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Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Wilson’

Michigan-Indiana game preview

Friday, October 31st, 2014


Game Preview_Indiana_banner

Michigan got embarrassed by rival Michigan State last Saturday, dropping to 3-5 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten. Michigan now must win its next three to gain bowl eligibility and avoid a third losing season in seven years. All three should be winnable, but with every other record and streak that has fallen this season — shutout streak, largest margin of defeat to Michigan State, and possibly attendance streak — and the past few seasons — first loss to a MAC team, first (and second) losing season in over 40 years — Indiana could be primed to end another one. Michigan hasn’t lost to the Hoosiers since Bo Schembechler roamed the sidelines, a 14-10 defeat in Bloomington in 1987. Michigan hasn’t lost to the Hoosiers at home since Bo was at Miami (Ohio), a 27-20 defeat in 1967.

UM-Indiana-small-final
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30 p.m. EST – Big Ten Network
Indiana Head Coach: Kevin Wilson (4th season)
Coaching Record: 13-30 (all at Indiana)
Offensive Coordinators: Greg Frey (4th season)
Kevin Johns (4th season)
Defensive Coordinators: William Inge (2nd season)
Brian Knorr (1st season)
Returning Starters: 17 (8 offense, 9 defense)
Last Season: 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 63 – IU 47 (2013)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 53-9
Record at Michigan Stadium: Michigan leads 30-5
Current Streak: Michigan 18
Last 10 Meetings:  Michigan 10-0
Last Indiana Win: 1987 (14-10)
Last Indiana Road Win: 1967 (27-20)

But it’s not as if Indiana is a world-bater or anything. Kevin Wilson had the Hoosiers on the right trajectory heading into the season, going 1-11 in 2011, 4-8 in 2012, and 5-7 a year ago. But the two-quarterback platoon that he used to great offensive success last season dissolved when one of them, Tre Roberson, transferred to Illinois State in June. That left the other, Nate Sudfeld, to assume the quarterback role by himself. He provided a better arm, but not the dual-threat ability that Roberson brought to the table, and while Indiana’s offense started the season pretty good, it was clear that it was a step behind last season’s.

After beating Indiana State in Week 1, IU lost at Bowling Green, 45-42. But they responded the following week with a 31-27 upset of 18th-ranked Missouri on the road, giving Wilson more road wins over top 25 teams than Brady Hoke. The euphoria would be short-lived as Indiana returned home to get throttled by Maryland, 37-15. They rebounded with a 49-24 win over North Texas, but dropped back-to-back conference games to Iowa (45-29) and Michigan State (56-17).

All but the last one were with Sudfeld behind center, but Wilson’s hopes for a winning season became extremely difficult when Sudfeld went down against Iowa with a separated shoulder. Suddenly, a position that was considered a strength three months ago was left with a true freshman with no college experience.

Does Indiana have the ability to come to Ann Arbor and steal a victory the same way it did in Columbia, Mo.? Or will Michigan’s defense prove too much for the unseasoned signal caller? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Indiana offense: When Indiana has the ball

Indiana’s offense ranks 32nd nationally in total offense (460.3 yards per game), 64th in scoring (30.1 points per game), eighth in rushing (289.9 yards per game), and 112th in passing (170.4 yards per game). It also ranks 103rd in third-down conversions (36 percent) and 98th in red zone offense (78 percent).

The main reason for the success Indiana has had is running back Tevin Coleman, who leads the nation with 170.3 rushing yards per game. He has rushed for at least 122 yards in every game this season with a high of 247 against Indiana State. He also rushed for 219, averaging 14.9 yards per carry, against Iowa’s stout run defense and 132, averaging 8.8 yards per carry, against Michigan State.

The passing game is a different story, however. The Hoosiers average 170.4 yards per game through the air. In fact, Coleman has rushed for more yards (1,204) by himself than the Hoosiers have passed for (1,193). Sudfeld completed 60.5 percent of his passes for 1,151 yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions before his injury. His replacement, true freshman Zander Diamont, completed just 5-of-15 for 11 yards in his first game action against Michigan State two weeks ago.

Shane Wynn is the leading receiver with 27 catches for 424 yards and two touchdowns. He caught two touchdowns against Michigan last season. Senior Nick Stoner has 18 catches for 177 yards and one score, while Coleman is the team’s third-leading pass catcher with 17 for 140 yards. Freshman J-Shun Harris II is the only other Hoosier with double-digit receptions with 14 for 139 and two scores.

Michigan offense vs Indiana defense: When Michigan has the ball

Defense has never been a specialty of Wilson’s in Bloomington. A year ago, Indiana’s scoring offense ranked 16th nationally, but its scoring defense ranked 115th. Only nine teams in the nation allowed more points per game. But this offseason Wilson brought in Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brian Knorr to change from a 4-3 to the 3-4 that he ran at Wake. Knorr elevated Wake’s defense from 91st in 2012 to 31st in 2013, but that kind of success at Indiana is a much tougher task.

The line consists of sophomore tackle Darius Latham — a former four-star recruit –, redshirt junior nose tackle Adarius Rayner, and senior end Bobby Richardson. Richardson has 4.5 tackles for loss, while Latham and Rayner each have two. Richardson leads the team with four sacks. Redshirt sophomore tackle Ralph Green III ranks second on the team with four tackles for loss.

Converted defensive end Nick Mangieri plays the bandit linebacker spot and has 25 tackles, two for loss, and two sacks. SAM linebacker Forisse Hardin has 32 tackles, 3.5 for loss, and a sack. Middle linebacker T.J. Simmons leads the team with 43 tackles to go along with 2.5 for loss and one sack, while fifth-year senior David Cooper has 35 tackles and one for loss.

The secondary has been picked on all season, allowing 283.3 yards per game through the air, which ranks 111th nationally. The corners are senior Tim Bennett and redshirt junior Michael Hunter. Bennett ranks second on the team in tackles with 38 and leads the team with eight pass breakups. The safeties are sophomore Antonio Allen and senior Mark Murphy. Allen is the team’s third-leading tackler.

Special Teams: The other third

Redshirt freshman kicker Aaron Del Grosso has made just 1-of-4 field goals, but fellow redshirt freshman Griffin Oakes has supplanted him by converting 4-of-5 with a long of 58. Redshirt junior punter Erich Toth ranks sixth in the Big Ten with an average of 41.3 yards per punt. Wynn is the main returner, averaging 22 yards per kick return, which ranks eighth in the conference, and 5.8 yards per punt return.

Prediction

Michigan’s offense has scored just 14.4 points per game in the last five, but it shouldn’t have any troubles against Indiana’s defense that has allowed just one team all season to score fewer than 24 points — FCS Indiana State in Week 1. The Hoosiers’ defense was the cure for Michigan’s struggling offense last season and that should follow suit on Saturday. It certainly won’t be the record-setting performance that we witnessed a year ago, but it should look a little bit more like a normal offense.

Defensively, Michigan will look to pressure the inexperienced Diamont into mistakes. Coleman will get his yards like he does every game and like Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford did to the Wolverines. But as long as Michigan’s defense can prevent him from breaking long touchdown runs, it should be able to hold IU low enough to outscore them.

Michigan 34 – Indiana 20

M&GB staff predictions: Indiana

Friday, October 31st, 2014


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Two-thirds of the way into the 2014 season, Michigan players, coaches, and fans are relegated to simply hoping to play their way into the postseason and avoid a third losing season in seven years. To do so, Michigan must win three of its last four games and tomorrow presents a great chance to pick up one of those wins. Let’s take a look at our predictions.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Indiana
Justin 34 20
Sam 22 16
Derick 38 31
Josh 17 14
Joe 35 21
M&GB Average 29 20

Justin: Stay tuned for my full game preview later this afternoon, but here’s my brief perdition. Michigan hasn’t lost to Indiana since 1987 and hasn’t lost to Indiana at home since 1967. That’s precisely why this game worries me. It seems that every other streak has fallen over the past few years, so why wouldn’t this one?

If Indiana was at full-speed offensively, I’d say the Hoosiers had a very good chance of outscoring Michigan. But with true freshman Zander Diamont making his first career road start — and second game appearance of his career — Indiana will have trouble making enough big plays to score. Tevin Coleman is the nation’s leading rusher, so head coach Kevin Wilson will make sure he feeds Coleman often and hope for results like Minnesota’s David Cobb and Michigan State’s Jeremy Langford against Michigan.

Indiana’s defense is basically the same old Hoosiers, but the way Michigan’s offense has played this season, don’t expect Michigan to come anywhere close to its record-breaking against IU last season. Indiana gives up 35 points per game and ranks 111th nationally against the pass. Look for Devin Gardner to have his best passing game of the season and Michigan to score just enough to make it a comfortable win.

Michigan 34 – Indiana 20

Sam: I find myself with less and less to say with each passing week. I still do care deeply about this football team, but it’s getting harder and harder to do that when knowing so clearly that the players deserve much better than what they are getting. There is no more room for debate over the level of ineptitude of the coaching staff; they are simply and utterly inept.

It seems at this point, however, that the staff will be in place for the remainder of the season, leaving the players, the fans, and Michigan to suffer for a few more weeks.

This Saturday, it actually seems like there’s a chance to win (every time I write something like this I am simply astounded at how bad this has gotten) over an Indiana team that is about as lost defensively as Michigan is offensively. Over the past two weeks, the Hoosiers have given up more than 100 combined points to Michigan State and Iowa while Michigan continues to languish with the ball, having managed only seven offensive touchdowns while coughing it up 15 times over the course of six games against real competition. And you thought the Penn State game was ugly….

Which units fail worse will decide this game. I’ll take Michigan.

Michigan 22- Indiana 16

Derick:  Michigan still has a bowl game to play for, but a loss to Indiana would all but eliminate that with the season finale in Columbus looking largely unwinnable for the Wolverines. Michigan and Indiana put on an offensive show in the Big House last season, and the Hoosiers have played with the same pace through seven games this season.

The defense is much stronger for Michigan this season, and should be able to hold Indiana below the 47 points it scored in the matchup last season. The Wolverines will score just enough to keep the bowl hopes alive, winning 38-31.

Michigan 38 – Indiana 31

Josh: I want so badly to predict Michigan to beat IU in a blowout but we all know that isn’t happening. IU is bad on defense, really bad, they start their third string quarterback but have one of the best running backs in the conference behind him. Yes, they are bad, and yet they still managed to put up 17 points against Sparty, which is more than Michigan could muster. That leaves me wondering if Michigan can actually win this one.

