Preview: Indiana

Submitted by Brian on September 25th, 2009 at 2:22 PM

Indiana_Hoosiers The Essentials

WHAT #19 Michigan vs Indiana
WHERE Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN 12:00 EST, September 26th, 2008
THE LINE Michigan -21
TELEVISION Nationwide on ESPN2
WEATHER Mid 60s w/ slight chance of rain

Run Offense vs. Indiana

Indiana's defense is currently 15th nationally, albeit after a steady diet of dink-and-dunk MAC teams and one I-AA opponent that's not even the most prominent directional school in its state. (Western Kentucky won a I-AA national title a few years ago and is I-A's newest member. You may remember them from such mascots as "oh my god is that a walking zit.")

The numbers to date, sacks omitted:

  Carries Gained Lost Total TD YPC
EKU 27 155 10 140 0 5.2
Western Michigan* 25 76 18 58 1 2.3
Akron 27 137 14 123 1 4.5

*(Western also had two "team" rushes for –22 yards. Those were either kneel-downs or horrible snaps over the punters head that result in a safety (just guessing) and are also omitted.)

Despite the raw numbers, that probably doesn't bode well against an offense that just blew up for 380 yards against Eastern Michigan and had 5.5 YPC against Notre Dame the week before. Indiana beat writer Chris Korman on the defensive line:

Indiana has five defensive tackles that play but none of them played a snap at the position before the season. One is a true freshman, three are redshirt freshmen and another here moved over from the offensive line. Their linebackers are average at best, (Tyler) Replogle is a pretty good rush linebacker but otherwise they have guys who run themselves out of position, aren’t exactly as big as you’d want a Big Ten linebacker to be so it’s just not there. Like you said, they get gashed a lot and they haven’t played a real good running team. Akron just had no running attack and that’s where that game got away from them. But Michigan and those big backs, you just wonder how Indiana is going to stop them. They haven’t stopped someone who wanted to run the ball since I’ve been here, three years. They’ve never put it down and stopped a team.

So maybe it's more relevant that Indiana was 91st in rushing defense last year. They were 35th after three weeks against—hey!—Western Kentucky, Murray State, and about-to-be-rampant-through-the-MAC Ball State. How did that work out? In their never-ending quest to wear Javon Ringer's legs down to tiny nubs, Michigan State went for 236 yards on 52 carries. So… yeah. For the 15th-ranked rushing defense they are not exactly intimidating.

Michigan, meanwhile, is now the #3 rushing offense in the country after that aforementioned yardage explosion against Eastern. That probably won't last and Michigan would do well to come vaguely near those numbers even against a defense as apparently young and undermanned as Indiana's.

Complicating matters is the broken bone in center David Molk's foot, which will see him miss the next 4-6 weeks. Michigan will slide RG David Moosman to center, RT Mark Huyge to guard, and insert Perry Dorrestein at RT. Last week Moosman's absence saw John Ferrara enter the lineup at RG, so maybe there was some discontent with Ferrara's play? Either that or Michigan's noticed that Huyge isn't great in pass protection but is a thumping run blocker and is experimenting with an arrangement that minimizes his weaknesses and maximizes his strengths. Dorrestein was functional as an injury replacement a year ago. There will be some hiccups here as two guys move to new positions and another draws into the lineup. Moosman might get replaced, too, as he missed last week with a shoulder issue that Michigan won't want to chance aggravating.

All that said, Michigan should expect to put up the 5.5 they did against Notre Dame at the very least on a day that figures to be a bewildering array of handoffs they've already shown.

Key Matchup: Probably David Moosman versus Being David Molk. I've long been a proponent of the leetle center's skills and fit in the offense. This week is the first of 4-6 without his services; if Molk can provide a reasonable facsimile it will be encouraging for the future.

Pass Offense vs. Indiana

Is there going to be one? Will there have to be one? Eh… maybe. This section of the game contains the most favorable matchup for the Hoosiers, as they have a pair of veteran defensive ends somewhere between competent and All Big Ten. Back to Korman—here he's responding to the question "how does Indiana win"?

Oh, uh, it would have to be, really have to be, the two defensive ends are really the key. If they can get some consistent pressure, shake up Michigan’s offense, get to the young quarterbacks and certainly Michigan is going to be smart enough to try and run the ball a lot but if Indiana can get a few stops and then force a 3rd-and-long and you go back and get to the quarterback and that makes it a lot easier.

