By David Sugarman (@David_Sugarman2)
The first five games of the season hasn’t exactly gone according to script. Losing a top target in Nick Westbrook for the season on the opening play of the season, a cancelled game and a quarterback change. Having said all that most of assumed that one way or another five games into the season IU would be 3-2 and fans would sign up for that. Now getting ready to play the game to get them to the halfway point, let’s take a deeper look at the Michigan matchup on this week’s Inside the Numbers.
10 - Forget about a running back that can pick up consistent yardage, Indiana just needs a back that can consistently hold onto the football. Indiana has fumbled the ball ten times through the first five games, losing six of them. Normally if a back consistently fumbles the answer is to bench them, but with Indiana it isn’t that simple. Indiana’s 10 fumbles have come from seven different players. Indiana has the worst turnover margin in the Big Ten at -7. The Hoosiers fumbled the ball four times against Charleston Southern, the majority coming before the rain came down. If Indiana continues to be this careless with the football and can’t find a running back they can trust, Morgan Ellison, Devonte Williams and Cole Gest have all put the ball on the ground, they’re more likely to have the score from this past week flipped in the Big Ten and lose 27-0.
4 - Takeaways come and go in waves, but after thriving on Tom Allen takeaways a season ago, Indiana has been barren in the turnover department. After forcing nine through five games last year, Indiana has forced just four so far this season, three of them coming against Georgia Southern. This offense hasn’t proven to be reliable yet and will need momentum boosts and flipping field position to help them out. Michigan is working with a backup QB in John O’Korn who threw three interceptions last week and the Wolverines turned it over five times overall. O’Korn and the Wolverines will make mistakes, it’s up to Indiana to capitalize.
167.8 - One of the big factors in Michigan State’s upset victory at Michigan was slowing down the Wolverines rushing attack. MSU held Michigan to a season-low 102 rushing yards, down from an average of nearly 170 yards per game. Michigan’s QB situation wasn’t great when it was Wilton Speight and is less than that under John O’Korn which means Michigan will likely have to lean on the run. If IU can key in on that and force O’Korn into 3rd and longs to force Michigan to throw they’ll have a chance to have Michigan get upset two weeks in a row.
87 - The key to defeating Michigan lies within the run game on both sides of the football. Michigan has had a brick wall of a run defense through the first five games giving up just 87 yards per game. Indiana is ninth in the Big Ten in rushing with much of that bolstered by a big performance against Georgia Southern. Between struggling to pick up yards as well as holding onto the football, Peyton Ramsey may have a big workload in his first Big Ten start.
30 - It’s been 30 years since Indiana beat Michigan. A 1987 game where IU won 14-10 under Bill Mallory in a year they would eventually finish 8-4. This is Peyton Ramsey’s first Big Ten start, a chance to jump on a wounded Wolverine team and be 4-2 with two very winnable games on the horizon in Michigan State and Maryland. Michigan is still the favorite and rightfully so, but even with Michigan not being what they normally are this can still be Tom Allen’s first signature win as head coach of the Hoosiers and catapult them into the second half of the season with momentum.