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#17 Michigan at Indiana game preview

Friday, October 13th, 2017


(Isaiah Hole)

Michigan tasted defeat for the first time this season last Saturday, dropping a rainy, windy, ugly affair to its bitter in-state rival, Michigan State. While the Michigan defense was dominant after allowing a pair of first half scores, the offense was impotent, unable to move — or hang on to — the ball, drawing criticism from throughout the fan base.

Quick Facts
Memorial Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
Indiana Head Coach: Tom Allen (1st season)
Coaching Record: 3-3 (all at IU)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike DeBord (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Mark Hagen (1st season)
Last Season: 6-7 (4-5 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 20 – IU 10 (2016)
All-Time Series: Michigan 56-9
Record in Bloomington: Michigan 18-2
Jim Harbaugh vs Indiana 2-0
Last Michigan win: 2016 (20-10)
Last Indiana win: 1987 (14-10)
Current Streak: Michigan 21
Indiana schedule to date
Opponent Result
#2 Ohio State L 21-49
at Virginia W 34-17
Georgia Southern W 52-17
at #4 Penn State L 14-45
Charleston Southern W 27-0

Jim Harbaugh doesn’t care about fan criticism though. He’s focused on the task at hand and that task is beating a team Michigan has handled 21 straight times and 36 of the last 37.

Indiana has a different look this season than the offensive beast it has the been past few now that Kevin Wilson is the offensive coordinator at Ohio State. Wilson was forced out last December for player mistreatment and Allen, the defensive coordinator assumed the reins for the Foster Farms Bowl, which the Hoosiers lost to Utah. Allen remained the head coach and brought in former Michigan offensive coordinator Mike DeBord to run his offense, signaling a marked change from Wilson.

He also added former Michigan star running back Mike Hart as his running backs coach and former Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan as his quarterbacks coach.

They had a tough first assignment with Ohio State to open the season and actually held a 14-13 halftime lead before surrendering five second-half touchdowns. They bounced back in Week 2 with a 34-17 win at Virginia, which looks better and better each week as the Cavaliers are now 4-1.

Indiana got an unexpected bye week in Week 3 when Hurricane Irma forced their matchup with Florida International to be canceled. A 52-17 win over Georgia Southern was as expected — the Eagles are 0-4 with an average margin of defeat of more than 24 points.

The Hoosiers then had to travel to Happy Valley where they were summarily handled by the fourth-ranked Nittany Lions. Penn State raced out to a 28-0 first quarter lead and cruised to a 45-14 win. But Indiana got back in the win column last week, topping Charleston Southern of the FCS, 27-0. IU held the Buccaneers to just six first downs and 134 total yards.

So how good is Indiana in its first season post-Wilson? Who really knows. They’ve beaten an FCS team, an 0-4 Sun Belt team, and a perennial ACC bottom-feeder that hasn’t had a winning season since 2011, and they’ve lost to the top two teams in the Big Ten.

It could be said that Michigan is the first happy medium on the Hoosiers’ schedule. Granted, Michigan was ranked 7th nationally just a week ago, but the way the offense is playing Michigan is nowhere near a top-10 team. The defense may be the nation’s best, but unless the offense shows significant midseason progress with its backup quarterback, it will continue to hold the team back and give teams like Indiana a fighting chance.

Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Indiana offense

(IU Sports)

Mike DeBord has had a long and winding career since playing NAIA football in northern Indiana in the late 1970s. He worked his way up the coaching ranks as an offensive line coach at Fort Hays State, Eastern Illinois, Ball State, Colorado State, and Northwestern before landing at Michigan under Gary Moeller. He was kept on staff by Lloyd Carr and was named offensive coordinator for the first time in 1997, helping guide the Wolverines to the national title.

Following the 1999 season, he left to take his first head coaching position at Central Michigan, where he went just 12-34 before retuning to Michigan for the remainder of Carr’s career. From there, he spent two years with the Seattle Seahawks and three with the Chicago Bears and returned to the college game as Tennessee’s offensive coordinator the past two seasons before moving to Bloomington.