Yes, Michigan’s defense in terms of yardage is good on paper but that is meaningless to me, all that matters is they give up more points than they can score. This team remains severely handicapped by their lack of offense. Still, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict Tevin Coleman gets darn near close to 200 all-purpose yards, with at least one huge (read: 50-plus yards) touchdown play. I don’t think IU will pass much, or well, but Michigan’s secondary is very beatable. Blake Countess isn’t who we thought he was and while Jourdan Lewis has the makings of a really good cornerback he is still too aggressive in coverage and garners too many pass interference calls which lead to very good field position and easy scores given up.

IU’s defense is bad, like Appalachian State bad, but I don’t think Michigan will move the ball on the Hoosiers the way they did in the opener. These kids may love Brady Hoke but they’ve lost the fire in their guts to win football games for him. Either that or these kids aren’t talented enough to wear the winged helmet, which is quite possible. I can rattle off several names who should never have received Michigan offers yet see playing time nonetheless. Regardless, this team might have one more win in them and IU is their best shot.

I expect this one to be close throughout with the deciding factor being whoever turns it over least will win, but not in the normal ‘win the turnover battle’ sort of way. My over/under on total turnovers is 6.5 and it’s very likely this one comes down to a big mistake like turning the ball over inside your own 20 (I’m looking at you Mr. Gardner) and the other team being gifted a score they likely would not have earned otherwise. Still, I think Michigan should pull this one out and notch their final win of the season. How many days until basketball?

Michigan 17 – Indiana 14

Joe: Finally, a game that does not scare me. And that in itself, really scares me! Indiana has lost their starting quarterback and will leave things up to a true freshman that looked very unprepared against Sparty a few weeks ago. I think we will see a lot handoffs and screens to their star running back Tevin Coleman. They run the spread and will try to move things fast. As long as the Michigan defense keeps Coleman under wraps, we will be fine. If he gets loose, look out. He is that good.

Michigan’s offense will be able to move the ball and control the clock. Look for Gardner to run the ball a little more than normal. This will help open up the passing game a little and allow for some big plays. As long as we win the turnover battle, which is a HUGE if, we will be fine. I look for a decent effort from our guys and a nice 35-21 victory. Go Blue.

Michigan 35 – Indiana 21

First Look: Indiana

Monday, October 27th, 2014


FirstLook-Indiana

Michigan had two weeks to prepare for Michigan State, but it didn’t matter one bit as the offense couldn’t move the ball and the defense couldn’t hold up. Now Michigan is in must-win mode if it wants to play in a bowl game and avoid a third losing season in seven years. What better remedy could there be than to play Indiana, who allowed Michigan its best offensive performance of the season a year ago? Could that happen again? Let’s take a look at how the teams match up.

Indiana Statistics & Michigan Comparison
Indiana | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 30.1 | 20.4 64 | 110
34.9 | 23.1 105 | 44
Rushing Yards 2,029| 1,210 1,181 | 874
Rush Avg. Per Game 289.9 | 151.2 8 | 74 168.7 | 109.2 73 | 16
Avg. Per Rush 6.4 | 4.4
4.5 | 3.1
Passing Yards 1,193 | 1,356 1,983 | 1,679
Pass Avg. Per Game 170.4 | 169.5 112 | 114 283.3 | 209.9 111 | 41
Total Offense 3,222 | 2,566 3,164 | 2,553
Total Off Avg. Per Game 460.3 | 320.8 32 | 115 452.0 | 319.1 100 | 14
Kick Return Average 18.2 | 19.1 116 | 96 19.1 | 19.9 33 | 51
Punt Return Average 6.6 | 6.2 82 | 89 5.2 | 11.8 T36 | 109
Avg. Time of Possession 28:21 | 30:05 95 | 62
31:39 | 29:55
3rd Down Conversion Pct 36.0% | 41.0% 103 | 60
37.0% | 38.0% 43 | 50
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 13-73 | 17-109
51 | T76
14-93 | 19-158
T68 | T48
Touchdowns Scored 28 | 19
30 | 21
Field Goals-Attempts 5-9 | 9-13
12-14 | 13-15
Red Zone Scores (18-23)78%|(17-19)89% T98 | 22
(25-25)100%|(23-26)88% T123 | 101
Red Zone Touchdowns (15-23)65%|(14-19)74% (17-25)68%|(14-26)54%
Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) .181 | -.126
42 | 74 .615 | -.207 119 | 44

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson had the Hoosiers trending upward heading into this season. But quarterback transfers and injuries have decimated the once powerful offense leaving true freshman Zander Diamont to be thrown to the wolves midseason. Diamont went 5-of-15 for 11 yards in his first collegiate action in a 56-17 loss to Michigan State two weeks ago. When he starts at Michigan this Saturday, it will be his first time playing in an opponent’s stadium.

Schedule
Date Opponent Result
Aug. 30 Indiana State W 28-10
Sept. 13 at Bowling Green L 42-45
Sept. 20 at #18 Missouri W 31-27
Sept. 27 Maryland L 15-37
Oct. 4 North Texas W 49-24
Oct. 11 at Iowa L 29-45
Oct. 18 #8 Michigan State L 17-56
Nov. 1 at Michigan
Nov. 8 Penn State
Nov. 15 at Rutgers
Nov. 22 at #13 Ohio State
Nov. 29 Purdue

The Hoosiers offense has certainly taken a step back from a year ago, but is still much better than Michigan’s thanks to a run game that ranks eighth nationally, averaging 289.9 yards per game. Running back Tevin Coleman is currently the nation’s leading rusher, averaging 170.3 yards per game. As a team, Indiana has rushed for at least 200 yards in every game this season, over 300 yards three times, and over 400 yards once.

The passing game, however, is right on par with Michigan’s. The Hoosiers average 170.4 yards per game through the air, which ranks 112th nationally. Comparatively, Michigan averages 169.5 and ranks 114th. In four of seven games, IU has thrown for fewer than 130 yards, including the 11 yards against Michigan State two weeks ago. Michigan won’t hold Diamont to 11 passing yards this weekend, but with Sudfeld out the Hoosiers will stick to the ground game.

Defensively, Indiana is one of the nation’s worst like it usually has been under Wilson. The 34.9 points allowed per game ranks 105th. The only opponent Indiana has held below 24 points was FCS foe Indiana State, which scored 10. Three of seven opponents have scored at least 40 points.

Indiana is allowing 133 more total yards per game than Michigan (59.5 more rushing yards and 73.4 more passing yards). After holding Indiana State to 30 yards on 24 carries in Week 1, IU’s rush defense had been holding up pretty well until allowing Michigan State to rush for 330 yards and five touchdowns two weeks ago. The pass defense, however, has given up over 300 yards in four of seven games, including 395 to Bowling Green and 361 to Maryland.

The Hoosiers are also pretty solid with special teams defense, ranking 33rd on kickoff returns and 36th on punt returns compared to Michigan’s 51st and 109th. They aren’t as good the other way, however, ranking 116th in kick return yardage and 82nd on punt returns.

Indiana presents a great opportunity for Michigan to get back on the winning track, especially offensively. But as we saw last year, a record-breaking performance against Indiana doesn’t ensure continued success. This year it will just be one more step toward bowl eligibility.

Key Players
Passing Comp-Att Yards TD INT Average/Game
Nate Sudfeld (out) 101-167 1,151 6 3 191.8
Zander Diamont 5-15 11 0 0 11.0
Rushing Attempts Yards TD Long Average/Carry
Tevin Coleman 135 1,192 11 83 8.8
D’Angelo Roberts 83 416 5 47 5.0
Devine Redding 25 115 1 16 4.6
Nate Sudfeld (QB – out) 36 98 2 17 2.7
Receiving Receptions Yards TD Long Average/Game
Shane Wynn 27 424 2 76 60.6
Nick Stoner 18 177 1 47 25.3
Tevin Coleman (RB) 17 140 0 44 20.0
J-Shun Harris II 14 139 2 33 19.9
Simmie Cobbs 5 99 0 34 14.1
Defense Solo Assisted Total Tackles TFL-Yds Sacks-Yds
T.J. Simmons (LB) 24 19 43 2.5-6 1.0-4
David Cooper (LB) 17 18 35 1.0-3 0-0
Forisse Hardin (LB) 18 14 32 3.5-15 1.0-6
Nate Hoff (DT) 10 9 19 5.0-20 2.0-12
Bobby Richardson (DT) 14 3 17 4.5-35 4.0-33
Kicking FG Made FG Att Long XP Made XP Att
Aaron Del Grosso 1 4 23 12 12
Griffin Oakes 4 5 58 14 14
Punting Punts Yds Avg. In-20 50+
Erich Toth 40 1,652 41.3 11 4
Full Stats

Stay tuned for more on Indiana in the coming days.

2014 Big Ten football position rankings: Coaches (part one)

Thursday, August 14th, 2014


Big-Ten-position-rankings-header-Coaches

This is the 11th installment of Maize and Go Blue’s series that ranks the best Big Ten players at each position for the upcoming season. Each week, until Michigan’s opener, one position will be previewed, looking at the players who will excel in 2014, not necessarily the ones who did so in previous seasons. However, now that offense, defense, and special teams have been covered, we are bending the definition of the words “position” and “players” and ranking the Big Ten’s best head coaches. This list will be split into two parts in order to provide you with thorough and in-depth analysis. Here’s Part One:

Previously

Quarterbacks: Part One, Part Two | Running Backs: Part One, Part Two | Wide Receivers: Part One, Part Two
Tight Ends: Part One, Part Two | Offensive Line: Part One, Part Two | Defensive Line: Part One, Part Two
Linebackers: Part One, Part Two | Cornerbacks: Part One, Part Two | Safeties:Part One, Part Two
Special Teams: Kicking Specialists, Return Specialists

10. Kevin Wilson, Indiana | Overall Record: 10-26 (3 yrs) – Record at Indiana: 10-26 (3 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 5-7 3-5 4th (Leaders)
2012 4-8 2-6 5th (Leaders)
2011 1-11 0-8 6th (Leaders)
Career Totals 10-26 5-19    
(Michael Conroy, AP)

(Michael Conroy, AP)

Two Big Ten head coaches vied for the 10th spot on this list: Indiana’s Kevin Wilson and Maryland’s Randy Edsall. Both enter 2014 with their respective programs in oddly similar predicaments. Both assumed the head-coaching position at their respective programs prior to 2011, and both wish that their first seasons in Bloomington and College Park—Indiana went 1-11 and Maryland went 2-10—could be wiped from everyone’s memory Men in Black-style. Since those initial debacles, though, their programs have progressed gradually. Wilson’s Hoosiers increased their win total to four in 2012 and five in 2013, while Edsall’s Terrapins notched four and seven wins in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Both now find themselves in the Big Ten East, where they both yearn to lead their programs into the upper echelon of the division, joining the likes of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State.