Indiana did pick off Akron four times, but their starting quarterback was out that game and the backup is not Tate Forcier. I don't think Michigan will give Indiana the opportunity to tee off on Forcier. What throws they do make will be heavily screen and rollout based, and since the rollouts all come off the zone read Indiana will be forced to abandon the scrape exchange (which doesn't work all that well, especially when your defensive tackles are all freshmen) or eliminate their defensive ends from quarterback duty.

The Indiana secondary was horrible, horrible, horrible last year, for what it's worth: IU finished 106th in pass efficiency D and 105th in yardage despite those defensive ends getting the Hoosiers up to 26th in sacks. IU's leading receiver from last year was moved into the secondary in an attempt to staunch the bleeding, but that only opens IU up to MGoBlog season preview heuristic #2: if you move someone to another position and then start him, that position group is a disaster zone. So, yeah, disaster zone. When Michigan passes, guys will be open, with chance of long pass increasing because of potential ineptitude.

Key Matchup: Michigan tackles versus the IU defensive ends. If, oh, uh, Indiana's going to be a threat it'll be because they've crushed the precious in the backfield.

Run Defense vs. Indiana

Ah, the frightening bit. Indiana lines up in the pistol and, according to "Behind The Schemes" on the Big Ten Network, has run 44 of 46 rushing plays on which they have a tight end to the tight end side.* That might be a setup for some counters or whatever, but it'll be interesting to see if Michigan responds to this by aligning Mike Martin and Brandon Graham to the strong side of the defense consistently. Last week EMU aligned in a fashion that caused Michigan to expose the Roh/Van Bergen side of the line to an overloaded TE-heavy front, and it was from this that Eastern gained a lot of their rushing yards. Clearly, opponents will be gameplanning ways to attack the lighter side of Michigan's line; watch for potential Michigan ripostes to this.

Indiana's vaunted… okay, not vaunted. Maybe "over-discussed." Indiana's over-discussed pistol formation is supposed to be a pounding up-the-middle sort of run game which features big linemen and runs up the gut from hefty backs—both of Indiana's guys are in the 215 range—but it hasn't exactly excelled so far. After three games against poor competition, Indiana is the #65 rushing attack in the country and is averaging four yards a rush. Unfortunately, Michigan hasn't been much better. They're #56 against the rush and gave up 179 yards to Eastern Michigan last week at 3.7 yards a pop. Notre Dame shredded Michigan for 5.1 yards a carry.

Expecting Michigan to shut down just about any rushing attack seems foolhardy at this point. What you're looking for is something resembling improvement from the linebackers, I think, as the defensive line isn't suddenly going to have another offseason of Barwis under its belt any time soon.

*(Apparently. I didn't know the show existed, so I'm taking that from a message board report.)

Key Matchup: Ryan Van Bergen against Interior Double Teams. RVB has had a tough time holding up against doubles so far; improvement from him would be encouraging going into a couple games against tough-minded Big Ten sorts.

Pass Defense vs. Indiana

Last week Michigan went up against a quarterback who threw around 30 time a game for under 200 yards, averaged under six yards an attempt, and gave off the distinct aura of an inconsistent dink-and-dunk sort without the offensive line or receivers to challenge deep or break short stuff long.

This week:

Ben Chappel Att Cmp Int Yards TD YPA
Western Michigan 28 18 0 185 0 6.6
Akron 28 18 1 163 2 5.8

There was an explosion against EKU, but even if I'm down on this defense I'm not ready to pretend a mediocre I-AA team is in any way a useful comparison to Michigan even if Mike Williams's sprained ankle will hold him out this weekend (he's a "game time decision" but was listed as doubtful on this week's injury report), paving the way for yet another game in which a walk-on is on the field for virtually every defensive snap. Hello long sentences.

Anyway: Indiana's main receiving threats are a couple of guys on the outside who are sort of anonymous, not huge, not short, not shifty. They're just guys. Tandon Doss is the leading receiver and I'm only bringing up the receivers' names because the second prime guy is the spectacularly-named Damarlo Belcher. Doss will probably draw Warren, as he's already got 21 receptions on the year and looks to be the prime downfield threat.

