even with Sudfeld and will bring in Tre Roberson for spurts, especially if Sudfeld's not doing well; Indiana also throws every screen you've ever heard of and several that haven't been invented yet.
Things get more dangerous on the ground when Roberson comes in. Roberson has gotten only spot duty this year but did come in against Michigan State to put up an 11/17, 122 yard, 2 TD, 1 INT line in garbarge or garbage-ish time. He is a dangerous athlete, or at least has been in the past. Not so much this year, as opponents have kept him bottled up.
On Michigan's side of the ball, it's been tough for an often-undersized defensive line to hold up against doubles, especially in the nickel package. Despite that, they've done well enough and the linebackers have been there consistently enough to make long plays unheard of. Michigan hasn't given up a rush of 20 yards yet, and the two longest runs of the year were quarterback scrambles by Minnesota and Akron. Indiana poses a stiffer test than anyone Michigan's played so far in that department; that's still an impressive record. Against a finesse outfit like the Hoosiers they should do well as long as they don't do very poorly on a couple plays.
Key Matchup: Morgan and Ross versus misdirection. Taking away the quick strike on confusing short stuff goes a long way towards putting the clamps down on this offense. It'll be tough, especially against tempo.
Pass Defense vs Indiana
Latimer can play
Michigan's seen this before in incarnations competent and not: a screen-heavy passing spread that stretches the field in all directions. Indiana's incarnation is only okay. Sudfeld struggled to 4.6 YPA against MSU and 5.9 with three interceptions against Missouri; he was much better against—sigh—Penn State's leaky secondary, with 8.4 YPA.
Indiana does have diverse and sundry weapons here. Shane Wynn is Indiana Norfleet, a 5'7" slot with an impressive-for-a-slot 19 yards a catch. This is a punt return, but it gives an idea of what we're dealing with there:
He is an all-purpose weapon Michigan will have to watch out for on screens and end-arounds and all manner of whatnot.
Flanking Wynn are Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes, experienced, tall, fast-but-not-FAST guys who threaten vertically. Latimer's coming off a 51 catch, 805-yard sophomore year and is getting some NFL draft buzz; Hughes, a senior, has fallen behind him a bit in the pecking order after also drawing a lot of hype early in his career. They're both quality options.
Finally, senior tight end Ted Bolser had 41 catches a year ago; at 6'6", 250, he's a seam threat and will probably end up on an NFL roster himself after this year.
The problem for the Hoosiers is their line, which does not show up in the sack column much because of the nature of their offense but limits what they can do as far as bombing it downfield goes. Ace noted 5 pressures on around 25 downfield attempts against Michigan State—that's a ton.
Sudfeld is also a bit of a weak link; Ace had him down for a whopping 10 inaccurate balls. Roberson's probably a downgrade in that department.
Michigan's coped relatively well with the many passing spreads they've gone up against. They're mostly a bend but don't break outfit that leaves their safeties back and waits for your mistake to get aggressive. When combined with a mediocre organic pass rush and a tendency to get out of rush lanes, this can get frustrating. The results have been good overall, though.
Michigan goes three deep with experienced corners and has put their best, Countess, in the slot. That should help contain Wynn; concerns about the outside corners getting exposed are a lot smaller after Michigan had a good day against Allen Robinson, minus Allen Robinson occasionally being a freak. Channing Stribling might be an option again as Michigan tries to check Indiana's lanky outside WRs; he screwed up on one of the late PSU completions but it wasn't quite as bad as an earlier touchdown given up by Courtney Avery on a badly located back shoulder fade.
Key Matchup: Latimer/Hughes vs Avery/Stribling/Taylor. Indiana's outside WRs are no joke; Michigan coped with PSU but "coped" is probably the right word.
Blargle. Fargle blargle.
Right. As a team, Indiana is averaging 15 yards a punt return, though that one return from Wynn above against Indiana State is distorting that heavily. The good news: Indiana has only returned seven punts on the year because their defense is so bad. Michigan should try not to punt. It might get scary if there's one guy within 15 yards of Wynn on the catch.