So which of these two head coaches is most capable of making this possible? At first glance, Edsall seems like the correct choice. Edsall spent his first 12 years as a head coach at Connecticut, transforming the Huskies from a Division I-AA football program into a two-time Big East champion and 2011 Fiesta Bowl participant. Then, after a rocky start in College Park, his Terrapins were poised to break out last year. They won five of their first six games, suffering their only loss, albeit a rout, to eventual national champion Florida State. However, significant injuries to key players, like quarterback C.J. Brown, wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, and defensive backs Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson, derailed their season. What could have been a nine- or, heck, even a 10-win season finished with an underwhelming seven victories. This fall, though, most of those injured Terps will be back and healthy, which is why Maryland has been selected by many as a potential sleeper in the Big Ten. Accordingly, an inclusion of Edsall in the top 10 of this list would be justified.

However, Edsall needs to have one of his best seasons ever as a coach for Maryland to surprise folks, and I do not think he has it in him. Maryland may have a talented team, but let’s just say that the Big Ten did the Terps no favors with regards to scheduling. The two opponents that Maryland must face from the Big Ten West? The two favorites: Wisconsin and Iowa. Throw those two smack dab in the middle of a six-game gauntlet that includes home games against Ohio State and Michigan State and road contests against Penn State and Michigan, and the losses suddenly start to add up quickly.  Maryland has the talent to cobble together a double-digit-win season, but, with that schedule, a six- or seven-game losing streak certainly is not out of the question. If Maryland begins to fall into a tailspin, can Edsall pull the Terps together and out of such a dive? My prediction: no.

This is why Wilson sneaked past Edsall into the No. 10 spot. Indiana by no means has a gimme schedule, but Wilson has already done more with less than Edsall. When Wilson became the head coach at Indiana, he took over a program that had been a perennial doormat in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have had only one winning season since 1994 (2007). They finished no higher than 69th nationally and higher than 86th only once in the F/+ Combined Ratings—a set of rankings which combines two advanced statistical algorithms—from 2005 to 2011. Yet, in 2012 and 2013, Indiana ranked 74th and 56th in the F/+ Combined Ratings, respectively. With an offense full of firepower, Wilson undeniably has Indiana on an upward trajectory. If Wilson and new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr can repair what has been the Big Ten’s worst defense each season of Wilson’s tenure, the Hoosiers have a fantastic opportunity to play in just their second bowl game in the past two decades.

9. Jerry Kill, Minnesota | Overall Record: 144-94 (20 yrs) – Record at Minnesota: 17-21 (3 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 8-5 4-4 4th (Legends) Texas Bowl (L)
2012 6-7 2-6 T5th (Legends) Texas Bowl (L)
2011 3-9 2-6 6th (Legends)
Career Totals 17-21 8-16   0-2
(AP)

(AP)

New Year’s Eve in 2006 was a turning point for the Minnesota football program. It was two days after the Gophers had crapped away a 31-point, third-quarter lead to lose to Texas Tech in the Insight Bowl and finish with a 6-7 record. It was also the day they shockingly announced they had fired head coach Glen Mason. In his ten years in Minneapolis, Mason had transformed Minnesota into a respectable Big Ten football program. His 53.5-win-percentage was the best among any Gophers head coach since George Hauser, who coached them from 1942 to 1944. Mason also led them to seven bowl games in an eight-year span after they had not played in one for 12 straight seasons. However, after the crushing collapse in the Insight Bowl, the Gophers, who never placed higher than fourth in the Big Ten under Mason, believed that he could not take them from mediocrity to excellence. Thus, they kicked him out.

Four years later, Minnesota realized it had made a monumental mistake and needed to rectify it. Jerry Kill, who had been very successful in his first four stops as a head coach at Saginaw Valley State, Emporia State, Southern Illinois, and Northern Illinois, was hired by Minnesota to clean up the mess left behind by Tim Brewster. Minnesota had hired Brewster to lead it to the next tier of Big Ten football, except he submarined the Gophers back to the depths of the obscurity they experienced for decades before Mason arrived. Thus far, Kill seems to be pulling them back to the level where Mason had the Gophers. After a tough first season during which Minnesota won only three games, Kill’s Gophers have been 14-12 the past two years with back-to-back appearances in a bowl game. In fact, the eight wins Minnesota tallied last season were the most by the program since it won 10 in 2003. Kill has Minnesota back on the right track, and he may just be the coach that can take Minnesota to where Mason never could.

On the other hand, Kill unfortunately has a disorder that may prevent him from accomplishing this feat. Kill has been diagnosed with epilepsy, a neurological “disorder in which the nerve cell activity in one’s brain is disturbed, causing a seizure during which one experiences abnormal behavior, symptoms and sensations, including loss of consciousness.” Kill tries to control it by taking certain medication, but he still experiences epileptic seizures occasionally. He suffered at least one seizure each of his first three seasons at Minnesota, including one on the sidelines in his first home game in 2011 and one just before facing Michigan in 2013. The seizure in 2013 forced Kill to take a leave of absence to address his health issues. It would be naïve to think that his epileptic seizures cannot be a distraction to his staff and his players. The seizures are not a distraction in that his staff and players always wonder when the next one will occur. But the seizures can be a distraction when they happen, causing those around Kill to be more concerned for his health and safety, as they should, than anything else. This is not to say that Kill should not coach. This is not to say Kill is a poor coach. This is to say only that his epilepsy may limit his potential as a coach. Nonetheless, nothing would be better than to see Kill fully control his epilepsy and no longer experience seizures in 2014 and beyond. Let’s hope this is what comes to fruition.

8. Kirk Ferentz, Iowa | Overall Record: 120-100 (18 yrs) – Record at Iowa: 108-79 (15 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 8-5 5-3 T2nd (Legends) Outback (L)
2012 4-8 2-6 T5th (Legends)
2011 7-6 4-4 4th (Legends) Insight (L)
2010 8-5 4-4 T4th Insight (W)
2009 11-2 6-2 T2nd Orange (W)
2008 9-4 5-3 T4th Outback (W)
2007 6-6 4-4 T5th
2006 6-7 2-6 T8th Alamo (L)
2005 7-5 5-3 T3rd Outback (L)
2004 10-2 7-1 T1st Capital One (W)
2003 10-3 5-3 T4th Outback (W)
2002 11-2 8-0 T1st Orange (L)
2001 7-5 4-4 T4th Alamo (W)
2000 3-9 3-5 8th
1999 1-10 0-8 11th
Career Totals 108-79 64-56   6-5
(Scott Boehm, Getty Images)

(Scott Boehm, Getty Images)

A person may be one of the longest-tenured head coaches in college football, but this does not mean that he or she is one of the best head coaches in college football. I present to you Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. On December 2, 1998, Iowa named Ferentz the head coach of its football program. Over 15 years later, Ferentz still is the head man in Iowa City, making him the fourth-longest tenured active head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). In 15 seasons, Ferentz has done plenty of good at a program located in a state not fertile with talented high-school recruits. At Iowa, he has won a share of two Big Ten championships (2002 and 2004) and appeared in two Orange Bowls (2003 and 2010). Accordingly, in the past, many have praised Ferentz’s coaching ability, claiming few could do at Iowa what he has done.

However, after Iowa’s appearance in the 2010 Orange Bowl, Ferentz’s coaching ability had slipped as Iowa’s record gradually had dipped each season. In 2010, Iowa had an 8-5 record with the help of a bowl win and finished No. 21 in the F/+ Combined Ratings. In 2011, Iowa lost its bowl game, causing its record and F/+ Combined Rating to fall to 7-6 and 46th, respectively. Then, in 2012, the bottom seemed to drop out. The Hawkeyes managed to win only four games and was not bowl-eligible for the first time under Ferentz since 2000. It should be no surprise that Iowa’s F/+ Combined Rating plummeted all the way down to 72nd. Fans were furious. Yes, they were upset that the program was trending downwards, but they were even more upset because there was nothing the school could do about it. Ferentz’s contract has been extended all the way until 2020, and, if Iowa had chosen to fire him after 2012, the buyout would have been just shy of $19 million! Iowa was stuck with Ferentz, whether it wanted be or not.

Yet Ferentz not only stopped the bleeding last year but momentarily turned the program back around. Iowa’s 8-5 record may not be sparkly, but the Hawkeyes did not suffer one bad loss all season. In fact, the five opponents to whom they lost—Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and LSU—combined for a 56-12 record in 2013. Instead, Iowa defeated all teams it was supposed to and even a few it was not, helping Iowa rank 29th in the F/+ Combined Ratings. It was a satisfying season for the Hawkeyes that gave their fans hope that, with a much more accommodating schedule this season, the program can contend for a third Big Ten championship under Ferentz in 2014. However, with an oft-ridiculed offensive coordinator in Greg Davis on staff, Ferentz still needs to prove that last season was not an outlier and that his coaching ways from a decade ago have indeed returned.

7. Bo Pelini, Nebraska | Overall Record: 58-24 (6 yrs) – Record at Nebraska: 58-24 (6 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 9-4 5-3 T2nd (Legends) Gator (W)
2012 10-4 7-1 1st (Legends) Capital One (L)
2011 9-4 5-3 3rd (Legends) Capital One (L)
Career Totals 28-12 17-7   1-2
(Bruce Thorson, USA Today Sports)

(Bruce Thorson, USA Today Sports)

The head coach of a Nebraska football program that has displayed uncanny consistency during his regime has had one heck of a rollercoaster ride. Bo Pelini has been Nebraska’s head coach for six seasons. And, in each of those seasons, Nebraska has recorded exactly four losses. Yes, that is correct. This means that, for six straight seasons, Nebraska has had either a 9-4 or 10-4 record under Pelini.