So far this season, DeBord’s offense ranks fourth in the Big Ten and 69th nationally in total offense (408.4 yards per game), fifth and 67th in scoring (29.6 points per game), ninth and 78th in rushing (148.8 yards per game), and fifth and 46th in passing (259.6 yards per game) — a far cry from the high-powered offenses under Wilson.

Unlike Harbaugh, who will stick with his starting quarterback until he can’t anymore, DeBord began the season utilizing a two-headed quarterback system at IU. Fifth-year senior Richard Lagow and redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey split time through the first four games before Ramsey got the full-time nod against Charleston Southern last week. I’m not sure how telling a 32-of-41, 321-yard performance is against a team that ranks 75th in the FCS in pass efficiency defense, but the Cincinnati native was a combined 11-of-20 for 88 yards, a touchdown, and an interception in limited time against Ohio State and Penn State. Lagow, meanwhile, was the Big Ten’s second-leading passer last season, but is completing just 56.3 percent of his passes this season.

True freshman Morgan Ellison has taken command of the running game, averaging 71.6 yards per game. The three-star product from Ohio State’s back yard (Pickerington Central) did most of his work this season against Georgia State, rushing for 186 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. He did manage 5.9 yards per carry against Penn State, but got just nine carries as IU fell behind by 28 points in the first quarter. Ramsey is the second-leading rusher with 171 yards on 3.5 yards per carry, while redshirt freshman Cole Gest is the only other Hoosier with more than 100 yards and he leads the team with 6.1 yards per carry.

Simmie Cobbs seems like he has been at Indiana forever and leads the team with 33 receptions for 370 yards and three touchdowns. The redshirt junior was an honorable mention All-Big Ten performer in 2015, ranking third in the league with 1,035 yards, but suffered a season-ending injury a year ago. He was unstoppable in the opener against Ohio State, catching 11 passes for 149 yards and a score. He also caught 10 passes for 98 yards against Charleston Southern and leads the Big Ten with 6.6 per game.

Fellow redshirt junior Luke Timian is second on the team with 22 receptions out of the slot, but is ahead of only third-down back Mike Majette with 6.4 yards per reception. Junior Donovan Hale and redshirt freshman Taysir Mack are both tall targets on the outside with a combined 245 yards and three touchdowns so far. Mack had a big game against Charleston Southern, catching seven passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns, while Hale leads the team with 16.6 yards per reception. Senior tight end Ian Thomas is the team’s second-leading receiver with 254 yards and three scores.

The offensive line is middle of the pack in the Big Ten with 2.2 sacks allowed per game (Michigan allows 3.2) but struggles on the interior and hasn’t been able to get much push in the running game.

Indiana defense

(Sam Riche, AP)

Defensive coordinator Mark Hagen is a former IU linebacker who spent about a decade building his resume at Purdue before returning to his alma mater in 2011. He left to coach linebackers and defensive tackles at Texas A&M from 2013-15 and came back to Bloomington as the assistant defensive coordinator last season. When Allen was promoted to head coach he gave Hagen the reigns of the defense.

His senior-laded Hoosier defense ranks eighth in the Big Ten and 47th nationally in total defense (357.8 yards per game), ninth and 59th in scoring defense (25.6 points per game), 12th and 67th in rush defense (152.4 yards per game), and seventh and 42nd in pass defense (205.4 yards per game). But while those stats don’t show much, IU’s defense ranks 22nd nationally in S&P+.

The most notable player on the Indiana defense is senior linebacker Tegray Scales, who was a second-team All-American last season while leading the nation with 23.5 tackles for loss. He led the Big Ten with 126 tackles. So far this season he’s slacking off, only ranking fifth in the conference in both tackles (42) and tackles for loss (6.5). The linebacker corps is made up of experienced seniors and Chris Covington and Tony Fields join Scales. Covington, who started his career at IU as a quarterback, recorded a sack and fumble against Michigan last season and ranks second on the team with 32 tackles. Fields has 23 tackles and two for loss.

Indiana’s defensive front is led by fifth-year senior nose tackle Nate Hoff, who takes on double teams and clogs the middle effectively. He notched 1.5 tackles for loss against Michigan a year ago. Junior Jacob Robinson and redshirt freshman Jerome Johnson split time at the three-tech and have a combined 15 tackles, three for loss, and two sacks. Seniors Greg Gooch and Robert McCray II aren’t stars, though they may look like it against Michigan’s tackles. The ends and have combined for three tackles for loss and two sacks this season.