Key Matchup: Brandon Graham versus Life Hates Brandon Graham.

Special Teams

Zoltan was back to his usual ways and Olesnavage bounced back from shanking a short one against Notre Dame to hit a FG of moderate distance. Indiana's special teams are okay.

One prime annoyance from last game: Greg Mathews gave away at least 50 yards of field position against Eastern by not fielding catching easy balls.I know we don't want to fumble, but those were bad decisions.



21-point spreads against Indiana do not get kittens, but here's something else:

Cheap Thrills

Worry if...

  • Michigan decides to test their tackles against the IU DEs and comes up short.
  • The infirmary list gets any longer.
  • Denard continues to struggle throwing the ball.

Cackle with knowing glee if...

  • David Moosman looks like an adequate replacement for Molk.
  • We get a new punt returner.
  • There is not massive regression on all fronts.

Fear/Paranoia Level: 1 out of 10. (Baseline 5, –1 for Probably Don't Even Have To Throw To Win, –1 for And For That Statement The Ghost Of Bo Will Smile Fortune Upon Us, –1 for No, Seriously, Their Defensive Tackles Are All Freshman And Converts, –1 for And Even If We Do Throw We Can Do That Now, –1 for Indiana Doesn't Even Have Their One Scary Guy This Year, +1 for But We Are The Sort Of Team That Starts A Walk-On).

Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for Remember Last Week, Yeah All That Stuff Goes For This Week, +1 for Let's Re-establish That This Is Michigan, Okay, And Does Not Lose To Poor Versions of Indiana, +1 for I Like Being Happy, +1 for Seriously, It's Nice, +1 for Mmmmm Serotonin.)

Loss will cause me to... drive to Mexico at the head of a caravan of escapees, screaming "FOLLOW ME TO FREEDOM."

Win will cause me to...  shrug.

The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:

Remember what happened last week? Yeah, that. I guess the spread is a field goal closer.

Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:

  • Brandon Graham never sacks anyone again.
  • Michael Shaw cracks 100 yards.
  • People start seriously speculating as to whether a walk-on is a better safety than the Michigan version of Ryan Mundy was.
  • Denard completes 50% of his passes again, except this time the ones that get caught get caught by the right guys.
  • Michigan, 42-17.



September 25th, 2009 at 3:14 PM ^

Both receivers are also fairly physical, and have gained yards after contact. You might expect some jump balls directed Cissoko's way.

If so, it'd be a bit of a surprise though. Indiana hasn't connected often for big plays to their receivers. The Hoosiers' longest reception against Akron was 18 yards. Against Western it was 26.

Finally, the most telling fact about Indiana is this: on the final play in two of their three games against weak competition, the other team was throwing into the Hoosiers' end zone for the win. This is not a team that could put away MAC level and below teams; they trailed Akron, who was missing their starting QB, with under a minute to play in the half.


September 25th, 2009 at 2:42 PM ^

Agreed the punt return game hasn't looked stellar this year. However, I like having a veteran guy back there who isn't going to take stupid chances that end up in fumbles as we saw too many times last year. If it takes fair catches and letting a ball go every now and again to keep possession, I'll take it at this point...GO BLUE!


September 25th, 2009 at 3:07 PM ^

... not sure if you read the comments or if there is specific language you use for the "Cheap Thrills" of which I am unaware, but can I recommend we never say:

"Win will cause me to... shrug." I think after last year there will never be a win that will make me shrug. If we win this week, we'll be 4-0. We'll have surpassed our total wins from last year. I mean, that's awesome. That's not just a shrug. We'll be going into MSU week 4-0 and starting to look like a contender.


September 25th, 2009 at 3:08 PM ^

...Moosman in this line:

"This week is the first of 4-6 without his services; if Molk can provide a reasonable facsimile it will be encouraging for the future."


September 25th, 2009 at 3:12 PM ^

that Vladimir Emilien can get on the field so we can commence with the cliched tackling references we've waited almost 10 months to use.

After all, Brent Musberger is working the Michigan - Iowa game in 2 weeks, and you know he's got his Impaler jokes ready.


September 25th, 2009 at 3:17 PM ^

why Rich Rod would keep Molk out of the lineup?
Sure he broke a bone in his foot, but it's not like he only has one "foot bone", there ARE others.

Didn't Molk learn anything from his time at Barwis Beach?


