One more win.
That’s all Michigan needs to head into Columbus with an undefeated record and a shot at the Big Ten Championship and a possible National Championship bid on the line.
But before the Wolverines turn their focus to Ohio State, they have to take care of business against an upstart Indiana team that has already surprised Iowa and is one win away from its first bowl bid since 1993.
Michigan rushing offense vs. Indiana rushing defense
With Michigan, it’s the same story every week. The Wolverines are going to run, whether or not the opposition puts eight men in the box. Michigan coach Lloyd Carr doesn’t care, especially after he hammered in improving the running game as a must before the season. And the commitment has paid off. Junior Mike Hart has racked up 1,281 yards on the season, and the Wolverines’ ground attack totaled 352 yards against Ball State last week. Meanwhile, the Indiana defense gives up an average of 170.6 yards on the ground per game.
Michigan passing offense vs. Indiana passing defense
Now that quarterback Chad Henne has his favorite target wide, receiver Mario Manningham, back, look for the Wolverine passing attack to return to its early-season form. The last few weeks, Michigan struggled to stretch the field without a deep-ball threat. As Manningham works himself back into the lineup and Adrian Arrington continues emerging, Michigan will able to throw at will – especially with Indiana forced to stop the run.
Michigan rushing defense vs. Indiana rushing offense
The stats speak for themselves. Michigan is No. 1 in the nation against the rush, and the Wolverines are on pace to break the record for fewest yards allowed on the ground during a season. The defense has let just one back to rush for more than 100 yards against them so far, and don’t expect Indiana to be the second. Even though the Hoosiers average more than 100 rushing yards per game, they rely more heavily on the passing attack to move the ball.
Indiana passing offense vs. Michigan passing defense
The Wolverine passing defense was exposed last weekend – kind of. Yes, Michigan allowed two long touchdown passes against lowly Ball State, but don’t be too swayed by this stat: Michigan’s first-string defense was responsible for allowing just three of the Cardinals’ 26 points.
Indiana super frosh Kellen Lewis has emerged as a superstar in the making as the signal caller for the improving Hoosiers. His arm, coupled with the receiving prowess of last year’s freshman All-American James Hardy, gives Indiana a potent aerial attack.
But Michigan’s front seven gets constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and Davis will have to rely on his legs to buy time against a ferocious pass rush.
Carr sang the praises of Hoosier return man Marcus Thigpen, calling him the fastest player in the Big Ten. His speed gives Indiana an edge over Michigan in the kick return game, where Michigan’s Steve Breaston hasn’t yet shown the explosiveness of years past.
But give Michigan the nod in the kicking department. Kicker Garrett Rivas finally added some hardware to his mantle after picking up Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honors on Monday. He will look to add to his 339 career points, which broke Michigan’s all-time mark.
Both teams have a lot to play for. Michigan needs to right the ship after struggling in its last few games. With their big matchup against Ohio State on the horizon, the Wolverines will look to send a message to their rivals.
But Indiana is fighting for bowl eligibility. After years of mediocrity, the Hoosiers finally have a chance of breaking into the postseason. Sitting at 5-5, Indiana needs to win one of its final two games. The Hoosiers would just as soon get that task out of the way on Saturday.
Michigan 31, Indiana 17