Kicker Mitch Ewald is putting about two-third of his KOs in the endzone and has made about 80% of his field goals over a four-year career. Punter Erich Toth is average.
Michigan's Brendan Gibbons picked a bad time to miss from 40 and 33; he is generally solid otherwise. Punting… guh, return central. Returns have been steady with Drew Dileo; Dennis Norfleet is perpetually one guy away from a big kickoff runback.
Key Matchup: YOU PUT THE BALL THROUGH THE UPRIGHTS
it's made of flan
- Devin Gardner's first pass is a handoff to Fitzgerald Toussaint that goes for –3 yards and it's still somehow intercepted.
- Michigan runs the ball a lot.
- Indiana's tempo screws with Michigan.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Drew Dileo gets more snaps than tight ends not named Funchess.
- Michigan's comfort in their nickel package is apparent as Indiana screens get snuffed out on the regular.
- Making IU drive the field results in red zone woes for the Hoosiers.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 (Baseline 5; –1 for You Are Indiana, +1 for …And I Think You Win The IU DT/M OL Matchup, –1 for By Golly Michigan Is Prepped For Passing Spreads, +1 for You May Be Indiana But You Just Beat PSU By 20, –1 for Vegas Line, Vegas Line, Vegas Line, +1 for Oh Good A Team That Looks At The Playclock As A Resource)
Desperate need to win level: 7 (Baseline 5; +1 for I Guess If We Run The Table We Could Still Win The Division, –1 for Uhhhhh, +1 for Home Loss To Indiana Is Not A Good Resume Builder, +1 for I Really Need Next Week To Not Be This Week, –1 for I Feel Henri The Otter Of Ennui Just Around The Corner, +1 for Also There's A Bye So If Next Week Is This Week It's Two Full Weeks, –1 for Yes We Admit It This Team Is No Good. +1 for But Indiana)
Loss will cause me to... desperately pine for Alex Mitchell.
Win will cause me to... brace for impact with November.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Normally I'd say something like Michigan will grind down the Indiana defense because that's just what happens when Indiana plays Michigan. Obviously that is no longer an option. Unless it is. With Lewan back, the tackle over business threatens to be more effective, especially since Indiana's defensive line does not sport a Da'Quan Jones. They have one moderately disruptive defensive end, who'll still probably get clocked. And it's almost impossible to be as bad as Michigan was on Saturday if only because of luck. Michigan will move the ball in stops and starts, relying on Gardner to bail them out of some second and third and longs; they can actually overpower the Hoosiers in the red zone.
On the other side of the ball, Indiana will find success closer to that they found against MSU and Missouri than against Penn State. Michigan's set up pretty well to defend this offense with Ross and Morgan sniffing out plays and Countess patrolling the slot areas. They will get various things when Michigan guesses wrong or gets caught in the wrong defense; they won't skate up and down the field. Runs will be middling successes at best and they'll slog it out fast.
Tempo will screw with Michigan, providing a drive or two that causes some hair-clutching, and the outside receivers are good enough to get a couple of deep ones. Indiana scores in the twenties; Michigan barely outdistances them.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Michigan adheres to their previous gameplan almost in full until such point as they get nervous, and then the scoring offense comes out. Tackle over is still deployed, and against Indiana it kind of works. Toussaint averages over three yards a carry!
- Gardner throws flan interceptions and fumbles the ball orange times. He is replaced by a talking banana in the third quarter. The banana says things like "would you look at that, I'm a banana" and "how does it make sense to bring more people who want to kill me near the line of scrimmage?" The banana quits after the game to join a banana Smiths cover band.
- The defense has a rather good day that's obscured by a lot of possessions and a lot of yards for Indiana. Field goals are the order of the day, like they were against PSU and Notre Dame.
- Michigan, 30-26