After enduring the train wreck that was Bill Callahan, Huskers fans initially were pleased. In each of the first three seasons of Pelini’s tenure, Nebraska won a share of the Big 12 North, which led to appearances in the Big 12 Championship Game in 2009 and 2010. In both of those championship games, the Huskers came oh-so close to becoming conference champions. In 2009 against Oklahoma, they blew a 17-point, second-quarter lead to lose, 23-20; in 2010 against undefeated Texas, they conceded a 46-yard field goal as time expired to fall by a one-point margin, 13-12. These undoubtedly were devastating losses for Nebraska and its faithful, but the belief was that Pelini would breakthrough and win that first conference title soon after Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011.

However, this has yet to materialize, and Huskers fans have become more than agitated with Pelini. They thought the conference-championship drought would finally end in 2012 when the hot Huskers met 7-5 Wisconsin rather than undefeated Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game because the Buckeyes had been handed a postseason ban. Instead, Wisconsin wiped the floor with the Huskers, running through them for 539 rushing yards and routing them, 70-31. Things got only worse for Pelini last season. After a home loss to UCLA, a two-year-old audio tape with a profane tirade by Pelini criticizing the fan base was leaked to the media, causing Pelini to further lose fan support. Then, following a humiliating loss to Iowa in the season finale in which Pelini threw multiple temper tantrums on the sideline, he declared in the postgame press conference, “If they want to fire me, go ahead. … I don’t apologize for anything I have done.” It seemed imminent that Nebraska would let Pelini go.

But Nebraska decided to hold onto Pelini, and there subsequently has been an uptick in his support. First, he coached the Huskers to a win against an SEC opponent, albeit the injury-riddled Georgia Bulldogs, in the Gator Bowl, Second, he began to show a lighter, more comedic side to his personality on social media and at Nebraska’s spring game. No longer is Pelini viewed only as a coach that can explode into a thousand suns on the sideline but as a coach that knows when not to take himself too seriously. While this has been positive for Pelini’s public relations, it does not change what is expected from him and his team this fall. Nebraska is facing lots of tough questions about its quarterback, its offensive line, and its defense, which has lost multiple starters to injuries within the past week. It seems quite possible that Nebraska’s streak of four-loss seasons could come to a halt and not for the better. If this is the case, will the slight boost in Pelini’s public perception mitigate the damage? Likely not. Therefore, Pelini must show that Nebraska, a proud football program, is heading in the right direction. Otherwise, his rollercoaster ride may come to a stop.

6. Brady Hoke, Michigan | Overall Record: 73-63 (11 yrs) – Record at Michigan: 26-13 (3 yrs)
Big Ten Records Overall W/L Big Ten W/L Standing Bowl
2013 7-6 3-5 5th (Legends) Buffalo Wild Wings (L)
2012 8-5 6-2 2nd (Legends) Outback (L)
2011 11-2 6-2 2nd (Legends) Sugar (W)
Career Totals 26-13 15-9   1-2
(Charlie Neibergall, AP)

(Charlie Neibergall, AP)

Throughout the offseason, there has been much talk by media and fans alike about Michigan head coach Brady Hoke sitting of the hot seat. They point to Hoke’s sub-.500 record (47-50) prior to his current stint at Michigan as a sign that he is underqualified. They point to him not wearing a headset on the sideline as an indication that he is in over his head. They point to Michigan’s 15-11 record the past two seasons, after the Wolverines had an unexpected trip to the Sugar Bowl in his first year in 2011, as proof that the program is deteriorating under his watch. Heck, the talk was loud enough that even we at Maize and Go Blue had a roundtable to address the topic. The truth is Hoke is not currently on the hot seat. It may be a bit warm, but, unless Michigan fails to be bowl-eligible, Hoke will be back in 2015.

What many fail to realize is just how much the Rich Rodriguez era set Michigan back. Many believed that the Wolverines had completely recovered and returned to prominence after their 11-2 record in 2011, but it was just a façade. The underlying crevices in the foundation were still there, waiting to be unearthed. Rodriguez’s recruiting in 2010 and 2011 left Michigan with too many holes in the depth chart, especially at offensive line, which currently has only one scholarship upperclassman. Hoke has tried to plug the holes in the depth chart as quickly as possible, landing the No. 6 and No. 4 recruiting classes in 2012 and 2013, respectively, according to 247 Sports, but these talented recruits have been only sophomores or freshmen. Mix this in with poor injury luck and head-scratching play-calling from former offensive coordinator Al Borges, and Michigan’s record the past two seasons makes more sense.

This does not mean that Hoke is immune from blame, though. It was Hoke who hired Borges and allowed him to implement such disjointed offensive schemes. It was also Hoke, as the head coach, that reportedly failed to manage the chemistry and leadership among the players last season. However, Hoke seems to have fixed these mistakes, firing Borges to bring former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier on staff and altering the leadership structure of Michigan’s roster. However, there are few excuses left to shield Hoke. Yes, the offensive line still is ridiculously young and inexperienced, and Michigan must play all three of its main rivals on the road for the first time in school history. But, with the resources at his disposal, now is the time for Hoke to show that Michigan is on its way back to being one of, if not the, best in the Big Ten. If that happens, the “hot seat” talk will die and Hoke will find himself in the top five on this list. If it does not happen, well, he may not be on this list in a few years.

So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with Part One of these rankings? Should Michigan’s Brady Hoke be at No. 6? Or is he too high or too low? Is there a head coach that should be in the bottom half of the top 10 of these rankings? And who do you think will top this list at No. 1? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Tomorrow, we will reveal who will be the five best head coaches in the Big Ten this fall.

Big Ten Media Days: Word clouding the Big Ten coaches

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014


All 14 Big Ten coaches got 15 minutes apiece at the podium in front of the assembled media in the Hilton Chicago on Monday. Each delivered an opening statement and then fielded a few questions. Typically, there isn’t much news to come out of these sessions. It’s more of a time to drum up excitement about the upcoming season and tout all the things they’re excited about. Every coach has fantasies about Big Ten titles this time of year and doesn’t want to reveal too much, so to spice things up a bit we took an idea that we really liked from the SEC SB Nation blog Team Speed Kills and applied it to each of the Big Ten coaches’ speeches.

We used Wordle to spit out a word cloud for each coach based on the transcript from his 15 minutes at the podium. The bigger the word, the more often it was used, so you can get an idea of what each coach places the most emphasis on. As a Maize and Go Blue exclusive, we also scrubbed away the coach speak and translated what each coach was really saying.

Brady Hoke – Michigan

Hoke

There must be something wrong with this thing. “Tremendous” doesn’t fill the entire page. Neither does “Well…” or “Fergodsakes”. And contrary to popular belief in Columbus and East Lansing, although “think” was his most-used word today, Hoke does “think” about more than just donuts. He didn’t even mention them once in his 15 minutes. But I wouldn’t blame him if he did. There’s a great donut shop a short walk from the Hilton.

Urban Meyer – Ohio State

Urban

I THINK we’re GOING to be GOOD you GUYS. Good enough to have a grand total of zero Big Ten titles and zero bowl wins in my first two seasons. You know what else is good? This Chicago pizza. Have you guys ever had this stuff? It’s JUST so cheesy and…deep. So much better than that other stuff.

Mark Dantonio – Michigan State

Dantonio

You know, we had a GREAT season last YEAR and it was all because of that one GAME when we beat Michigan. The way THINGS are GOING, we’re number ONE in the state as far as FOOTBALL is concerned. Oh, we won the Rose Bowl? Well, we beat Michigan. Where’s the threat?

Bo Pelini – Nebraska

Pelini

I THINK my cat is enjoying himself up in the room. As soon as I’m done talking about FOOTBALL, I’m GOING to take him to see a LOT of Chicago THINGS. It will MAKE his day. You know, it’s LOOKING like he’s the secret ingredient to the TEAM’s success this season. I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.

James Franklin – Penn State

Franklin

I’m REALLY EXCITED about this PROGRAM. I THINK it’s GOING to be much easier than it was in the SEC. THINGS aren’t really comparable as far as facilities are concerned, but hey, it’s an OPPORTUNITY and I can’t wait to meet Sandy Barbour woman.

Gary Andersen – Wisconsin

Andersen

I’m glad to begin my second YEAR at Wisconsin. We don’t hear much about Brigham YOUNG around here and that’s always a GOOD thing. These cheese-loving folks are about as GOOD as it GETs. You know, the Packers have that tradition where they let the KIDS give the PLAYERS bike rides, and with the YOUTH we have I THINK that’s a good POSITION to take with this TEAM.

Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern

Fitzgerald

I THINK it’s so GREAT that you GUYS haven’t asked about unions yet. We just want to play FOOTBALL. I’m not GOING to talk about the WAY our former QUARTERBACK tried to hurt our PROGRAM last YEAR by trying to unionize. These guys are a TEAM, not employees. LOOK, I won’t talk about it at all.

Kirk Ferentz – Iowa

Ferentz

It’s CERTAINLY a GREAT YEAR for Big Ten Media Days with the addition of Rutgers and Maryland. I’ve been coming to this THING for 16 YEARS and it has gotten stale. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve GOT some GOOD coaches in this conference but I THINK Kyle and Randy have what it takes to spice things up a little bit, kind of like Greg Davis and Phil Parker did for me in Iowa City last season.

Kevin Wilson – Indiana

Wilson

Wait, we can’t JUST PLAY offense in the Big Ten? Why didn’t you GUYS tell me that three YEARs ago? My boy Rich Rod told me that’s how you succeed in this conference. I’m starting to THINK he was just pulling my chain. I had to bring in a new defensive coordinator this offseason and he’s GOING to have to get the job done. Go big or go HOME, right?

Jerry Kill – Minnesota

Kill

I’ve GOT this program trending in the right direction, getting BETTER each YEAR, and I THINK that will continue. Have you guys seen that brown jug thing? My KIDS were asking about it, but I’ve GOTTA say, I don’t think that thing actually exists. If it does, our PLAYERS are going to GET it DONE this season. Oh, who am I kidding?

Randy Edsall – Maryland

Edsall

Crabcakes and football. That’s what MARYLAND does! We’re GOING to win the BIG East…I mean ACC…I mean American Athletic Conf…wait, what conference am I in now? Big TEN! That’s right. I THINK I’m gonna need Kirk to show me around.

Tim Beckman – Illinois

Beckman

FOOTBALL! We’ve got lots of PLAYERS, man. But with Scheelhaase gone we need a new QUARTERBACK, so this offseason I set up shop in Tallahassee when I heard Famous Jameis might be in trouble. I really WANT that guy. But it didn’t work out. Anyone else have sanctions going on this YEAR?

