Welcome back to our series previewing the 2013 Indiana football schedule week-by-week. Last time we got together we took a look at the Hoosiers first road trip, which also happened to be the Old Brass Spittoon Game. This week Indiana again heads to the Mitten State, but instead of East Lansing, they will find themselves in Ann Arbor.
Let the audible groans commence.
The series between Indiana and Michigan is a long-standing, yet one-sided match-up. The two schools first met on the gridiron back in 1900, and have played 61 times since the turn of the century. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they have won just nine of the contests with their last victory coming way back in 1987. In fact Indiana’s victory that year marked the only time they had topped the Wolverines since 1967.
However, this game is not played in the history books, but instead on the field. So lets take a look forward at this years match-up between Michigan and Indiana.
Week 8: Michigan Wolverines
Time & Date: 3:30 pm, Saturday, Oct. 19th
Venue: Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, MI)
Wolverines at a Glance:
Head Coach: Brady Hoke (19-7 (12-4), 2 years)
Last Season: 8-5 (6-2, 2nd Big Ten-Legends)
Offensive Formation: Multiple
Defensive Formation: 4-3
Returning Team Leaders:
Passing: Devin Gardner (59.5%, 1,219 Yds, 11 TD, 5 INT)
Rushing: Fitzgerald Toussaint (514 Yds, 4.0 Avg, 5 TD)
Receiving: Jeremy Gallon (49 Rec., 829 Yds, 16.9 Avg, 4 TD)
Preseason Magazine Predictions for Michigan:
Athlon: 10-3 (6-2), 1st Place Big Ten Legends
Lindy’s: 1st Place Big Ten Legends
Phil Steele: 3rd Place Big Ten Legends
Why the Wolverines could win:
As has been the case historically, you do not have to look far to find reasons as to why Michigan could beat the Hoosiers this year. For starters, the Wolverines are ranked number seventeen in the nation, the second highest ranking for a Big Ten team to start the season.
The coaching staff has had consistency since Brady Hoke has taken over the reigns in Ann Arbor. Al Borges and Greg Mattison are his coordinators who are both amongst the best in the nation at their respective positions.
On the Offensive side of the ball Borges finally has a quarterback in Devin Gardner that is more passer than runner. That will allow the offensive coordinator to further implement the type of offense he has always envisioned since coming to Michigan. To help the process a pair of running backs should be able to carry a heavy load. Returning starter Fitzgerald Toussaint should provide a veteran presence as he in the backfield. With his more than 1,500 yards career rushing yards under his belt the rising senior has the experience that could lead to a big final season of colligate ball. Joining him in the backfield equation will be true freshman Derrick Green. The Virginia native was a top-five running back in the class of 2013, and considered by many to be amongst the players who are most ready to step in right away and contribute in his first year on campus.
Another weapon that start Devin Gardner will have at his disposal during his first full year on the job will be Jeremy Gallon. The Florida native is a big play threat anytime the ball is in his hands. Last season he averaged nearly 17 yards per catch on his way to 829 yards overall. With an offense that will be directed by a signal caller who is more likely to use his arm as opposed to his legs, those numbers could take a spike up during Gallons final season in the maize and blue.
On the other side of the ball Greg Mattison has done an exceptional job of turning around a Wolverines defense that just two years ago was amongst the worst in the nation. In 2012 the unit ranked 20th nationally allowing just 19.8 points per game, including six games where they held their opponents to 13 points or fewer.
The cherry on top for the Wolverines is kicker Brendan Gibbons who was amongst the most efficient kickers in the nation last season. He converted all 45 of his extra point attempts to go along with his 89-percent field goal percentage.
Why They Won’t Pull it Off:
While there seems to be a great deal of optimism around the Wolverine program, there are many potential question marks as well.
For starters, the Wolverines are relying on a quarterback who has just five starts under his belt. In addition while the backfield has a ton of talent, Fitz Toussaint is coming off a season where his production was obviously diminished and then had his season abruptly end with a broken leg. The Wolverines other option in the backfield is freshman Derrick Green, who has all the talent in the world, however, when a player has never played a down of college football there always have to be questions asked to whether or not he can be a factor.
The biggest question mark on the entire team may very well be the offensive line. While it is anchored by the best tackle in the conference in Taylor Lewan who is back for his senior season, outside of that there are major holes to be filled. It looks as if the Wolverines will be starting a pair of freshman at the guard spots as well as a first year starter at center.
This game will likely provide the Hoosiers with their toughest of the season up until this point. While to this point Indiana would have played against quality offenses like Missouri and top flight defenses like that of Michigan State, the Wolverines will be the first complete team that Indiana will have to line up against. By that I mean that they actually have both an offense and a defense that very well could be ranked in the top-25 in the nation.
While I think by this point in the season the Indiana defense will have improved from the train wreck that was 2012, I believe that for the Hoosiers to have a chance to win this game they will need two specific things to happen.
First of all they will need big plays in all facets of the game. They will need a big return or two to provide a spark, a big play from Shane Wynn or a running back that allows the offense to take a breath and a big play on defense that can swing the turnover battle in their direction.
In addition, the Hoosiers need to impress their tempo and style of play onto the game. They must be able to make the Wolverines uncomfortable with their style from the first snap of the game.
Unfortunately, none of this is easy to do ever, let alone when matched up against a talented, well coached and disciplined team like the Wolverines. Add to that the fact that this game will be played at The Big House, and it will be one of the toughest tests on Indiana’sschedule all season.
I do believe that this game will be a lot more fun to watch from a Hoosiers perspective than most of the 61 previous meetings between the two schools
Indiana Chance of Winning: 10%