Fifth-year senior Rashard Fant is one of the Big Ten’s best corners after recording 39 pass breakups the past two seasons. He was a second-team All-Big Ten performer last season. He has three pass breakups so far this season and will present a very tough challenge for Michigan’s young receivers. Redshirt sophomore Andre Brown Jr is the other, less heralded corner and has 12 tackles and one pass breakup. Junior Jonathan Crawford and senior Chase Dutra are a pair of experienced safeties that have combined for 45 tackles, a tackle for loss, an interception, and four pass breakups so far this season. Crawford was honorable mention All-Big Ten last season.

Indiana special teams

Placekicker Griffin Oakes is the top kicker in Indiana history with 58 career field goals and a 74.4 percent career clip. He was the Big Ten’s Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year in 2015 and has made all five attempts so far this season with a long of 51. Redshirt sophomore punter Hayden Whitehead is an Aussie who ranks ninth in the Big Ten with an average of 40.3 yards per punt. He has downed 12 of 36 inside the 20 with three touchbacks.

Redshirt junior receiver J-Shun Harris II is a dangerous punt returner coming off an ACL injury in 2016. He leads the Big Ten with 22.8 yards per return and two touchdowns. Running back Devontae Williams is the main kick returner, averaging a modest 18.2 yards per return.

Prediction

I’m not looking forward to this game. I’m not worried about Michigan’s defense slowing down a Mike DeBord offense, but I am worried about this Michigan offense doing much against a pretty good IU defense. Unlike last week, weather shouldn’t be a problem with 80 degrees and sun expected in Bloomington, but weather was one of just many problems a week ago. This game has all the makings of a defensive slugfest.

Michigan’s receivers are going to have a hard time getting open in the secondary, so John O’Korn will have to rely on his tight ends. Indiana’s defense ranks fifth in the Big Ten with 2.8 sacks per game and Michigan’s line hasn’t protected its quarterbacks, so with tight coverage, O’Korn could be running for his life quite a bit. Perhaps Harbaugh, Tim Drevno, and Pep Hamilton will develop a different game plan this week, but it’s hard to see Michigan’s offense moving the ball consistently.

On the other side, there’s no way Indiana should more than about 10 points. Indiana is at its best in the air, but Michigan features the top pass defense in the nation. The Hoosiers may get a big play or two through the air, and may get another from Ramsey’s legs, but won’t get much from its running game.

Michigan wins a low-scoring game that doesn’t leave us feeling much better heading into a showdown at Penn State.

Score Prediction: Michigan 17 – Indiana 10

#3 Michigan vs Indiana game preview

Friday, November 18th, 2016


um-indiana-game-preview-header

Michigan suffered its first loss of the season last weekend, but in the big picture, it didn’t really hurt them. Sure, it reduced the margin for error, but the Wolverines remain in the same position: win the next two and they’re in the Big Ten championship game. Win that one and they’re in the College Football Playoffs.

um-indiana_small
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30p.m. ET – ESPN
Indiana Head Coach: Kevin Wilson (18th season)
Coaching Record: 25-46, 11-36 (all at IU)
Offensive Coordinator: Kevin Johns (6th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Tom Allen (1st season)
Last Season: 6-7 (2-6 Big Ten)
Last Meeting: UM 48 – IU 41 2OT (2015)
All-Time Series: Michigan 55-9
Record in Ann Arbor: Michigan 32-7
Jim Harbaugh vs Indiana 1-0
Last Michigan win: 2015 (48-41 2OT)
Last Indiana win: 1987 (14-10)
Current Streak: Michigan 20
Indiana Schedule to date
Opponent Result
at FIU W 34-13
Ball State W 30-20
Wake Forest L 28-33
#17 Michigan State W 24-21
at #2 Ohio State L 17-38
#10 Nebraska L 22-27
at Northwestern L 14-24
Maryland W 42-36
at Rutgers W 33-27
#10 Penn State L 31-45

The final stretch begins tomorrow against the Indiana Hoosiers. Perhaps the silver lining of the Iowa loss is that Michigan won’t get caught looking ahead to Ohio State next week. They’ll be focused and prepared to get back on track this Saturday. And a win there will give them confidence heading into Columbus after Thanksgiving.

