Following its first loss of the 2013 season, Michigan will look to rebound against Big Ten opponent Indiana. Michigan (5-1, 1-1) lost last week to Penn State, a team that Indiana (3-3, 1-1) defeated two weeks ago 44-24. The Wolverines will kick off against the Hoosiers Saturday at 3:30 ET and will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.
Michigan dropped from the Top 25 AP Poll following its loss to Penn State and has a lot of work to do if it wants to beat some of the conference’s better teams later in the season. The match-up with Indiana gives the Wolverines a 7.5 point advantage, and they should win the game.
What needs to get better
Turnovers and the play of the offensive line have been Michigan’s primary concern all season. After Devin Gardner turned in a turnover-free performance in a win over Minnesota, things looked promising for Michigan’s turnover problem. However, Gardner threw two early interceptions last week against Penn State, which spotted them 14 easy points. Turnovers hurt any team’s chances at winning football games and Michigan has learned this lesson the hard way.
The offensive line has struggled this year. And that’s putting it very nicely. The problems on the line have been primarily caused by the guys inside the tackles. Brady Hoke decided to change things up a couple weeks ago when he started Chris Bryant at left guard and slid Graham Glasgow to center. Things seemed to be looking up after Minnesota, but the line play was not good against Penn State. The defense was able to push the young interior lineman back time and time again to disrupt the Michigan offense. Taylor Lewan also missed the entire second half due to an undisclosed injury, which only made things tougher for the Wolverines.
As a result, the Michigan rushing offense has suffered. Devin Gardner ran the ball 24 times (way too many for a quarterback) for 121 yards. Outside of Garnder, the running backs ran the ball 30 times for 28 yards. This can be attributed to the lack of run-blocking as well as play-calling on offense.
Indiana’s defense hasn’t been good so far this year, so Michigan needs to take advantage of this to set the tone for the rest of the season. The Hoosiers have allowed 216.5 yards per game on the ground and 456 yards overall.
Devin Funchess has burst onto the scene in the last two games after his switch from tight end to wide receiver. Against Penn State, Funchess caught 4 passes for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns. The emergence of Funchess has given Gardner another target outside of Jeremy Gallon to throw to. Gallon also turned in a solid performance last week as he caught 7 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.
The Michigan defense has been quietly performing pretty well all season. They gave up 14 early points off of turnovers in the red zone, but limited Penn State the rest of the way. The run defense has been stingy as well, holding opponents to 89.5 yards a game, good for 9th best in the country. Frank Clark turned in a solid game against Penn State and even scooped and scored on a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Jake Ryan is back. The defense received a lift last week when Ryan returned to limited action. He didn’t make any huge plays, but I think his presence was felt. As he sees the field more and more, the defense will only get better.
As we know, the Indiana defense is not good. They can score some points, though. Nate Sudfeld has thrown for over 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns already this season. His favorite target has been Cody Latimer, who has caught 35 passed for 544 yards and 3 touchdowns. Indiana’s primary running back is Tevin Colemen, who has rushed for 544 yards on 91 carries.
Last week, Sudfeld and the Hoosiers struggled a bit against Michigan State as they lost 42-28 in East Lansing. Sudfeld and backup Tre Roberson actually split time against the Spartans. MSU was able to disrupt the passing game, which is something Indiana relies on to win games. Michigan should stay focused on doing something similar if they want to win on Saturday.
Michigan and Indiana both struggled last week, so both teams are looking to improve. I just think that Michigan is a better team than Indiana and will eventually come away with the win. It would be nice to see the Michigan offense to put together a solid game and put a lot of points on the scoreboard against a sub-par defense. If the defense can hold the Indiana offense in check, then I think the Wolverines can come away with a fairly stress-free win. I see Fitz Toussaint having a big day on the ground as he rushes for over 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns. I’ve got Michigan winning 35-21. What do you think?
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