September 25th, 2009 at 3:24 PM ^

I read Brian to mean that he'd "shrug" in specific response to beating Indiana... that is, we won't know a lot about Michigan after they beat Indiana. Sure, being 4-0 would be amazing, and trust me, I'm right with you in celebrating any and every win that UM gets this season... but Brian's point is about how a win would aid his evaluation of this team in the immediate future - it wouldn't, in this case. Beating IU doesn't take 5 losses off the table... only beating Iowa/MSU/Illinois on the road does that.


September 25th, 2009 at 4:57 PM ^

Molk's injury sounds exactly like the one I suffered playing basketball as an 8th grader (close to 30 yrs ago). It was a stress fracture of the bone along the outside edge of the foot, about midway between the little toe and the heel.

For me it happened as I was playing defense, shuffling to my right, and the offensive player started to drive in that same direction. He stepped on my foot/ankle just as I planted, causing my foot to roll under with his weight and mine on it.

I was able to finish practice just as Molk was able to finish the game, but it was hurting pretty bad within a couple hours, and definitely affected weight-bearing ability and lateral movement. I was out 4-6 weeks and missed most of the season. There was a well-known college hoops player in the Grand Rapids area who had the same injury and was seeing the same podiatrist I was at the time.

FWIW. Not saying this is Molk's exact problem, but I can identify.


September 25th, 2009 at 3:27 PM ^

I was at the Akron Indiana game last weekend and I don't see M having a problem with this team at all. Akron's starting QB is suspending indefinitely from the team apparently for his love of pain killers and stealing from coaches? The backup QB was picked off 4 times but this was mostly due to the fact that Akron has little to no offensive line. The plays that the QB wasn't constantly pressured he found receivers open and they marched down the field. This is also why Akron has no running attack. Their O-line is about 30% of what our line was like last year so that should tell you something.
When Indiana had the ball they showed proficiency with their short routes to the TE or FB out of the backfield but those were only open due to their running game. Any time Akron could get pressure on the QB, which was often, the Qb would throw the ball to no one in particular. I was sitting next to an Indiana family and we were discussing this week's game and he agreed they will have a tough time of it. The keys to the game will be scoring on offense thus forcing Indiana into a pass heavy scheme. Then unleash the dogs on the Qb and see how he reacts. Either way I see this as another minor hurdle to our showdown with Lil Bro.


September 25th, 2009 at 3:40 PM ^

1) Get a good performance out of the makeshift offensive line.

2) Don't make the injury list worse than it already is.

3) Figure out how to defend the run.

4) Figure out how to return a punt.

5) Get Denard Robinson some pass completions.


September 25th, 2009 at 3:45 PM ^

The favorite and the over?

Did you hack into my fields and read a draft of Big 10 picks?


Nice preview, as always. I'd like to think my alma mater can compete tomorrow......but I'd also like to think I'm still young like I was in my salad days in Bloomington.

Blue Durham

September 25th, 2009 at 9:19 PM ^

Since Brian or anyone here mentioned, a quick look in the record book shows that Michigan is 50-9 all-time against IU. I think percentage-wise, that is Michigan's best record against current Big Ten Teams.

The last time IU beat Michigan in Ann Arbor: 1967 (a 27-20 homecoming loss)

The last time IU won in the series: 1987 (14-10) in Bloomington. IU was actually ranked higher (#15) than Michigan (#20), a rarity in the series. As I recall, that game was played in an absolute monsoon - weather similar to the ND game last year. This was about the time you were at IU - did you attend?

New Kid On The Blog

September 25th, 2009 at 3:53 PM ^

My wife went to WKU and I love to give her a hard time about the cheesy mascot. Not many people even knew about Big Red until those damn Capitol One commercials. Even worse the emblem on the side of their helmet is a hand waiving a towel. What the hell is up with that? They need some marketing help. But hey, Jack Harbaugh did coach there.


September 25th, 2009 at 4:29 PM ^

This game worries me. Mostly from a psychological standpoint. Because last week we played sloppy and won easily, I am afraid we will conclude that (against not-great teams) we CAN play sloppy and win easily.

But I am glad to read Brian's self-assured optimism. On paper IU seems to match up well against us (strength on weakness), but this analysis seems pretty sound in reaching the conclusion that right now 'on paper' is simply not very accurate when it comes to Indiana. Hope so...