Indiana comes in with a 5-5 record, looking for one more win to gain bowl eligibility. They should be able to secure that next week against in-state rival Purdue, but head coach Kevin Wilson would love to beat Michigan to set up a great chance at the first winning season of his career.

Wilson is in his sixth season in Bloomington and has yet to turn the corner after going 1-11 in his first season. The Hoosiers have won between four and six wins in each of the past four seasons, topping out at six a year ago. They snuck into the Pinstripe Bowl and had a chance to finish 7-6, but lost to Duke on a field goal in overtime.

This season, Indiana opened with wins over Florida International and Ball State, but lost to Wake Forest. Then they beat Michigan State, which looked to be a big win at the time, but we later found out wasn’t worth much more than a win over FIU and Ball State.

Indiana then hit the meat of its schedule, falling by 21 at Ohio State, five against Nebraska, and 10 at Northwestern. They bounced back with wins over Maryland and Rutgers, but suffered a 14-point loss to 10th-ranked Penn State last Saturday.

Last season, the Hoosiers nearly beat Jim Harbaugh’s first Michigan squad, but the Wolverines pulled it out in overtime. Delano Hill batted down a fourth down pass at the goal line to secure the win. Harbaugh hopes to leave no doubt this time around.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

When Indiana has the ball

Offense has typically been the strength of the Hoosiers under Wilson, but it’s not quite as potent this season as it has been the past few. The Hoosiers rank seventh in the Big Ten and 71st nationally in scoring with 27.5 points per game, ninth in the Big Ten and 77th nationally in rushing (164.6 yards per game), second and 20th in passing (302.7 yards per game), and third and 32nd in total offense (467.3 yards per game).

Redshirt junior quarterback Richard Lagow ranks second in the Big Ten in passing in his first season as the starter. He has completed 61 percent of his passes for 2,866 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He has topped 200 yards passing in all but two games this season. Ohio State held him to 182 yards and Nebraska to 196. He has turned the ball over in six of 10 games and has multiple turnovers in four of them, so while he trails Purdue’s David Blough by fewer than six passing yards per game, he ranks just sixth in pass efficiency, about 10 rating points behind Wilton Speight.

Lagow has a group of talented receivers to throw to. Fifth-year senior Mitchell Paige ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 4.9 receptions per game, while sophomore Nick Westbrook ranks sixth at 4.4 and fifth-year senior Ricky Jones ranks seventh with 4.3. Westbrook is the conference’s second-leading receiver, averaging 79.3 yards per game. He has three 100-yard games including a 10-catch, 126-yard performance against Northwestern, but he didn’t catch a touchdown pass in that one. Last week, he caught his first touchdown pass since Week 3. Jones ranks sixth, averaging 71.3 yards. In Weeks 3 and 4, he caught a combined 13 passes for 332 yards and a touchdown. Since then, he has averaged 4.5 receptions for 60.5 yards. Paige isn’t as big of a home run threat, avearging just 10.9 yards per catch, but he also has two 100-yard games.

The running game has been the weakness offensively after losing Jordan Howard to the NFL. Junior Devine Redding is the Big Ten’s sixth-leading rusher, averaging 90.1 yards per game. He has topped 100 yards in half of the Hoosiers’ games and needs 99 yards on Saturday to eclipse 1,000 on the season. Ohio State, Nebraska, and Northwestern — three defenses somewhat comparable to Michigan’s — held Redding to just 59 yards and 3.6 yards per carry. But he went for 108 yards and two scores on 4.7 yards per carry against Penn State last Saturday. After Redding, Indiana’s backfield is pretty thin. Freshman Tyler Natee is the team’s second leading rusher with 220 yards, but he averages just 3.7  yards per carry. Sophomore Mike Majette and redshirt freshman Devontae Williams average about four carries apiece per game.

