Though the Michigan football team hasn’t lost to Indiana (3-4 Big Ten, 5-5 overall) since 1987, a win over the third-ranked Wolverines would mean more to the Hoosiers this week.
Michigan (6-1, 9-1) is in College Football Playoff contention, and Indiana will try to take advantage of the Wolverines while they’re still reeling from their first loss of the season.
On top of rebounding from last Saturday, Michigan also likely faces a major change on its offense. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight has grown leaps and bounds over the last nine games, but now reports say he may not play for the rest of the regular season. Harbaugh said the injury is day-to-day, and if Speight doesn’t take the field on Saturday, redshirt junior John O’Korn should do so instead.
Though O’Korn hasn’t started a game this season, he has played plenty in garbage time. He also has over a year of starter experience from his time at Houston, so there may not be as much of a decline as some fans are bracing for.
Running backs coach Tyrone Wheatley hasn’t noticed much of a change in practice this week, with O’Korn and redshirt junior quarterback Shane Morris taking most of the reps.
“We don’t look at it as a drop-off,” Wheatley said. “We don’t look at it as anything different. It’s the next guy in. Game normal. We don’t look at it as, ‘Hey, now it falls on us.’ To be honest with you, hell, it always falls on us. That’s the way I always like to look at it. It’s nothing different.”
Senior running back De’Veon Smith told some of his teammates that they needed the loss and could grow from it after the group rushed for just 98 yards and averaged 2.8 yards per run in their loss to Iowa.
If the defense is as effective as Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has praised it to be, then the Wolverines may see a replay of last week’s rushing game.
“(Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is doing) well, really coaching a good football team,” Harbaugh said. “Doing a very good job. The defense is an aggressive, athletic, fast (group). They create turnovers, they tackle extremely well, they cover a lot of the field physically. Really good defensive linemen. Active, athletic backers that cause a lot of the havoc and very good players in the secondary.”
But Indiana ranks 55th in overall team defense, allowing 156.2 yards per game on the ground, so the Wolverines will still have plenty of opportunity to create space.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Hoosiers are just one slot behind the Wolverines in total offense. This can be mostly attributed to quarterback Richard Lagow, who has thrown for 2,866 yards already this season. Though he has thrown 13 interceptions, he has a completion rate of 61 percent.
“They’ve got a good offense,” said defensive backs coach Brian Smith. “They have one of the best receiving corps that we’ve faced so far. The quarterback’s got a strong arm. He can throw it deep. He can make all the throws. Just know that their tempo and different things that they do schematically can pose different problems for you, so we’ve got our hands full this week.”
Indiana has its work cut out, but its fast pace can throw off opponents. It worked against Michigan State, Rutgers and Maryland, but it wasn’t sufficient against Big Ten powerhouses Penn State and Ohio State.
The Wolverines will certainly be occupied on Saturday, but they should easily be able to escape the scrappy Hoosiers.