Tale of the Tape: Week 7 Michigan @ Indiana
I think this is where I’m supposed to go all “the honeymoon’s over”, “Natty or bust”, “This staff needs to produce or else”, but there’s enough of that from the dark, dampened, and disturbed parts of the Michigan Fan Base. Plus, that just isn’t my style, nor does that thought process really fit logically. Yes, Michigan dropped a game to a rival that they should not have dropped. Yes, Michigan is as of late, not performing to expectations in rivalry games, big games, whatever way we decide to spin it to fit the narrative – but this is still a good football team, with a great defense, and a great head coach. An ex-NFL head coach/”Michigan Man” that has surrounded himself with a melting pot of former NFL coaches, HS coaches, College coaches – You name it. Fans should let the emotions go and let logic take over a bit. THERE IS NOBODY BETTER FOR MICHIGAN AT THIS GIVEN TIME OR IN THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE THAN JIM HARBAUGH. So stop with the hot seat hot takes.
Ok, now that we got that over with that, let’s get into some week 7 match-up analysis.
Today, the Wolverines will face an Indiana team on the road. Indiana will be looking to take advantage of a downtrodden Wolverine team, who they have not defeated in close to 30 years. This is a young Michigan team, who just laid an egg against a rival and surely they will be carrying that defeated mentality into this game… I’m talking tail tucked, head down, season’s over type of defeated, am I right? Absolutely not! I’m just being facetious.
However, Indiana is not exactly a team one should overlook. Last year, Michigan, led by John O’Korn, played the Hoosiers to a 20-10 game, in which the Wolverines found a way to win, barely. If not for a key 3rd down scramble by O’Korn and De’Veon Smith basically putting the team on his back, the Michigan defense would have found themselves on the short end of a similar contest to the one Michigan just lost to Michigan State.
This is not the 2016 Indiana Hoosiers and this is not the 2016 Michigan Wolverines either. So let’s see how this year’s teams stack up.
In this corner we have the Michigan Defense vs the Indiana Offense
Breaking down Indiana’s statistical performance goes a lil’ something like this:
69th – Total Offense, 10 spots above Michigan State who is 79. But MSU faced the Michigan defense, and dropped from 52 (yes 52) to 79 (yes 79). That’s quite a drop after one game. To be fair, Ohio State has a pretty good defense themselves (14th nationally), and Indiana played them already.
78th – Rushing Offense – The catch here is that Indiana will be trotting out a new starting QB, and he can run a little bit. The Hoosiers are averaging 3.59 yards per carry, which isn’t terrible, and have averaged very close to 150 yards per game.
46th – Passing Offense – Indiana has thrown for nearly 1300 yards this year, which puts them on pace for almost 3000 yards through the air. They have thrown for 10 TDs and have 5 INTs on the year, and are averaging just a hair under 11 yards per catch.
72nd – 3rd down conversion percentage – This will be one of the keys to stopping the Hoosiers, force them to third down. Indiana has basically converted only one out of every three 3rd downs this year.
11- The number of turnovers lost – Indiana is turning the ball over basically as often as Michigan who has 12, that’s not something to be proud of for either team.
This Indiana team is always tricky to stop. They run an uptempo type scheme and spread, both the field out, and the ball around to a multitude of WRs. The most threatening of WRs that the Hoosiers feature is Simmie Cobbs. Cobbs Jr. has caught 33 passes for 370 yards in 2017. Indiana doesn’t just focus on him though. Hoosier QBs have done a decent job of getting the ball to a number of targets on the year, they have 5 receivers with over 100 yards on the year and a 6th who is not far off.
RB Morgan Ellison has 358 yards on the ground and averages 5.2 yards per carry. Indiana’s second leading rusher is their new starting QB, Peyton Ramsey.
Indiana will present some challenges for Michigan, as they have to account for pretty much every thing an offense could possibly throw at a team. They have a running QB, who was listed on recruiting sites as a pocket passer, throwing to one of the better WRs in the conference and handing off to a decent RB. Oh, and all this comes in a nice uptempo, spread offense, that looks to wear defenses down by quickly running plays and marching right on down the field.
Last week, in Ramsey’s first start, he threw for 321 yards while completing 32 of 41 passes, making him the first Indiana Freshman QB to throw for over 300 yards since 2006 (Kellen Moore). Not too shabby but here’s the thing. Indiana played Charleston Southern (?) and will now face the number one defense in the country.
It will be really interesting to see how the Wolverines are able to respond after a tough loss at home. The one thing that has been rock solid this year so far has been the defense, so if fans should be confident about any part of Michigan’s team responding well, it should be Donny’s Dudes.
By now, the Wolverines have had a few looks at QBs that can run, they’ve faced a triple option, and they should know how to stay disciplined. It will be fun to watch Vert Hill and David Long cover these WRs though. They should have plenty of opportunities to make some plays (I’m talking turnovers). Don Brown’s defense does have to find a way to get pressure on the young QB and it’s a good thing that Don Brown is good at finding those ways. I can’t wait to see how Ramsey reacts to seeing a defense like Michigan’s and I can’t wait to see Michigan work to contain Ramsey.