September 25th, 2009 at 5:24 PM ^

My sense is 1st half last week was a Notre Dame hangover. My money is on the team being more focused this week. (Hoping the defense starts where it left off.)

The only question is the weather, and the siz of the chip on their shoulders (there weren't any newspaper or Weiss attacks this week) ...

Question - why does IU perpetually field marginal teams? Does ND suck up all the talent that has any interest in going to school in Indiana or something?


September 25th, 2009 at 4:38 PM ^

Oh. My. God. That video! "The Schembechler Years"! Man, I grew up just wearing that video out. That thing was so damn cool. We had that and we had one that showed highlights of classic U-M/OSU games starting from way back in the '40s. Those videos were the shit.


September 25th, 2009 at 4:40 PM ^

Usually I don't say this about a Michigan game but Michigan will crush Indiana this week. Indiana is the Big Ten's worst team and Michigan is rolling along right now with all the momentum they have and I don't see them having one problem this week. It will probably Michigan's easiest win this year but still they shouldn't look at Michigan State until they get the W. I predict Michigan scoring around 40 or 50 points and I see Indiana squeezing in a couple of touchdowns. It will be nice seeing Michigan at 4-0 and them being their old selves. Great review Brian as always. You should be working for ESPN or something like that because you know football quite well. GO BLUE!!

Blue Durham

September 25th, 2009 at 9:07 PM ^

My freshman year. Loved Michigan football, but was a little bit intimidated by the academics in engineering and had to study a lot.

I saw every play in that game but the last one. I figured it was a lost cause, and rather than lose an hour waiting to get out of the stadium I left just a little too early.

Short of the gate by about 10 yards there was probably the biggest roar I have ever heard. I knew what happened, and was simultaneously totally thrilled and absolutely pissed.


September 25th, 2009 at 6:07 PM ^

He's jumping up and down like a kid who's just gotten everything he wanted for Christmas after eating ten bowls of massively sugar-coated breakfast cereal.


September 25th, 2009 at 6:35 PM ^

I had just graduated from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School in '79. Every time I see AC burning Indiana, I get a little misty eyed. I think Michigan has many bright, shiny, exciting games coming in the future. On that note, I really don't want tomorrow's game to come down to Foricer to Stonum. Reminiscing is nice! I want Michigan to annihilate the pesky Hoosiers. Michigan 51 to 13.

Jeff H

September 25th, 2009 at 6:43 PM ^

Friends of my folks had a German exchange student and they were visiting the weekend of the '79 IU game (my senior year of HS). We were in the basement shooting pool and listening to the radio broadcast. Ufer's call on AC's touchdown got him so fired up we had to go outside, play "American" football, and try to reenact the call.

I so miss Bob Ufer.


September 25th, 2009 at 7:48 PM ^

1.) The IU Receivers
I do believe the IU QB (Chappell) and the receivers have played fairly well so far. They do not tower over anyone like Paul Jokisch, but they're not really small in size either, at 6-3 (Doss), 6-3 (M.Evans), 6-3 (T. Turner) and 6-5 (D.Belcher).
Donovan Warren can handle Doss. Of course that leaves B. Cissoko trying to blanket 6-5 D. Belcher. Uh-oh.
That's going to be a fun match up to watch.

2.) Penalties Are Killing IU
Aside from some big talent mismatches between UM and IU on both sides, one thing that kind of goes unnoticed in all of these marshmallowy-flavored cupcake victories has to be keeping Bill Lynch up at night: Indiana penalties.

The Hoosiers now lead the Big Ten in penalties after 3 games with 25 for -194 yards(8 penalties per game for -65 yards on average). Indiana is 3-0 and overcame all of these mistakes, but one has to wonder about situations with tougher competition and tougher road venues than Akron. Against WMU and at home, probably the toughest and most talented opponent IU has faced thus far, the Hoosers had 13 penalties for -106 yards.


I really think they're going to like Michigan Stadium.


September 26th, 2009 at 9:30 AM ^

I love that the Fort Wayne Examiner, Daily Digest Sentinel has the start time listed at 3:30 on their web site... is this because Indiana is still having difficulty getting used to daylight savings time? Or is this designed to spare Hoosier fans the stress of watching the game?