Kyle Flood – Rutgers

Flood

This is a cute city you midwestern folks have out here. I mean, REALLY, it’s cute, but it doesn’t compare to the BIG city we have in my part of the country. Chicago has one FOOTBALL team, New York have two, and you know what: they play in Jersey, home of RUTGERS, the school that started football.

Darrell Hazell – Purdue

Hazell

Alright you GUYS. THINGS are GOING just RIGHT for us this YEAR. Have you heard about our 6-foot-8, 400-pound PLAYER? We’ve got the biggest drum and now the biggest FOOTBALL player in the conference. That should guarantee us at least two wins this year.

2014 opponent preview: Indiana

Sunday, July 27th, 2014


2014-Opponent-Preview-Indiana

The fifth opponent in our season preview series is the Indiana Hoosiers, who we feel will be the fifth-easiest — or eighth-toughest — opponent on the schedule. We have already previewed, from easiest to not-so-easiest, Appalachian State, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota, and Utah.

Overview

Schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 30 Indiana State
Sept. 13 at Bowling Green
Sept. 20 at Missouri
Sept. 27 Maryland
Oct. 4 North Texas
Oct. 11 at Iowa
Oct. 18 Michigan State
Nov. 1 at Michigan
Nov. 8 Penn State
Nov. 15 at Rutgers
Nov. 22 at Ohio State
Nov. 29 Purdue

In a similar fashion to Jerry Kill at Minnesota, Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson has his program headed in the right direction. In his first season after taking over from Bill Lynch in 2011, the Hoosiers managed just a single win, topping South Carolina State of the Football Championship Subdivision, 38-21. His first four losses were all within a touchdown, but the rest of the season wasn’t even close. Indiana lost its final seven games of that season by an average of 25 points.

Year two was better as the Hoosiers improved the win total by three, going 4-8, and winning two conference games, a 31-17 win at Illinois and a 24-21 win over Iowa the following week. There were still lopsided losses — 62-14 to Wisconsin, 45-22 at Penn State, and 56-35 to Purdue — but there were also near-upsets — a 52-49 loss to Ohio State, 31-27 loss to Michigan State, and a one-point heartbreaker at Navy. Progress.

Last season, Wilson’s squad managed five wins, none over FCS opponents, and three against Big Ten foes, the most notable being a 44-24 win at Penn State early in the season. The Hoosiers faltered down the stretch, losing 51-3 at Wisconsin and 41-14 at Ohio State, but the progress was evident. The offense was second only to Ohio State in the Big Ten and scored more points (28) than anyone all season against Michigan State’s vaunted defense (Nebraska also scored 28), including Ohio State.

The progress may not be as noticeable in the win column as Kill’s, but it’s there nonetheless, and Wilson has the Hoosiers knocking on the postseason once again. The program hasn’t been to a bowl game since the 1997 Insight Bowl, and the last one before that was the 1993 Independence Bowl. With 17 starters returning, including eight on that explosive offense, Wilson hopes this is the year to end that drought.

But in order to do so, he better fix the defense that surrendered a Big Ten-worst 38.8 points per game in 2013. In fact, the Hoosier defense under Wilson has finished last in the conference all three seasons. Enter Brian Knorr. The former Wake Forest defensive coordinator was brought on in place of Doug Mallory, the brother of Michigan’s safeties coach, Curt Mallory. Knorr took the Wake Forest defense from 91st in 2012 to 31st a year ago and has also had defensive success at Air Force. If he can do the same in Bloomington, Indiana should set its goals higher than simply becoming bowl eligible. But is that realistic for this fall? Let’s take a look.

Offense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
QB Nate Sudfeld 6’5″, 232 194-322 for 2,523 yds, 21 TD, 9 INT
RB Tevin Coleman 6’1″, 210 998 yds (7.3 avg), 12 TD
WR Shane Wynn 5’7″, 167 46 rec. for 633 yds, 11 TD
WR Nick Stoner 6’1″, 191 12 rec. for 226 yds, 1 TD
WR Isaiah Roundtree 5’11”, 200 14 rec. for 136 yds, 1 TD
TE Danny Friend 6’5″, 255
LT Jason Spriggs 6’7″, 307 12 starts (24 career starts)
LG Bernard Taylor 6’2″, 307 9 starts (25 career starts)
C Collin Rahrig 6’2″, 290 10 starts (24 career starts)
RG Dan Feeney 6’4″, 305 Injured (12 career starts)
RT Peyton Eckert 6’6″, 305 Injured (18 career starts)

As mentioned above, offense has not been the problem for Wilson. Last year’s offense ranked 16th nationally in scoring offense (38.4 points per game), ninth in total offense (508.5 yards per game), 30th in rushing (201.8 yards per game), and 17th in passing (306.7 yards per game). Those are pretty darn good numbers for any offense, let alone one that won just five games. Consider that the eight teams that had better total offenses — Baylor, Oregon, Fresno State, Texas A&M, Northern Illinois, Florida State, Ohio State, and Texas Tech — had a combined average record of 11-2 and you see that this Indiana offense is in good company.

The offense took a small blow last month when one part of the two-headed quarterback monster announced his decision to transfer to Illinois State. Tre Roberson started four games for the Hoosiers in 2013, passing for 1,128 yards and 15 touchdowns, and rushing for 423 yards and five more touchdowns. He performed well against Michigan (16-of-23 for 288 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception) and tied a 70-year-old school record with six touchdowns in the season finale against Purdue. But he wasn’t content to share time with Nate Sudfeld, and now this is Sudfeld’s team.

Coleman is one of the Big Ten's best returning running backs (Doug McSchooler, AP)

Coleman is one of the Big Ten’s best returning running backs (Doug McSchooler, AP)

The junior from Modesto, Calif. ranked highly in the Big Ten in most passing categories despite splitting time with Roberson. He finished fifth in passing yards (2,523), total offense per game (207.4), and completion percentage (60.2), and third in yards per completion (13.0) and yards per attempt (7.8). He threw 21 touchdowns and just nine interceptions and looks to take another step forward as the main man this fall.

Unfortunately, four of his top five pass-catchers from 2013 are no longer in Bloomington, most notably the Big Ten’s third-leading receiver, Cody Latimer, who was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the second round of the NFL Draft. The leading returning receiver is senior Shane Wynn, who caught 46 passes for 633 yards and a  team-high 11 touchdowns. The 5’7″, 167-pound slot receiver ranks fifth in career receiving touchdowns in Indiana history (17), eighth in receptions (133), and 17th in receiving yards (1,490). Joining him will be fellow seniors Nick Stoner and Isaiah Roundtree. The two combined for 26 receptions, 362 yards, and two touchdowns last season, but will need to take a much bigger role this fall. Pushing them, however, will be four-star recruit Dominique Booth, who enrolled early and already has the size (6’1″, 208) to contribute immediately.

While there’s a lot of production to replace out wide, the backfield returns the best part of its one-two punch. One of the Big Ten’s best running backs, Tevin Coleman, is back for his junior season. Drew ranked him third behind Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. Coleman just missed 1,000 yards last season, rushing for 958 yards and 12 touchdowns on 7.1 yards per carry. Oh, and he did it all in nine games before he missed the final three with an ankle injury. He had 78 yards on 11 carries against Michigan and an astounding 215 yards on just 15 carries against Illinois.

The second part of IU’s one-two punch from 2013, Stephen Houston, is gone. He had just 19 fewer carries than Coleman and rushed for 753 yards (6.7 yards per carry) and five touchdowns. Replacing him will be senior D’Angelo Roberts, who had 232 yards on 4.5 yards per carry last season. Nearly half of his yardage came in the season finale against Purdue, in which he rushed for 113 yards on just 14 carries. Prior to Coleman’s injury, however, Roberts had just 17 carries in nine games, so he’ll need to adjust to a bigger workload. Redshirt junior Anthony Davis, who transferred from the University of Dayton in 2012, could earn reps (he carried 10 times for 65 yards in the season opener last year), and incoming freshman Tommy Mister, the 2013 Chicago Catholic League Player of the Year, will also get a chance to earn playing time.

The offensive line returns plenty of starting experience that will certainly be beneficial for Coleman and Sudfeld. The unit has ranked as one of the Big Ten’s best the past two years, and this year should be no different. Left tackle Jason Spriggs is our third-best lineman individual lineman the conference. The 6’7″, 307-pound junior has started all 24 games of his career thus far and was named honorable mention All-Big Ten in both 2012 and 2013. Left guard Bernard Taylor has the most career starts on the team (25). He started nine games a year ago. Center Collin Rahrig started 10 games in 2013, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors by the media. The former walk-on has started 24 career games.

The right side of the line is where it gets interesting. Right guard Dan Feeney and right tackle Peyton Eckert both suffered season-ending injuries in fall camp, making room for others to step in. Redshirt junior Ralston Evans started all 12 games at right tackle, while Jake Reed, David Kaminski, and Jacob Bailey all started games at right guard and all return. Feeney was an honorable mention All-Big Ten member as a true freshman in 2012 and Eckert started a combined 18 games in 2011 and 2012. With that much returning experience, the Hoosiers should once again have one of the best lines in the Big Ten.

Defense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
DE Darius Latham 6’5″, 325 22 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 1 FR
DT Ralph Green 6’5″, 325 25 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.0 sack, 1 FF
DE Bobby Richardson 6’3″, 288 39 tackles, 3.5 TFL
OLB Nick Mangieri 6’5″, 265 26 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks, 1 FF, 1 INT
MLB T.J. Simmons 6’0″, 228 68 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1.0 sack
MLB Flo Hardin 6’1″, 230 59 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 3 FF, 1 FR
OLB David Cooper 6’1″, 237 85 tackles, 6.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 FR
CB Tim Bennett 5’9″, 186 73 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 20 PBU, 1 FR
CB Michael Hunter 6’1″, 194 42 tackles, 3.0 TFL, 1 INT, 7 PD, 1 FF
FS Antonio Allen 5’10”, 205 35 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 FR
SS Mark Murphy 6’2″, 210 84 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FF

There can’t be many teams that have had such a dichotomy between offense and defense. Remember in Rich Rodriguez’s last season when Michigan’s scoring offense ranked 25th nationally but its scoring defense ranked 107th? Well, Indiana’s scoring offense last season ranked 16th and its scoring defense ranked 115th. Only nine teams in the country allowed more points per game than the Hoosiers did. They ranked 123rd in total defense (527.9 yards per game), 117th in rush defense (237.8 yards per game), 120th in pass defense (290.2 yards per game), and 114th in third-down conversion defense (46.2 percent).