Indiana’s offense vs. Michigan’s defense should be fun to watch.
Players to watch on Michigan Defense: Rashan Gary (may not be blowing up the stat sheet but teams feel his presence, big game coming for him), Devin Bush Jr. (heat seeking missle), The entire secondary (Indiana will test these guys)
Players to watch on Indiana Offense: Peyton Ramsey (can run and throw, everything starts with him), Simmie Cobbs Jr. (WR mentioned above, very good player), Morgan Ellison (RB, and not a bad one)
Edge: Michigan #1 overall D vs errybody
And in this corner we have the Michigan Offense vs the Indiana Defense
What does the Indiana defense look like?
47th – Total defense – The Hoosiers are giving up about 358 yards on offense each week with nearly 5 yards per play. By comparison, Michigan’s defense gives up almost 2 less yards per play and well over 100 yards less per game.
59th – Scoring defense – Indiana is allowing opponents to score over 25 points per game.
117th – Turnovers gained – Indiana has only had 3 fumble recoveries and one interception to steal the ball back for their offense.
42nd – Pass yards allowed – Michigan’s opponent this week has only allowed about 200 yards through the air each game.
68th – Rushing yards allowed – The Hoosiers are allowing over 150 yards on the ground in 2017, per game.
t24th – 3rd Down Defense – Indiana is pretty good at forcing 4th down, once they get teams to 3rd down. Teams have only converted on just under 1 of 3 3rd down attempts against the Indiana defense.
Tom Allen, the first year head coach of Indiana, who took over for Kevin Wilson, was previously the defensive coordinator. This should mean that Indiana thrives on that side of the ball if any thriving is to be had. So far, this has held relatively true as Indiana has performed more consistently when stopping offenses, than they have in running their own. This doesn’t mean that they are world beaters, however, but Allen has done a great job in improving this unit. Since 2005, Indiana has not been ranked higher than 71 in S&P defense but in 2016 they improved from 108th to 31st.
Indiana lines up in a 4-2-5 defense. This means 4 defensive linemen, 2 linebackers, and 5 defensive backs. This is a pretty versatile scheme, which is designed to match up well against spread offenses, but can easily morph into a run stopping machine, if a DB or two is/are walked up closer to the line of scrimmage, acting as another LB. Indiana will do this with a safety hybrid Marcelino Ball. Ball is currently 6th on the team in tackles, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him trying to take advantage of a weak right side of the Michigan Offensive Line by blitzing off that edge.
The Hoosiers’ leading tackler is Tegray Scales, a LB, who has accumulated 42 tackles on the season. The best cover guy for Indiana is easily Jonathan Crawford, who has the team’s lone interception along with 3 total passes defended.
Attacking a 4-2-5 is best done with a power run game, in my opinion, as the field tends to be spread out a bit, and power backs can take advantage by bulldozing their way through undersized DBs. Michigan doesn’t quite have a bulldozer back, at least one hasn’t consistently emerged. If Kareem Walker were given a shot, I believe he could be the type of back that would be a perfect counter to a 4-2-5. Karan Higdon, if he can run like he did last week, may be a good choice here too. Typically with so many DBs on the field, you gain speed on defense and an ability to take away the outside running game, but you are vulnerable to runs between the tackles (off-tackle to power, to draws, dives, and blasts). Michigan has run a ton of this sort of thing and it also seems to be the thing they do “most” well.
After a heavy dose of runs up the middle, and as the defense starts to hone in on the run, play action passes should open up and John O’Korn has done his best work while rolling out and on the move. Sitting in the pocket does not seem to be his strength. Look for the Wolverines to pound the rock and keep pounding the rock, while taking what the defense gives them. They know they have to get on track and cannot be completely one dimensional on offense, so I believe there will be quite a bit of quick passes with simple reads, but I’m sure Harbaugh and staff will also take their chances on a few shots deep as well.
The key to this game will be running the football and sticking with it.
Players to watch for Michigan Offense – QB John O’Korn (has to protect the ball), Entire O-Line (has to protect QB and open running lanes), RB Committee (who will have the hot hand and will they actually stick with the hot hand more than they have to this point)
Players to watch for Indiana Defense – LB Tegray Scales, CB Jonathan Crawford, S Marcelino Ball
Edge: Indiana Defense (Michigan offense has been very inconsistent and until there is some semblance of an identity, the edge has to go to the opposing defense)
Michigan has to get the offense going this week, and I think they will find a way. The schedule only gets tougher from here, for the most part, so now’s the time to turn it on. I think Michigan finds a way to score 2 non-offensive TDs, either on Special Teams or on Defense, and also “explodes” for 24 points offensively because of nothing else other than optimism. The defense may give up a few big plays but ultimately will put on another solid performance, keeping the Hoosier offense to less than 17 points.
Final Score: Michigan 38 Indiana 13
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