Michigan looking to wear down Indiana
Who: No. 14 Michigan vs. Indiana
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Memorial Stadium, Indiana
Spread: Michigan -13
Matchup to watch: Nate Sudfeld vs. Jourdan Lewis
There aren’t many ways a defense can prevent the IU quarterback from getting his yards. Well, Lewis might be one of those ways. Quarterbacks are learning not to attack the Michigan cornerback, considering he has a whopping 17 pass breakups on the season. Whether Lewis is on Ricky Jones or Simmie Cobbs Jr., Sudfeld is going to have to be well aware of the individual matchup. Sudfeld hasn’t had to avoid too many defensive backs this season. He didn’t avoid Desmond King down the stretch last week — at least not successfully — and it proved costly. Surprisingly, IU actually has capable receiving options if Sudfeld wants to avoid Lewis altogether. It could be up to them to carry the offensive load.
Thing I’m excited to see: Jordan Howard vs. Michigan run defense
Wait, did you think I meant to put this in the matchup to watch? Well, it very easily could’ve gone there but I think it’s arguably the best strength-on-strength matchup we’ve seen in the B1G this year. Howard is finally healthy — or about as healthy as he’s going to be this season — and is facing probably the toughest matchup of his career. I thought last week against Iowa was going to be a good barometer for the talented UAB transfer. Nobody had allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Hawkeyes and Howard still ripped off 174 yards and a score. Michigan, on the other hand, hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and ranks third in FBS against the run. Kevin Wilson usually draws up the right game plan to spread defenses out and attack with Howard. Desmond Morgan and Joe Bolden will have to make plenty of open-field tackles before Howard gets a head of steam at the second level.
Number to remember: 15
That’s how many points IU surrendered per fourth quarter in B1G play. That, in case you didn’t know, isn’t good. The Hoosiers allowed double-digit points in the fourth quarter of every one of those games, which suggests the defense runs out of gas. To beat a blue-collar team like Michigan, that trend can’t continue. The Wolverines are as physical as it comes at the line of scrimmage, and are plenty capable of wearing the Hoosiers down over the course of a game. Jim Harbaugh talked about how the offense’s biggest focus will be handling defensive tackle Darius Latham. That should tell you plenty about what Michigan will try to do. Even though IU’s secondary is one of the weakest in FBS, Michigan will still try to take over in the trenches and let the running game do the dirty work.
Prediction: Michigan 38, Indiana 24
We haven’t seen a defense turn the IU offense into a one-dimensional unit with Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard healthy. I’m not saying Michigan does that completely, but I do think the Hoosiers find themselves in more predictable passing downs than usual. For Michigan, I see Jake Butt exposing the middle of the IU defense and connecting with Jake Rudock in several key situations. We might not see as much of Jabrill Peppers on offense in an effort to preserve him for the home stretch. Besides, De’Veon Smith and Drake Johnson shouldn’t have a problem establishing the run against IU. I think the Hoosiers do enough to stay within striking distance into the second half, but as usual, they’ll be on their heels in the fourth quarter.