New defensive coordinator Brian Knorr may be the most important factor in how high Indiana's ceiling is this season (Mark Dolejs, USA Today Sports)

New defensive coordinator Brian Knorr may be the most important factor in how high Indiana’s ceiling is this season (Mark Dolejs, USA Today Sports)

The new defensive coordinator will be charged with simply improving the defense to average, which would surely improve the Hoosiers’ win total. The biggest change will be transforming from a 4-3 to a 3-4, which Knorr ran at Wake Forest.

“I think the system makes you more multiple,” Knorr said. “The opportunity to have three linemen and to get more linebackers on the field. And it helps not having to recruit four true down linemen. It’s hoped the alignment will make it more difficult for foes to tell where pressure and blitzes are coming from.”

The good news is he has some bodies to work with up front. Redshirt sophomore Ralph Green started nine games last season and was named to BTN.com’s honorable mention All-Big Ten team and CollegeFootballNews.com’s honorable mention Freshman All-American team. At 6’5″, 325-pounds, he’s a nice big body to clog the middle. Redshirt junior Adarius Rayner has only two starts under his belt, but will provide depth, as will redshirt freshman Nate Hoff, who was a scout team star a year ago.

Sophomore Darius Latham, a four-star recruit who had several big-time offers, and senior Bobby Richardson, who has 16 career starts, will be in the mix to start. Richardson led all IU linemen with 39 tackles last season, while Latham impressed as a true freshman, being named honorable mention All-Big Ten Freshman by BTN.com. The other end who will factor in is another former four-star, sophomore David Kenney, who recorded nine tackles in seven games last season.

The top six tackles among Indiana’s linebackers from 2013 all return, and converted defensive end Nick Mangieri will join them. The 6’5”, 265-pound junior started 10 games last season, leading the team with 85 tackles, and ranking second with three sacks and six tackles-for-loss. Fifth-year senior David Cooper has started all 24 games since transferring from Coffeyville Community College in 2012. Fellow senior Flo Hardin has three years of experience under his belt, while a host of sophomores, T.J. Simmons, Marcus Oliver, and Clyde Newton, will be among the rotation.

Both of last year’s starting corners are back in senior Tim Bennett and redshirt junior Michael Hunter. Bennett was named honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media after leading the nation with 20 pass breakups and 21 passes defended. Hunter recorded seven pass breakups and picked off one pass. They will be backed by redshirt freshman Rashard Fant, a former four-star recruit. Strong safety Mark Murphy, who has 28 career starts at strong safety is back, but the loss of free safety Greg Heban, who started 38 career games, will hurt. Stepping in will be another former four-star recruit, sophomore Antonio Allen. He played in seven games last season and got his first career start against Michigan, but tore his ACL in that game and missed the rest of the season.

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2013 Stats
PK Aaron Del Grosso 5’10”, 195 (Redshirted)
P Erich Toth 6’3″, 206 40.6 avg, 18 in-20, 7 50+
KR Shane Wynn 5’7″, 167 18 ret, 23.1 avg.
PR Shane Wynn 5’7″, 167 7 ret, 14.0 avg., 1 TD

Kicker Mitch Ewald, who was named second team All-Big Ten by the coaches last season, has graduated. He made 9-of-11 field goals and finished an impressive career having made 53-of-66 (80.3 percent). No other kicker has attempted a field goal at Indiana since 2010, and Wilson will be hard-pressed to find one as consistent as Ewald. The most likely candidate this fall is redshirt freshman walk-on Aaron Del Grosso. Punter Erich Toth is back after booting 52 punts for an average of 40.6 yards last season. That tied with Michigan punter Matt Wile for seventh-best in the conference.

The return game is led by Wynn, who averaged 23.1 yards per kick return a year ago, and while he didn’t take one all the way in 2013, he does have one in his career. He also returned a punt for a touchdown last season and averaged 14 yards per punt return. However, Indiana’s defense didn’t force many punts, so Wynn’s seven returns weren’t enough to rank among the conference leaders. If it was, he would have ranked third.

Outlook

As I’ve already mentioned, if the defense can simply improve slightly, it should be enough to at least get the Hoosiers back into the postseason. Even with the relative inexperience at receiver, the offense shouldn’t miss a beat. Sudfeld should thrive as the full-time starter, especially with a home-run threat like Coleman in the backfield and a talented and experienced front line.

The main issue lies in the schedule, which sees the Hoosiers travel to Missouri in Week 4 (their third game), then face a rough stretch of at Iowa, home against Michigan State, at Michigan, home against Penn State. They also have to travel to Columbus the second-to-last week of the season. Wilson’s squad should be able to get through the non-conference at 3-1, but will have trouble getting any momentum. Count the conference-opener with Maryland and the season-ender with Purdue as wins, and the Hoosiers will need to pull off a road win at Rutgers or knock off one of the aforementioned teams to become bowl-eligible. It’s certainly doable, but will take some work. Six wins are likely, seven would be great, and anything above that might get Wilson nominated for mayor in Bloomington.

What it means for Michigan

Indiana gets a bye week between hosting Michigan State and traveling to Ann Arbor, while Michigan will be coming off a trip to East Lansing. It will be a tough one emotionally for the Wolverines because they’ll either be coming down from the high of their second win over their in-state rival in seven years — their second in three years — or trying to rebound from the stinging disappointment of a sixth loss in seven years. But Michigan has Indiana’s number, having won the last 18 meetings and 33 of the last 34. Indiana’s strength — its offense — will match up against what should be a very good Michigan defense. The Wolverines surely won’t allow 47 points as they did last year, and while the offense probably won’t score 63, it won’t have to. Look for a comfortable Michigan win in this one.

By the Gallon: Michigan 63 – Indiana 47

Sunday, October 20th, 2013


(MGoBlue.com)

Following the first loss of the season the heat was turned up on Michigan’s offense. All it did was score the most points it has scored all season, set the all-time Michigan record for total yards in a single game, and break several individual player yardage records en route to a 63-47 win over Indiana.

Devin Gardner broke Denard Robinson’s single-game yardage record with 584 total yards and John Navarre’s record for passing yards with 503. Senior receiver Jeremy Gallon shattered Roy Roundtree’s receiving record – and the Big Ten’s – with 369 yards on 14 catches.

Despite the gaudy numbers, the game wasn’t over until Fitzgerald Toussaint ran it in from 27 yards out with just over a minute remaining. Indiana answered nearly every Michigan score, utilizing a fast-paced offense to keep Michigan’s defense off balance.

Final Stats
Michigan Indiana
Score 63 47
Record 6-1 (2-1) 3-4 (1-2)
Total Yards 751 572
Net Rushing Yards 248 162
Net Passing Yards 503 410
First Downs 35 28
Turnovers 2 2
Penalties-Yards 4-15 3-20
Punts-Yards 2-73 4-146
Time of Possession 38:34 21:26
Third Down Conversions 7-of-11 8-of-14
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 0-of-1
Sacks By-Yards 2-22 2-22
Field Goals 0-for-1 2-for-2
PATs 9-for-9 5-for-5
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-8 4-of-4
Full Box Score

The teams traded punts to start the game, but that was about all of the defense this game would feature. Indiana got the scoring started on its second possession with a 59-yard touchdown pass from Nate Sudfeld to Cody Latimer. The Hoosiers used a quick snap to catch Michigan’s defense not set and Latimer ran right by Raymon Taylor for the long touchdown.

Michigan answered with a five-play, 56-yard scoring drive capped off by a 13-yard Gardner touchdown run. After forcing Indiana to punt, Gardner connected with Gallon for 70 yards to the IU 11-yard line. Four plays later, on 4th-and-1 from the two, Toussaint found the end zone to put Michigan ahead 14-7.

Michigan’s defense forced another Indiana punt and put together a 13-play, 60-yard drive. But it stalled when Gardner was sacked on 3rd-and-4, forcing Michigan to attempt a field goal. Brendan Gibbons’ 39-yard attempt was blocked.

Indiana still wasn’t able to get anything going, punting it back to Michigan and the Wolverines made the most of it, scoring in seven plays. Toussaint carried it in from seven yards out to give Michigan a 21-7 lead.

The Wolverines looked to be in full control of the game at this point, but Indiana responded. A 40-yard kickoff return gave IU good field position and then it took the Hoosiers just three plays to score, this time on a 33-yard pass from Sudfeld to Shane Wynn.

Michigan got the ball back with six minutes left in the half and put together a 12-play, 91-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Gardner to Gallon. It looked like Michigan would take a 28-14 lead into the locker room, but IU got a 50-yard field goal to end the half.

Michigan started the second half with the ball, but on the second play, a pitch from Gardner to Toussaing was fumbled and the Hoosiers recovered at the Michigan 5-yard line. Three plays later, the Hoosiers punched it in on a 2-yard run by Tevin Coleman to pull within four at 28-24.

On the fourth play of the ensuing possession, Gardner connected with Gallon for a 50-yard touchdown, but Indiana matched it once again, this time using an 8-play, 71-yard drive and a 5-yard pass from Sudfeld to Wynn.

Devin Gardner set a school record for passing yards and total yards in a single game (MGoBlue.com)

When it got the ball back, Michigan was forced to punt for the first time since its second possession of the game. With a chance to take the lead, Indiana marched to the Michigan 6-yard line, but Michigan’s defense stiffened in the red zone, holding the Hoosiers to a 23-yard field goal. Michigan led at this point 35-34.

On the third play of Michigan’s ensuing possession, Gardner connected with Gallon for a 70-yard gain to the Indiana 2-yard line. Two plays later, Toussaint punched it in.

It took Indiana just four plays to answer, this time scoring on a 67-yard pass from Roberson to Kofi Hughes. IU attempted a two-point conversion to tie the game, but it fell incomplete and Michigan held a 42-40 lead.

Michigan opened the fourth quarter with a six-yard touchdown run by Gardner to cap off an 8-play, 75-yard drive to go ahead by two scores. But once again, Indiana responded. Plays of 17, 20, and and 15 yards put the Hoosiers in the red zone and Roberson scampered into the end zone from 15 yards out to pull IU within two.

Michigan marched right down the field again, getting to the Indiana 2-yard line, but on 1st-and-goal, a botched snap was recovered by Indiana. With 8:34 remaining, the Hoosiers got the ball back with yet another chance to take the lead. But Michigan’s defense had other plans. After two straight six yard runs, Thomas Gordon picked off Sudfeld’s pass at the 35 and returned it 30 yards to the IU five. Three plays later, Gardner found the end zone with his legs from six yards out.

