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Friend vs Foe: Indiana

October 17th, 2013 by Josh DeMille


For this week’s edition of Friend vs Foe we welcome Adam Johnson of the Indiana SB Nation blog The Crimson Quarry. He was kind enough to answer questions about how the Hoosiers got shut down by Michigan State last week, how IU fans view Michigan, where he sees advantages in individual matchups this week, and more. He also provides his prediction. You can follow him on Twitter at @johnsoad and the main feed @crimsonquarry.

1. Last week was strength against strength – Michigan State’s defense against Indiana’s offense – and they got the better of you. How were they able to slow down IU’s high-powered passing game?

This is going to sound like a homer answer, but I’m not certain Indiana didn’t slow down, Indiana’s passing game. Nate Sudfeld just didn’t have a very good game. He overthrew several open receivers on deep passes and in general had a case of happy feet that caused a lot of passes to sail on him. I guess the credit goes to Michigan State in keeping the pressure up on Sudfeld and never making him feel comfortable. Still, despite the relatively lack luster performance, Indiana was able to tack 28 points on the board.

2. From an IU perspective, how do you view the current state of the Michigan program? Having lost 17 straight times and 32 of the last 33, how confident are you that this might be the year to beat Michigan, given the way Michigan struggled to beat Akron and UConn and blew the game against Penn State – a team IU beat?

Michigan State's defense kept Nate Sudfeld uncomfortable all day last Saturday (Matthew Mitchell, MSU Athletic Communications)

The Michigan program is a bit of a mystery to me. Of course, I view them as a traditional power house program especially in conference, but they’ve certainly had their share of head scratchers this year. I don’t think anyone is super confident at winning but a lot are confident we have a good shot. The last two times Indiana and Michigan have met it has been shootouts that were probably closer than they should have been. Indiana is now in a position where they’re going to win more of those style games than they lose. If we can get this one into a tic for tack scoring battle, I feel confident of this one going down to the last possession or two.

3. Indiana’s defense gives up a lot of yards and a lot of points. How was it able to hold Penn State to just 24 points? Also, Michigan’s offense has struggled most of the season but still averages 39 points per game (23rd nationally). Can IU’s defense slow down Michigan or will this game be a shootout?

IU’s defense probably played to their ceiling with the talent they have against Penn State. They probably played close to their floor against Michigan State. We’re just hoping for something consistently in between. Michigan is going to put up points. That’s a given. However, Indiana does have it in them to string together a couple stops in a row. If they can force punts or turnovers in 2-3 consecutive drives there’s a good chance that the offense can put Michigan in a bad spot. But yes, it would be smart to take the over in this one.

4. What individual matchups do you think Indiana can take advantage of this week?

Most of the match-up pluses for Indiana are obviously going to be on defense. The entirety of the young Michigan secondary better be ready for an aerial assault. WR Cody Latimer and TE Ted Bolser are both going to be playing on Sundays next year and they’re smart receivers too. A lot of teams when the QB is flushed will run to the passer to find space. Indiana likes to leak receivers down field. I expect Indiana to have some roll out passes to tempt the young Michigan secondary to try and come up to the line to make a play while their man flies up field. It’s a big reason Indiana is top 10 in the nation in big plays. Sudfeld leaves the pocket and everyone on defense starts looking for that big play. Sometimes Sudfeld leaving the pocket is actually by design instead of him running for his life behind a nearly full 2nd string offensive line now.

5. What will it take for Indiana to win this game? What’s your prediction?

Indiana has to get some stops on defense. Not a ton, but some. I expect Indiana’s offense to come out and get a pretty good start. We’ll see multiple quarterbacks to keep Michigan on its toes and IU will put up points. The defense just has to get one or two stops a quarter to make it very interesting. Still, on the road in the big house I can’t confidently say that’s going to happen. I’m going to go with Indiana 42 – Michigan 52. A field goal might as well be a turnover in this game.

