The Michigan Wolverines will look to rebound following a devastating loss to in-state rival Michigan State last weekend as they welcome the Indiana Hoosiers to the Big House on Saturday night.
Things were looking good midway through the third quarter last Saturday for the Wolverines (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) as they held a 30-14 advantage over the Spartans. Then Kenneth Walker III happened. The Heisman Trophy candidate dominated in the second half, finishing the game with five rushing touchdowns in the 37-33 victory. Those five touchdowns on the ground from Walker were more than Michigan had given up (three) in the prior seven games. The Wolverines will look to avoid a hangover on Saturday against Indiana, who has one more chance to salvage its season.
The Hoosiers (2-6, 0-5) came up just short in their comeback attempt last weekend against Maryland, falling 38-35 to the Terrapins to drop their fourth in a row. If there was a positive to come out of the game, it was the play of true freshman quarterback Donaven McCulley, who threw two touchdown passes with no interceptions and had his offense fighting all the way until the last drive. Indiana remains winless in the Big Ten — a major disappointment considering this is a team that began the season in the Top 25.
A win for the Hoosiers also would mean they accomplish something they haven't since 1958-59, which is beat Michigan in consecutive games. Last season's 38-21 victory in Bloomington snapped Indiana's 24-game losing streak to the Wolverines. Overall, Michigan leads this series 59-10.
Indiana at No. 7 Michigan
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Michigan -19.5
When Indiana Has the Ball
Head coach Tom Allen said this week that Week 1 starter Michael Penix Jr. is progressing at a better rate than the team initially thought with a shoulder injury, but his status remains week-to-week. Even if Penix was healthy, you have to wonder if the staff would turn the keys back over to the junior quarterback after the way McCulley performed against Maryland. The former 4-star recruit completed 14 of 25 passes and averaged 9.7 yards per completion, so McCulley wasn't just checking the ball down the entire game. In a year for the team that will undoubtedly be considered a step backward, McCulley emerging as a bright spot the remainder of the season would be big for the future of the program.
The Hoosiers also got a big performance from former USC transfer Stephen Carr, who had a season-high 136 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 attempts against Maryland. The once-dominant Michigan run defense has sprung a few leaks here of late — and not just against a Heisman Trophy candidate either. The Wolverines have allowed opponents to average over four yards a carry in five of the last six games and are sitting middle of the pack in the Big Ten in rushing defense. In the passing game, Indiana tight end Peyton Hendershot had a record-setting day against the Terps with six catches for 106 yards and two scores.
When Michigan Has the Ball
One of the main reasons last weekend was so disappointing for the Wolverines was that there were many positives to come out of that game, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Cade McNamara easily had his best performance of the season, throwing for 383 yards and two touchdowns before the costly interception on the final drive that ended the game. Tight end Erick All, known primarily as a blocker, had a career-high 10 receptions for 98 yards and was clutch the entire game with multiple third-down conversions to keep drives alive. And then, out of nowhere, came true freshman receiver Andrel Anthony, who posted six receptions for 155 yards and two impressive touchdowns in the biggest moment of the season despite not having a single catch coming into last Saturday. Anthony might have been the story of the weekend had Michigan come out of East Lansing with a win.
Against Indiana, the Wolverines will be looking to get the run game back on track as they were held without a rushing touchdown for the first time all season against the Spartans. After a dominant start to the season, the Michigan offensive line is starting to slow down, now ranked 64th in Line Yards and 41st in Rush Play Success Rate, according to CollegeFootballData.com. The Hoosiers do have a stout defensive front that can match up with the Wolverines run game, ranking 33rd in the country in rush defense after holding Maryland to under two yards a carry last week.
Michigan has to put last week's crushing loss behind it and come out fast against a downtrodden Indiana team. That not only will help the Wolverines turn the page, it also deprives the Hoosiers of their shot at a much-needed boost of confidence. McCulley played well on the road last week in his first career start, but this will be a different animal at the Big House in a night environment. Michigan gets back on track in the win column, setting up another anticipated matchup the following weekend on the road at Penn State.
Prediction: Michigan 35, Indiana 14
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— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.