Friday, October 18, 2013

Breaking Points: Indiana Edition

Given the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the Indiana football team--and the fact that I covered some of the personnel and basic statistics yesterday--this post will be a little shorter than usual. Anyway, on with the points:

Devin Gardner vs. mistakes. Again, insert bit about this continuing to be a point of concern for the rest of the season. Michigan is halfway through its season and Gardner has been turnover-free in just one game, which was in part due to the nature of the game and the conservatism of the gameplan.

Against a team with a high-octane offense like Indiana, turnovers are death, especially because the Hoosiers aren't very good defensively on their own. If the Hoosiers force turnovers of the "make plays" variety, there's not much to be done. However, Gardner cannot gift wrap them points via turnover, i.e. Penn State's first two touchdown scores set up by Gardner interceptions.

Running power vs. pulling the plug. Any discussion of offensive playcalling, in my mind, starts with the acknowledgement that Al Borges knows infinitely more about offensive football than I or anyone else typing away on the Internet.

With that said, there is a basic point that anyone can glean from last Saturday's performance: when is enough enough? Now, it must be noted that a number of Michigan's obvious power runs came on the clock-killing drive at the end of regulation, so perhaps the 27 carries for 27 yards thing is being perceived slightly more harshly than it should be (of course, it was still very bad any way you slice it). You would think that a Michigan team could run for at least one yard on even the most obvious of running situations (e.g. clock-killing drives), but that is no the case for this iteration of Michigan football.

If you're looking for a little early litmus test for the Michigan State game, consider this: the Spartans had two 90+ yard rushers against the Hoosiers last Saturday. Jeremy Langford had 109 yards on 23 carries and three touchdowns, while Delton Williams had 92 yards on 12 carries.

Big Ten fans gave MSU a lot of flak for its early offensive ineptitude, but the Spartans ran the ball with ease against a bad IU defense (i.e. an expected outcome for a divisional contender). I admit that this is incredibly reductive thinking, but with MSU on the schedule two weeks from tomorrow, if Michigan doesn't come close to matching the aforementioned rushing output tomorrow, concern levels will be high.

Ordinarily, you'd like to see at least 5.0 YPC against Indiana. This year, I think most people would accept three yards a pop, which of course is a sign of the times. Either way, it's now or never: if Michigan can't get the ground game going against Indiana, then the UConn game will go down as Michigan's best non-CMU rushing performance of the season.

Michigan defense vs. substitutions. Kevin Wilson's offense is not quote the second coming of the 2008 Oklahoma Sooners just yet, but it's absolutely a dangerous offense. Although the Hoosiers certainly have good skill position talent, tempo is the vehicle by which IU finds its success.

Against Penn State, Michigan was seemingly unprepared to handle the Nittany Lions' intermittent usage of an up-tempo, no huddle offense. Well, that's pretty much going to be the whole game. If the Michigan defense can avoid giving up its usual first possession long drive, that would be a major early boost of confidence.

Indiana's offense is not invincible, and while Michigan's defense is not as good as Michigan State's, the Wolverines do have the players to disrupt the IU offense to force some punts.

Devin Funchess vs. the IU secondary. Simply put, Funchess should have a monster game. Indiana's linebackers are not impressive, and the secondary is what you'd expect an Indiana secondary to be (although, as I mentioned yesterday, Tim Bennett is somewhat of a playmaker at corner). Funchess should be able to go over the top once again, while Gallon should be

I could be going crazy, but it seems like Michigan's put away the Gallon throwback screen play this season; perhaps that could be because it became gradually less effective last season. Nonetheless, that's a play I could see having some success against IU (think last year's Illinois game).

Michigan OL vs. pass protection. All of the focus is on the run blocking these days, but it's not as if pass protection has been perfect. More often than not, Michigan's best plays have been Gardner making like Second City and improvising as a byproduct of pass rush pressure.

Despite being a bad defense overall, the Hoosiers are surprisingly competent if you look at sacks alone, in which they are ranked 53rd in the nation. That's not exceptional or anything, but they've got the ability to get to the quarterback. Indiana notched three sacks against Mizzou; Georgia managed just one more, four, in their matchup against Gary Pinkel's squad.

However, IU only tallied one sack apiece against Penn State and Michigan State. Nick Mangieri (3.5 sacks) and John Laihinen (3.5 sacks), both defensive ends, are IU's leaders in sacks. Lewan and Schofield should be able to hold down the fort at the ends, but, as always, the question is whether the center can hold, or if mere anarchy will be loosed upon the Michigan backfield.


Michigan is a 9-10 point favorite depending on where you look. Quite honestly, I have no idea what to expect this week. That is an uncomfortable place to be.

Indiana has some nice weapons on offense; Tevin Coleman is probably the best tailback Michigan has seen thus far. If the linebackers don't fill and/or get blocked or the safeties find themselves daydreaming, Coleman can take it to the house before you can say Petoskey.

I foresee the first half being a real shootout. I don't feel confident that Michigan's defense will be immediately ready to handle IU's pace. Once again, I'll say that if IU's first drive ends with a field goal, that's a victory.

Usually I have some sort of vaguely reasonable rationale for my score predictions, but this week's is just a thread pulled from the yarn ball of immense uncertainty. Score: Michigan 38, Indiana 31. 

No comments:

Post a Comment