Well Michigan finally lost a game, but at least it wasn’t Akron or UConn. Hats off to Penn State, they deserved to win. Now we take a look at Indiana, a high-powered passing attack that annihilated Penn State 44-24 then proceed to fall to Michigan State 42-28 the following week. One thing we do know about Kevin Wilson’s team is they love to throw the rock. Let’s take a look at what Michigan needs to do to win.

On Offense

IU isn’t exactly a defensive stalwart but if you turn the ball over enough anyone has a chance (see Akron/UConn). Usually I’d rather not see any turnovers, but Devin Gardner is going to turn the ball over. It’s just a fact. In 11 games as a starting quarterback he’s only had one, yes ONE, turnover free game and has averaged more than an interception per game and has had several fumbles. That is completely unacceptable. Despite his propensity to turn it over he is still by far the best option at quarterback, so let’s move on. Since we cannot reasonably expect Gardner to not turn it over let’s say Michigan needs to not turn it over on their side of the 50 or in the redzone. I guess we could call this one, ‘not turning it over and putting the defense in a poor position’ for lack of a better phrase.

Next, Michigan must move the ball, no matter what that entails. I read a good deal about how Hoke needs to go back to the read option because that’s the only time this team has run the ball. And while it is a great point, that is not going to happen so I’m not going to say it should. What I will say, however, is that they need to find something that’s working to get the ball moving, period. If it’s the short passing game, screen passes, draws or some end arounds, whatever. If they move the ball good things, usually, happen. Now this is easier said than done because of the issues with the big uglies up front. Which brings me to my next point…

Jake Ryan and the rest of the defense will have its hands full with IU's high-powered passing game (MGoBlue.com)

The offensive line needs to play angry. Yes, we have an All-American left tackle and a senior right tackle, but they don’t look like a Michigan line at all. They need to stop thinking and just start playing. Don’t worry about the next play or about missing an assignment. Just go out, get angry and maul people. The game is won in the trenches, and if Michigan can own the trenches they will win.

On Defense

First off, Allen Robinson is a phenomenal receiver and Channing Stribling is a true freshman. That said, Stribling couldn’t have played better coverage than he did when Robinson set PSU up for 1st-and-goal at the end of regulation. He, and the rest of the secondary need to keep their poise because IU is going to throw it.

The Hoosiers can put up some serious points, to the tune of almost 42 per game. Michigan needs to bring their A-game if they want to walk away the victors valiant.

The defense showed a bit more moxie last week but they’ll need to step up their game if they want to keep IU out of the end zone. Nate Sudfeld isn’t a threat to run the ball but Tre Roberson is, and they both played last week. We don’t know which quarterback we’ll see Saturday but Michigan needs to be ready for either one. Last week against MSU they combined for 259 yards passing. I don’t need to tell you this but Sparty’s defense is better than ours, so Michigan needs to be ready to roll.

Pressure the quarterback, whichever one it is. Michigan hasn’t been all that great getting to the QB but they showed some promise last week. If they can keep that momentum going they should be able to harass IU’s quarterbacks all day. And they can do this by…

Bringing pressure and bringing it from all angles. If Michigan can keep IU guessing at where the pressure is coming from it should pay off with some bad passes and sacks. But the key is to bring pressure with five or six guys. Michigan’s defensive line is not good enough (at least we haven’t seen proof they are) to get to the quarterback without the aid of a linebacker or other blitzer. So keep blitzing away.

Special Teams

Win the field position game. Good returns and solid coverage are often overlooked but are almost always a major factor. The shorter the field the offense has to work with, the better the chances of winning. Same is true on the defensive side. The longer IU has to consistently drive, the less chance Michigan has of giving up a ton of points.

I hate to say it but Michigan needed to lose a game. They needed to get that “not apologizing for being undefeated” attitude out of their locker room. Sometimes losing is the best thing for a team, and I think that will hold true with Team 134. I’m not saying they’ll win out but I think they’ll come out with a newfound passion and purpose moving forward because of it.