Indiana got the ball back with six minutes left, trailing 56-47 and quickly moved the ball into Michigan territory. On 1st-and-10 from the Michigan 30, Roberson launched a pass downfield, but Gordon was there again to pick it off. Six plays later, Toussaint found a hole and raced 27 yards for his fourth touchdown of the game, this time to put the game away.

The 751 yards of offense set an all-time single-game Michigan record, surpassing the 727 yards the Wolverines put up against Delaware State in 2009. It was also the second-highest in Big Ten history. Gardner’s 584 total yards were just one shy of the Big Ten record for a single game which was set by Illinois’ Dave Wilson on November 8, 1980.

The win keeps Michigan in contention for the Big Ten Legends Division title. At 6-1, the Wolverines now have a bye week to get ready for a brutal five-game stretch that starts with rival Michigan State in East Lansing on Nov. 2. The main question facing Hoke and the rest of the coaching staff over the next two weeks will be how the offense will be utilized the rest of the way, especially with the toughest defense the team will play all year looming next.

Stay tuned for more coverage and analysis of the game and a look ahead at the rest of the season.

M&GB staff predictions: Indiana

Friday, October 18th, 2013


All of us picked Michigan to beat Penn State last week, and if the defense hadn’t allowed the last-minute game-tying touchdown several of us would have been pretty close to the final score. Instead, since no one foresaw a quadruple overtime battle, none of us was particularly close.

This week has the makings of a shootout, at least on paper. Indiana features a high-powered offense but little in the way of defense. Indiana hasn’t beaten Michigan since 1987 and hasn’t won in Ann Arbor since 1967. In other words, the last time Indiana win in the Big House, Bo Schembechler wasn’t even on Michigan’s radar. However, the Hoosiers have already ended one streak this season. They beat Penn State for the first time in school history. Could they make it two streaks ended in the span of three weeks? Here are our picks:

Justin: The vast majority of next year’s recruiting class wasn’t even alive the last time Michigan lost to Indiana. In fact, Brady Hoke was just nine years old and Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson was just five the last time the Hoosiers won in Ann Arbor. Given Michigan’s recent struggles and Indiana’s high-octane offense, this could just be the year those streaks come to an end…if IU had a defense that is.

Michigan will have some trouble slowing down the Hoosier offense which relies on a quick passing game and big plays, but with Jake Ryan back in the lineup the defense will be able to put more pressure on Nate Sudfeld and defend the screens and quick outs well enough.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Indiana
Justin 45 28
Chris 31 28
Josh 38 34
Sam 34 24
Derick 59 31
Katie 31 24
Drew 42 28
M&GB Average 40 28

Despite Michigan’s offensive struggles, they still rank fourth in the Big Ten in scoring at 39 points a game and thanks to the emergence of Devin Funchess at wide receiver the offense gets big plays even without much of a running game.

Combine Indiana’s offense with Michigan State’s defense and I wouldn’t give Michigan much of a chance, but I think we can expect a result similar to what Missouri and MSU did to the Hoosiers. Michigan will give up some yards and points, but will score too much on IU’s weak defense. Devin Gardner will have a big game like Missouri’s James Franklin did and Michigan will pull away in the second half.

Michigan 45 – Indiana 28

Chris: Michigan has to watch out for IU’s up-tempo offense. They wont give Michigan much of a chance to rest on defense and the Michigan offense have to put up points to keep up with IU. That could be tough given Michigan’s offensive woes this season, including no offensive line and poor play-calling. But I just can’t pull the trigger on an Indiana upset.

Michigan 31 – Indiana 28

Josh: Please see yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full breakdown.

Michigan 38 – Indiana 34

Sam: For the first month or so of Michigan’s season, the Wolverines managed to stay undefeated despite a few glaring problems – namely turnovers and an inefficient running game against competent defenses. Akron and UConn both had late opportunities to seal victories, but Michigan was able to grind out two closer-than-expected wins.

Last week in Happy Valley, however, the deficiencies finally reared their head in the loss column. Time and again, Penn State had chances to ruin Michigan’s undefeated season, and finally, in the fourth overtime, the Nittany Lions did just that. Without two more interceptions and one more fumble from Devin Gardner, perhaps it would have been a different story. Maybe if the offensive line could have given Fitzgerald Toussaint the opportunity to run for more than 27 yards on 27 carries, Michigan would be looking forward to the Indiana game with zero losses. Certainly if Brendan Gibbons was able to make any of his three missed field goals, there wouldn’t be such a gray cloud looming in Ann Arbor.

But the loss happened, and Michigan will have to move on. The good news for the Wolverines is that they are playing in the Big House again, where Brady Hoke has still yet to guide his team to defeat, and Indiana’s defense has been far from stingy this year, giving up nearly 33 points per game and at least 35  in four of their six games. The Devin Gardner-led offense is also dynamic at times, having put up 40 or more points in four games and having yet to score fewer than 24 in any game; the turnovers and the running game stick out like two sore thumbs, but Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess have been brilliant down the field and Gardner’s scrambling ability can make any defense vulnerable.

Look for a big game from Devin Gardner against IU's porous defense (MGoBlue.com)

There is always bad news as well, though. The Hoosiers, perhaps to make up for their struggling defense, have gone gang-busters on offense, putting up 41.7 points per game, good for 15th in the country, and have scored at least four touchdowns every time out. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld leads the vertical attack and has connected on 61.5% of his attempts for more than 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns; he is happy to take what the defense gives him and will terrorize Michigan all day with the dink-and-dunk if the Wolverine linebackers aren’t up for the task. Running back Tevin Coleman leads a trio of backs averaging more than six yards per carry with 557 yards and eight touchdowns.

In the past, a home game against Indiana has been an almost certain win for Michigan, but this season has already proven to be far from typical. If Gardner adds to his 10 interceptions, Indiana will be certain to take advantage, and if Michigan fails to punch it in when they hit the red zone, the Hoosiers will be right there at the end. Expect a high-scoring affair with a couple turnovers a piece, but look for Michigan’s defense to get a key stop and a key turnover in the second half to lead the way to a win.

Michigan 34 – Indiana 24

Derick: Michigan sure looks different on the road, but luckily this week’s game is in the friendly confines of the Big House.

Indiana brings a talented offensive squad to Ann Arbor fresh off of a loss to Michigan State. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, the defense is a sieve. If this game isn’t a jumpstart for the Michigan offense then it may never get going at all.

Hopefully the Wolverines can bounce back from the choke job in Happy Valley and get back on track in a shootout.

Michigan 59 – Indiana 31

Katie: Well, it had to happen sooner or later. Now that the first loss of the season has been tallied it’s time for Michigan to stop playing on its heels, and being conservative. No more constant up the gut rushing when it obviously isn’t working, no more Gardner not throwing, and no more no-pressure defense (when an opposing QB is throwing well and has lots of time the defense is allowing him to be efficient. Put some pressure on the QB!) Oh boy. At least this is a home game.

The Wolverines have been rather unimpressive this season, despite having only one loss. Indiana isn’t having an altogether stellar season either, and has a horrible record against Michigan. Losing to them would usher in predictions for the rest of the season that would be too terrible to go into. This is a must win game for Michigan, and a doable win. The Hoosiers have a potent offense, while the Wolverines have one with tremendous potential that needs to be unleashed consistently. Luckily for Michigan, Indiana’s defense might be able to oblige. I think that the Wolverine defense will be able to hold Indiana to enough points to give its offense a chance of winning the game. Whether or not Gardner, the O-line, and Toussaint can team up and stay in control is another matter. I hope Michigan will come in ready and able to extend its streak against the Hoosiers, but I’m not sure of it.

Michigan 31 – Indiana 24

Fitz Toussaint may actually have room to run this week (MGoBlue.com)

Drew: The Wolverines are licking the wounds on their paws after suffering their first loss of the 2013 campaign to Penn State in heartbreaking fashion, and the fallout has not been pretty. Coaches’ job securities have been questioned. Starting lineups may be reshuffled. Some fans and media doubt that Team 134 can muster more than two wins in the back-half of the schedule. Yet, Michigan put itself in a position to win seven different times against the Nittany Lions, and only a rare combination of miscues and bad luck prevented U-M from maintaining an unblemished record.

So what does it all mean for tomorrow’s contest against Indiana? The bad luck that Michigan experienced in Happy Valley will not travel with the Wolverines back to Michigan Stadium, where U-M is a perfect 18-0 under head coach Brady Hoke.

Facing a Hoosiers defense that ranks 101st in scoring defense, 105th in total defense, 109th in rushing defense, and 96th in team tackles for loss, Michigan’s offense once again will try to jumpstart the running backs and pound the ball with Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green. This time it will actually work as Toussaint surpasses 100 yards rushing for the second time this season, including a team season-long 40-plus-yard sprint for a touchdown. Additionally, quarterback Devin Gardner will rebound from a three-turnover outing with a near-flawless performance against a pass defense that allowed 232 yards and two touchdown tosses to Michigan State’s 101st ranked passing attack.

Defensively, Michigan will face its stiffest test of the season thus far. Although Michigan has allowed few big plays that have gotten behind the safeties and no rushes 20 yards or longer, Indiana is a quick-strike, big-play offense that has averaged 5.9 plays in 1:42 while covering 60.2 yards on its 36 scoring drives. Further, the Hoosiers’ up-tempo offense will give Michigan’s defense trouble as defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will be unable to rotate U-M’s defensive linemen and set the defense as much as he will like. Expect Indiana—which has scored no less than 28 points all season—to do some damage to the scoreboard.

But, at the end of the day, it will not be enough for Indiana—which has won only two of its last 24 conference road games. Michigan will force two second-half turnovers to slow down the Hoosiers enough for the Maize and Blue to win comfortably, become bowl eligible, and satisfy the fan base for at least the next two weeks.

Michigan 42 – Indiana 28

____________________________________________________________________________
For more coverage of this week’s game, see: Michigan-Indiaan game preview; this week’s edition of Friend vs Foe with Adam Johnson of the Indiana SB Nation blog The Crimson Quarry; Monday’s First Look: Indiana, and this week’s Five-Spot Challenge. We also welcomed our newest writer, Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) with a look at everything that had to go wrong to lose last week’s game.

Also check out game previews from MGoBlogMaize n BrewTouch the BannerMaize n Blue NationThe Big House Report, and The M Block. Also a recruiting visitors list.

