Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Head Coach: Jim Harbaugh
Overall: 82-34 10th Year
At Michigan 24-7 (14-5)
Bowl Appearances at Michigan: 3
2017 Record: 4-1 Last Game: Lost 14-10 at home to Michigan State
Bowl Appearances Since 2000: 13 (5-8)
Colors: Maize and Blue
Outfitter: Jordan Brand
National Titles: 11
Conference Titles: 42
Heisman Winners: 3
1. Is Michigan Football in Crisis Mode After Losing to Michigan State or Are UM Fans Being Dramatic?
If you searched ‘Michigan Football’ on social this week one would think that the Wolverines were 1-4 and not 4-1 from the panic and comments floating around cyber space. But that’s what happens when you lose at home to an in-state rival and the offense looked like it’s 80th ranking in scoring.
Michigan has had a lot of flaws since they lost to Ohio State in a #1 vs. #2 matchup in 2006. They lost at home to Appalachian State in 2007, lost 12 of the last 13 games (that includes a vacated OSU win) to the dreaded Buckeyes, they have seen “little brother” Michigan State take eight of the last 10 games, and missed bowl games in 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015. Going from the success they were used to having to this can be frustrating. However, wasn’t Jim Harbaugh supposed to fix all this with his golden touch? In his first two seasons Harbaugh racked up 20 wins, but his record is just 1-4 against rivals, 1-1 in bowl games and has shown the propensity to throw fits on the sidelines when things don’t go his way.
So, what is the answer to the question of if Michigan is in crisis or are fans just being dramatic? Well, it’s a little bit of both. 24 wins in 31 games is pretty darn good and Harbaugh is recruiting well again, but it’s two-and-a-half seasons into this bromance and Michigan hasn’t been able to get over the hump. If I were a Michigan fan, I’d be a little nervous too. Jim Harbaugh was brought to Michigan to restore order to the Big Ten and he has won most of the games he has supposed to win, but has been outclassed by Ohio State and Michigan State. If Jim Harbaugh can’t beat Ohio State or consistently beat Michigan State, who can Michigan bring in that can? He is their guy. The golden child. So far, it’s been a lot of wins, but not in the games that really count with fans.
2. The 2017 Game May Be the Opposite of the 2013 Match-Up Between IU and UM
Hoosier and Wolverine fans both should remember the 2013 shootout in Ann Arbor when IU fell to Michigan 63-47. There was a ton of offense and zero defense. I can guarantee you that we will not see a game like that on Saturday, unless it goes 10 overtimes, even then 63-47 is highly unlikely.
This year’s match-up features a Michigan team ranked number one in the nation in total defense and an Indiana team that is 47th in total defense. In 2013 those units ranked 41st (Michigan) and 123rd (Indiana). Michigan’s offense has been awful in 2017 ranking 84th in total offense (385.8 YPG) and 80th in scoring offense (27.2 PPG). While the Hoosiers haven’t been much better in those categories 67th in scoring (29.6 ppg) and 69th in total offense (408.4 YPG), IU has played stiffer competition than UM.
3. How Long of a Leash Does John O’Korn Have?
Michigan’s starting quarterback for the second week in a row will be John O’Korn as Wilton Speight is dealing with a neck injury that his head coach Jim Harbaugh said will keep him out “multiple weeks” and others say the rest of the season. Either way it’s John O’Korn for the Maize and Blue on Saturday.
Indiana has experience playing against O’Korn as he started against the Hoosiers last season when Speight was dealing with a shoulder injury. This season O’Korn has played in four games and has been less than impressive completing just 56.5-percent of his passes for 505 yards and only one touchdown to four interceptions. How long will Harbaugh go with O’Korn before he inserts Indiana native Brandon Peters, who has thrown one pass for four yards this season? If O’Korn is struggling and Indiana is ahead, how desperate will Jim Harbaugh feel? A loss to the Hoosiers could push an already antsy fan base over the edge.
4. The Michigan Running Game Has Disappeared in 2017
Michigan beat Indiana 20-10 a season ago thanks to a dominant run game, this year that run game has vanished. Yes, De’Veon Smith is gone, but the Wolverines returned three of their top four rushers from a year ago in Ty Isaac, Chris Evans and Karan Higdon.
Isaac leads the team in rushing this year with 365 yards on 61 carries, good for a healthy 5.98 yard per carry average, however Evans and Higdon haven’t been as good as they were a year ago. Evans, another Indiana native, averaged 6.98 YPC last season, this year that average has dropped to 4.19. Higdon is also averaging about a yard-and-a-half less per carry from last year as well.
A lot of this may fall on a suspect offensive line, but it could be more than that and Indiana is 67th in run defense, although those numbers are skewed from playing two triple-option attacks this season.
5. How Will Indiana Handle Michigan’s Front Seven?
As bad as the Wolverine offense has been, their defense has been that good. The Wolverines rank seventh in scoring defense, sixth against the run, second against the pass and first in total defense. Don Brown has another outstanding unit and it all starts in the front seven for the Wolverines.
Linebacker Devin Bush leads the way with 41 tackles (5.5 TFLs) and his partner in crime at linebacker Mike McCray is right behind him with 34 (TFLs). Seniors Chase Winovich and Maurice Hurst are continuing the tradition of great defensive line play from Michigan. Winovich leads the team in tackles for loss (7.5) and sacks (5.5), while Hurst has added 5.5 tackles for loss. We have seen Indiana struggle against great defensive fronts, and this is another really good front seven. Can Indiana give Ramsey enough time to create something from the pocket in the passing game or open a few holes for the struggling run game? It all starts up front, if Indiana cannot block this team, the losing streak may not end.