Can the Wolverines bounce back from their heartbreaking loss last week to beat the Hoosiers on the road?
Heartbreak was the story last week for the Michigan Wolverines (4-1) as they turned the ball over five times on the rain-soaked field and fell to their in-state rivals Michigan State 14-10 in the Big House. While the defense held up their end of the bargain for yet another week, the Wolverines’ offense continues to struggle in just about every facet.
Indiana (3-2) notched their third victory of the season last week beating FCS opponent Charleston Southern 27-0. The Hoosiers are looking to secure their first Big Ten win after getting blown out in the first two matchups to both Penn State and Ohio State.
It’s been nearly 30 years (1988) since the Hoosiers have beaten Michigan. Can Indiana end the 21-game losing streak on Saturday?
Michigan at Indiana
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 14 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ABC
Spread: Michigan -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. New man on campus
After splitting quarterback reps for a few games, Indiana first-year head coach Tom Allen made the permanent switch last week naming sophomore Peyton Ramsey the starting QB over senior incumbent Richard Lagow. In Ramsey’s first-ever start last week, he completed 32-of-42 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 54 yards and a score. While the Wolverines held Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke to just 94 passing yards last week, they struggled to bottle him up on the ground, giving up 61 rushing yards to the mobile quarterback. Despite his inexperience, Ramsey could pose some problems with both his arm and feet for this Michigan defense.
It would not be a stretch to say that whichever team wins the turnover battle on Saturday will likely come out on top. The Hoosiers have struggled mightily with turnovers this season, ranking 123rd in the country in that statistic with a minus-seven margin – partially why the Hoosiers made the switch at QB. The Wolverines are at minus-one, but that stat is skewed considering how good the defense has been at creating turnovers. The Michigan offense, on the other hand, is tied for 110th in the country with 12 giveaways on the year. It is very feasible that we see the football changing hands quite a bit on Saturday.
3. Collective effort
Michigan’s struggles on offense this season have been well-documented. One thing for certain is that while most of the attention goes to the quarterbacks, and rightly so, it is a collective effort as to why the offense has not clicked. The offensive line is not gelling with three new starters this season. The running backs have struggled with fumbles and dumb penalties in recent weeks. Drops have plagued the receivers. And even the offensive play-calling has left much to be desired. If this season is to turn around for the better, the offense as a whole needs to step up its play…and fast.
At the beginning of the year, when looking at Michigan’s schedule, this was the perfect spot for a trap game with this matchup against the Hoosiers coming right in between a rivalry game and a prime-time date at Penn State. That went out the window with the loss to the Spartans last week and the Wolverines can ill-afford another loss with Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State all still looming. This will likely be another ugly performance from a struggling Michigan offense, but the Wolverines should find more success on the ground to notch yet another victory over the Hoosiers.
Prediction: Michigan 24, Indiana 16
— 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.