From the other side, game preview from The Crimson Quarry.

Michigan-Indiana game preview

Friday, October 18th, 2013


The Michigan-Indiana series has been one-sided since it began back in 1900 with Michigan holding a 52-9 all-time record and wins in the last 17 matchups dating back to 1987. But that doesn’t mean it has been void of big moments. In fact, if not for perhaps the most famous play in Michigan history, Indiana’s win total would be in double digits.

“I have never seen anything like this in all my 40 years of covering Michigan football! Anthony Carter, the human torpedo caught the pass…Bo Schembechler is looking up, he’s looking up at Fielding H. Yost in football’s valhalla and Bo Schembechler says, ‘thank you Fielding Yost, thank you Fielding Yost for that one!’ Look at the crowd! You cannot believe it! Michigan throws a 45-yard touchdown pass, Johnny Wangler to Anthony Carter will be heard until another hundred years of Michigan football is played!”

That was the goosebump-inducing call by Bob Ufer following the final play of the 1979 Michigan-Indiana game. Thirty-four years later John Wangler’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Carter to win the game remains at or near the top of the list when it comes to greatest plays in Michigan history. But with this year’s Michigan team struggling, the last thing anyone wants is a down-to-the-wire game against a 3-3 Indiana squad.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30pm EST – Big Ten Network
Indiana Head Coach: Kevin Wilson (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 8-22 (all at Penn State)
Offensive Coordinator: Seth Littrell (2nd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Mike Ekeler/Doug Mallory (3rd season)
Returning Starters: 18 (10 offense, 8 defense)
Last Season: 4-8 (2-6, 5th Leaders)
Last Meeting: Michigan 42 – Indiana 35 (2010)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 52-9
Record at Michigan Stadium: Michigan leads 29-5
Current Michigan Streak: Won 17
Last Indiana Win: 1987
Last Indiana Win at UM: 1967

The Hoosiers are a curious case with a high-powered offense and no defense. They opened the season with a 73-35 win over FCS Indiana State. While the 73 points scored are impressive, the 35 points allowed are the second most ISU has scored against Division 1 opponents this season (they put up 70 against Division II Quincy University).

In Week 2, Indiana dropped a 41-35 contest to Navy, allowing 444 rushing yards in the process. The Hoosiers responded the following week with a 42-10 thumping of Bowling Green – which beat Akron 31-14 – and then got pounded by Missouri, 45-28. The Tigers racked up 623 yards of offense in the game.

Indiana followed that up with a big 44-24 win over Penn State, the Hoosiers’ first ever win over the Nittany Lions in 17 tries. It was much closer than the score indicates, however, as IU held just a 21-17 lead through three quarters. They scored 21 straight in a span of four minutes to open the fourth and pull away. Last week, Indiana’s high-powered attack was held in check by Michigan State’s juggernaut of a defense, resulting in a 42-28 loss.

If the trend continues IU should be in line for a win this week, having gone win, loss, win, loss, win, loss so far this season. Does Indiana have what it takes to win for the first time in Ann Arbor in 46 years? Or will Michigan bounce back from a disappointing quadruple overtime loss to Penn State? Let’s take a look at the matchups.

Michigan defense vs Indiana offense: When Indiana has the ball

As mentioned above, Indiana has an explosive offense, led by a passing game that ranks 13th nationally. True freshman quarterback Nate Sudfeld ranks second in the Big Ten with an average of 267.3 passing yards per game. He trails only Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, who averages 278.7. Sudfeld has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 13 touchdowns and just six interceptions and has eclipsed 300 passing yards in three of the six games.

Michigan State held him to a freshman-like performance, applying constant pressure to keep him out of rhythm and holding him to just 137 yards on 14-of-30 completions and no touchdowns. He averages 32 pass attempts per game and since the season opener when he split time his average has been 35. Hackenberg is the only quarterback in the Big Ten who has thrown or completed more, but Sudfeld has a better completion percentage and two more touchdowns.

Like Allen Robinson last week, Cody Latimer is one of the top receivers in the Big Ten (IUHoosiers.com)

Sudfeld isn’t the only quarterback who plays, however. Sophomore Tre Roberson played most of the second half of 2011 and started last season as the starter before breaking his leg in the second game and missing the rest of the season. Now, Sudfeld has taken over the starting role, but Roberson still sees the field. As a more versatile quarterback, he provides a good change of pace from Sudfeld and had better numbers against MSU last week, completing 11-of-17 passes for 122 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He’s also the team’s third leading rusher with 97 yards, but has the second most rushing touchdowns with four.

The leading rusher is sophomore Tevin Coleman who has rushed for 557 yards on 91 carries – 6.1 yards per carry – and eight touchdowns. He has two 100-yard games, both in wins, and has scored at least one touchdown in all six games. Last week, he averaged 5.3 yards per carry against Michigan State, but that was aided by a 64-yard run. Remove that and he gained just 15 yards on his other 14 carries. His backfield mate is senior Stephen Houston who led the team in rushing each of the last two years. But he lost the job to Coleman and has gained just 230 yards through six games so far this season, 155 of those coming against Bowling Green.

With a passing game as explosive as this, one would expect some talented receivers and that’s what Indiana has. Junior Cody Latimer ranks second in the Big Ten in receptions per game (5.8) and third in yards per game (90.7). He has caught 35 passes – by comparison, Jeremy Gallon has caught 31 – for 544 yards and three touchdowns so far. He had three straight games with at least 136 yards before Michigan State held him to 58 yards on seven receptions. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last season.

Junior Shane Wynn and senior Kofi Hughes each have over 300 receiving yards as well, 342 and 316, respectively. Both have four touchdowns but Wynn is more of a big-play guy, leading the team with a 19-yard average per reception. Senior tight end Ted Bosler leads the Hoosiers with five touchdown receptions.

The offensive line is a bit banged up. Coming into the season, four starters were back, but right tackle Peyton Eckert, right guard Dan Feeney, and Feeney’s replacement David Kaminski are all out with season ending injuries. To make matters worse, Eckert’s replacement, Ralston Evans, and another right guard, Jake Reed, both suffered injuries last week. Both are expected to play this week, however.

Michigan offense vs Indiana defense: When Michigan has the ball

Indiana defensive coordinator Doug Mallory returns to his alma mater, having played for Michigan under Bo Schembechler  from 1984-87. He’s also the brother of Michigan secondary coach Curt Mallory. While the offense puts up a lot of points and yards, Mallory’s defense allows a lot of points and yards. The Hoosiers allow 32.8 points per game, which is better than only Purdue in the conference. In terms of yards, no one has allowed more than the 456 Indiana give sup per game. Four of the six opponents have scored at least 35 points and three have scored over 40. Not coincidentally, those three resulted in losses for the Hoosiers.

The rush defense is particularly bad, giving up 216.5 yards per game, which is last in the Big Ten and 109th nationally. Yes, some of that is a result of facing Navy’s unique rushing attack which gained 444 yards, but Missouri and Michigan State both had big games on the ground as well.

Defensive end John Laihinen leads the Hoosiers in sacks (IUHoosiers.com)

Junior strong side linebacker David Cooper, who started all 12 games last season, leads the team with 45 tackles. He has one for loss and half a sack. Freshman middle linebacker  TJ Simmons has 41 tackles and 1.5 for loss, while freshman weakside linebacker Forisse Hardin has 39 tackles, 1.5 for loss.

The line is led by sophomore defensive end Nick Mangieri who leads the team with 5.5 tackles for loss and ranks second with 2.5 sacks to go along with an interception and a forced fumble. On the other side, redshirt junior defensive end John Laihinen leads the Hoosiers with 3.5 sacks. In the middle, Bobby Richardson and Raphael Green have combined for 38 tackles and 3.5 for loss.

The secondary does have some talent but it hasn’t translated to much. Junior safety Tim Bennett is tied with Cooper for the team lead in tackles (45) and he also leads the nation with 14 pass breakups and 15 passes defended. Of his 45 tackles, 35 are solo, which leads the Big Ten. Fellow safeties, junior Mark Murphy and redshirt senior Greg Heban are both tied for 12th in the Big Ten in tackles per game (7.2). Sophomore cornerback Michael Hunter has 25 tackles, 2.5 for loss, six passes defended and an interception.

Although it sounds like the Hoosier defenders have a lot of nice stats, it’s because they’re on the field a lot and not very good. The Indiana defense has been on the field for 501 plays, 21 more than the next closest defense in the Big Ten, Northwestern, and 85 more than Michigan’s. That’s essentially a game more than Michigan despite the Wolverines having played an extra four overtimes.

The other third: Special teams

Redshirt senior kicker Mitch Ewald has made all three field goal attempts this season with a long of just 27. In short, the Hoosiers practically consider a field goal a turnover this season. He was an honorable mention All-Big Ten each of the past three seasons combining to make 44-of-55 with two blocked. Sophomore punter Erich Toth averages 41.3 yards per punt, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten.

In the return game, Coleman and Houston handle most of the kicks and average 18.5 yards per return, while Wynn handles the punt returns and has returned one for a touchdown.

Prediction

Coming off a road loss, Michigan returns to the friendly confines of the Big House where they have yet to lose under Brady Hoke. With a bye week following this one and a brutal five-game stretch after that, a win is imperative this week, and a team with no defense is just what Michigan’s struggling offense needs.

Missouri quarterback James Franklin gave Michigan the blueprint to beating Indiana as a similar quarterback to Devin Gardner. Franklin threw for 343 yards and rushed for 61 more and the Hoosiers couldn’t contain him. Al Borges would be wise to call Gardner’s number a bit more often in this one than he has in the past few games simply because IU can’t stop it. Then let Gardner pick apart the IU secondary with Jeremy Gallon and Devin Funchess.

In addition, if there was ever a game for Fitzgerald Toussaint to go off it’s this one. The Indiana linebackers don’t do a very good job of sealing off cutback lanes and Toussaint likes to cut everything back. Michigan State ran the ball down their throat with one 100-yard rusher and another just eight yards shy of 100.

Defensively, Michigan will give up some yards but with Jake Ryan back look for Greg Mattison to dial up the pressure and try to keep Sudfeld off balance like MSU did last week.

It will be a close game through the first half with Indiana challenging into the third quarter, but Michigan will pull away in the fourth for its 20th straight home win and 18th straight victory over the Hoosiers.

Michigan 45 – Indiana 28

Friend vs Foe: Indiana

Thursday, October 17th, 2013


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.