For most of its season, the Indiana football team has had to settle for “close.”

Already this season, the Hoosiers (0-5 Big Ten, 4-5 overall) have lost to then-No. 1 Ohio State by seven points and then-No. 9 Iowa by eight. They trailed then-No. 7 Michigan State by just five with five minutes remaining, but couldn’t keep it together, losing by 26. They were in every one of those games. They just couldn’t finish.

So when No. 14 Michigan goes to Bloomington on Saturday, the Wolverines will be taking on a team that’s better than its record suggests.

Here’s how the Daily breaks down the upcoming matchup.

Michigan pass offense vs. Indiana pass defense

Fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Rudock isn’t the nation’s most exciting signal-caller, but Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said Rudock has stepped his game up lately, even saying he has resembled an NFL quarterback this week.

Rudock had a career-high 337 yards against Rutgers, throwing for two touchdowns and running for one in his best game of the season. And while those numbers came against the Scarlet Knights’ dreadful pass defense, the Hoosiers’ is statistically even worse.

Indiana has given up the second-most passing yards per game in the nation the season, ahead of only Kansas.

Junior tight end Jake Butt had a big game last week for Michigan, racking up 102 yards on four catches, and is a threat to replicate those numbers any given week in Harbaugh’s offense. Outside of Butt, redshirt junior wide receivers Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson have developed into reliable targets on any down. Add in a screen game that continues to pay big dividends, and the Wolverines have many weapons at their disposal.

Against the Hoosiers’ weak pass defense, expect any and all of them to have success.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan rush offense vs. Indiana rush defense

On the surface, Indiana’s 48th-ranked rush defense doesn’t look too bad. But that average is buoyed by games against Florida International, Western Kentucky and Wake Forest. Outside of those games, the Hoosiers have been susceptible to the ground game.

Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 274 yards and three touchdowns against Indiana. Rutgers’ Robert Martin ran for 124 yards and three touchdowns. And Southern Illinois gained 248 yards rushing as a team.

The Hoosiers are giving up 161 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to ranked teams this season, which could play well for a Michigan team that likes to pound the football and has the weapons to do so.

Redshirt junior running backs De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson provide a speed/power combo that, if both are healthy, can keep opposing defenses off balance. Last week, it was Smith carrying the load, but you never know whose number offensive coordinator Tim Drevno will call. Senior fullback Sione Houma has even taken a few snaps at running back lately.

Unless Indiana can play its best defensive game of the year, Michigan should be able to do what it wants on offense, and that starts with the running game.

Edge: Michigan

Indiana pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense

Though Michigan’s pass defense is giving up the third-fewest yards per game in the nation, it has been vulnerable against great quarterbacks this season. Michigan State’s Connor Cook and Minnesota’s Mitch Leidner all threw for big yards against the Wolverines, and both would have beaten them had the Golden Gophers not been stopped on a last-second goal-line stand.

With that in mind, Michigan will need to limit Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld to have success on Saturday.

Sudfeld has thrown for 2,229 yards through nine games, and wide receiver Ricky Jones has totaled 708 receiving yards. That means junior cornerback Jourdan Lewis will likely be tasked with covering Jones, fresh off a week in which Lewis broke the Michigan single-season record for pass breakups.

Lewis has been burned in only one game this season — when the Spartans’ Aaron Burbridge caught nine passes for 132 yards — and even then, he made his impact felt, breaking up six passes.

In Indiana’s ideal world, it would be able to run the ball well enough that it won’t be forced to throw in 3rd-and-long situations throughout the night. But if this season has taught us anything, that likely won’t be the case.

Look for Sudfeld to make his presence felt, but Lewis and the secondary should be ready on key plays.

Edge: Michigan

Indiana rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense

If running back Jordan Howard can get going, the Hoosiers offense becomes quite intimidating. Indiana plays the fastest tempo Michigan will face all year, and if the Hoosiers can combine their tempo with a productive run game, the Wolverines could get worn out.

Howard has been steady in nearly every game this season except against Ohio State, when he was held to 34 yards on 14 carries, and Michigan State, when he gained 78 yards on 11 touches. He has gained over 140 yards every other time out, but his subpar showings against two rush defenses on Michigan’s level do not bode well for him going into Saturday.

Keeping Howard in check will be a concern all game for the Wolverines, and it will only be tougher if redshirt junior defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow can’t play. Glasgow’s status is uncertain after being in a sling this week, and if he can’t go, Michigan’s depth at the position could become a problem.

Still, the Wolverines have the nation’s No. 3 rush defense, and they should be plenty capable of staying tough, even without Glasgow.

Edge: Michigan

Special teams

Behind new special teams coach John Baxter, Michigan has turned its special teams into one of the nation’s best units. Chesson has already returned one kick for a touchdown, and redshirt freshman safety Jabrill Peppers has been close on numerous punts and kicks. It feels like the Wolverines could break a big play on special teams at any time.

Michigan and Indiana’s punting units are separated by just 0.1 yards per punt, but Indiana’s Griffin Oakes gives the Hoosiers a slight edge in the kicking game, hitting 12 of 14 on the season.

Still, Michigan is ranked first in the country in special teams efficiency, and Indiana is 79th. That should tell you all you need to know.

Edge: Michigan


The Hoosiers are talented enough to knock off any team in the conference, and the fact that they’ve fallen short so many times could boost their motivation against their final ranked opponent this season.

Harbaugh has had the Wolverines prepared for every game so far this season, but if Indiana can finally put it all together, the Hoosiers could be a big problem.

Edge: Indiana

Prediction: Michigan 34, Indiana 20

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