- Ariel Bond/Daily
BY TIM ROHAN
Daily Sports Editor
Published September 30, 2010
Everyone is predicting that Saturday’s game between Michigan and Indiana will be a shootout.
The Wolverines have sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson and an offense that has produced on average more than 560 yards per game and more than 330 yards of rushing — both of which rank second in the country. And the Hoosiers have seasoned veteran Ben Chappell back at quarterback, who threw for nearly 3,000 yards in 2009. But Chappell hasn’t really had a tough test just yet this season. Do Towson, Western Kentucky or Akron scare anyone?
Well, that’s what Michigan fans thought of Massachusetts, too.
Indiana has an offense that might be able to keep up with Michigan. In a battle of two poor defensive units, the game could come down to who lasts.
Michigan pass offense vs. Indiana pass defense: Robinson only played for about 10 minutes against Bowling Green, before bowing out with a minor injury. But he has been cleared to start Saturday, and he'll play as long as it’s not a blowout in Michigan’s favor.
Robinson has developed connections with several Wolverine receivers through the first four games; junior Darryl Stonum, redshirt sophomore Roy Roundtree and junior Martavious Odoms each have had the hot hand in different weeks. The threat of Robinson and the other running backs has opened up the opportunities for the receivers on the outside. And Indiana’s rush defense hasn’t held up against lowly competition to start the season. Expect them to emphasize stopping the Wolverine ground attack — this could be a big day through the air for Michigan.
Michigan rush offense vs. Indiana rush defense: Any time an aspect of your game ranks second in the country, it has to be a strength against any opponent. Michigan has an experienced offensive line and plenty of weapons to carry the ball — starting with Robinson.
He ripped off runs of 46-and 47-yard runs against the Falcons last week and has topped 100 yards in each of the Wolverines’ first four games.
And while junior Mike Shaw and redshirt freshman Fitzgerald Toussaint are doubtful against the Hoosiers, the Wolverines still have sophomore Vincent Smith, who has started two games this season, redshirt sophomore Mike Cox and freshman Stephen Hopkins.
Indiana has allowed an average of 177 yards rushing per game. Robinson could have a field day, even without Shaw and Toussaint to hand the ball off to.
Indiana pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense: The statistics are impressive: Indiana averages more than 300 yards per game. Chappell has thrown nine touchdown without any interceptions, and he has completed 72 percent of his passes — but once again, that was against Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron.
Chappell had all of 2009 to come into his own and the Hoosiers have three quality receivers returning in 2010 in Damarlo Belcher, Tandon Doss and Terrance Turner.
The good times for Indiana could continue to roll. After all, Michigan sports the worst pass defense in the Big Ten.
Indiana rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense: If this game goes as expected, Indiana might not have time to run the football. The Hoosiers' run game isn’t as big of a threat as Michigan’s, and in a shootout, Indiana might have to rely on its passing game to catch up.
Darius Willis is Indiana’s lead back, but he has taken a backseat to Chappell and the passing game so far this season. The Wolverines' rush defense has been shaky, but not as much as their pass defense. Michigan’s front seven could control the line of scrimmage and make things hard on Willis.
The defensive line play was one of the many bright spots in the Wolverines’ big win over Bowling Green last week and it’s been somewhat of a constant on an overall porous unit.
Special teams:Indiana has a significantly better situation on special teams than Michigan as Big Ten season begins. The Wolverines are still trying to find a placekicker. The Hoosiers have one.
Nick Freeland is a perfect five-for-five this season for Indiana, but he hasn’t attempted a kick longer than 36 yards. Michigan has missed four of its five attempts, and true freshman punter Will Hagerup is going through some growing pains. We'll see how he matches up this weekend with his brother, Chris, who punts for the Hoosiers.
Intangibles: Last year, Tate Forcier threw a late touchdown pass to top Indiana in the Big House. And Bill Lynch famously threw his gum after a call didn’t go his way on a ruling related to a Donovan Warren interception. Indiana probably has had this game circled since summer camp started.
It’s the first game of the Big Ten season. Michigan’s offense looks good and its defense doesn’t. During Rodriguez’s first two years, this might have been a letdown game. But with Robinson under center, his explosive potential is enough to keep it even.
Final Score: Michigan 56, Indiana 38