When Michigan has the ball

In years past, Indiana’s defense wasn’t able to stop, well, anyone. Most games were shootouts. This season, however, they’re actually somewhat respectable under the guidance of Tom Allen, who spent last season as South Florida’s defensive coordinator. The Bulls turned in the American Athletic Conference’s best scoring defense, allowing 19.6 points per game.

The Hoosiers rank 11th in the Big Ten and 67th nationally in scoring defense (28.4 points per game), 10th and 52nd in rush defense (156.2 yards per game), 13th and 73rd in pass defense (235.8 yards per game), and 11th and 55th in total defense (392.0 yards per game).

Junior Greg Gooch and sophomore Jacob Robinson are the starting defensive ends have combined for 6.5 tackles for loss and one sack. The defensive tackles, redshirt junior Nate Hoff and fifth-year senior Ralph Green III are a little more impactful with 11 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

The linebacking corps is the strength of the defense, lead by junior middle linebacker Tegray Scales, who ranks second in the Big Ten with 94 tackles. He also ranks second with 15 tackles for loss — one more than Jabrill Peppers — and leads the team with four sacks. Redshirt junior SAM linebacker Marcus Oliver is the team’s second-leading tackler with 74 and has 10.5 tackles for loss, which ranks ninth in the conference. True freshman Marcelino Ball plays the HUSKY linebacker position and has had a pretty good inaugural campaign, ranking thid on the team with 68 tackles and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. He’s also third with seven pass breakups.

Redshirt junior cornerback Rashard Fant is the Big Ten’s leading pass defender in terms of passes defended with 18 and pass breakups with 16. By comparison, Channing Stribling leads Michigan with 13 and nine, though he does have twice as many interceptions as Fant. True freshman A’Shon Riggins is the other corner and he ranks second on the team with eight pass breakups. Safeties Jonathan Crawford and Tony Fields have combined for 108 tackles, 13 pass breakups and three picks.

The other third

Redshirt junior kicker Griffin Oakes won the Big Ten Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year award in 2015, but has struggled this season, converting just 12-of-21 attempts. He does have a big leg with a long of 54 yards, but has lacked the consistency that he displayed a year ago. Redshirt sophomore punter Joseph Gedeon ranks ninth in the Big Ten with an average of 40.6 yards per punt. He has been accurate, landing 21 of 45 punts inside the 20 with no touchbacks.

Williams averages 19.8 yards per kick return, while Paige averages 7.8 yard per punt return.

Prediction

Last week I had a bad feeling about the Iowa game all week leading up to Saturday. It just felt like a trap game in every sense of the word and unfortunately, I was right. This week, I have the opposite feeling. Even with starting quarterback Wilton Speight out, Michigan is going to roll Indiana and gain a lot of confidence heading into Columbus.

Indiana’s offensive strength — its passing game — goes up against the best pass defense in the nation and won’t be able to move the ball consistently enough to score man points on Michigan. Sure, the Hoosiers passed for nearly 300 yards and scored 31 points against No. 10 Penn State last Saturday, but let’s not forget the PSU’s pass defense ranks in the bottom half of the Big Ten. Let’s also note that Indiana has trouble putting the ball in the end zone and finishing drives.

The Hoosiers rank dead last in the nation with a 68 percent red zone scoring rate. And they’ve scored touchdowns on just 47 percent of their red zone trips. Michigan has done so on 71 percent of theirs. In other words, when in the red zone, Michigan converts touchdowns more often than Indiana converts points. To make matters worse for Indiana, Michigan’s defense is the nation’s best in the red zone, holding opponents to just 65 percent scores and 41 percent touchdowns.

On offense, Michigan will move the ball just fine with John O’Korn’s mobility giving an added dimension that wasn’t there with Speight behind center. Indiana will surely try to force O’Korn to beat them with his arm, and he’ll do so against the second worst pass defense in the Big Ten. He’ll throw for over 200 yards, opening up the running game for another 200-plus as the offense gets back to its high-scoring ways.

Michigan 42 – Indiana 14

2015 opponent preview: Indiana

Monday, August 10th, 2015


2015 Opponent Preview_INDIANA

NCAA Football: Indiana at Wisconsin(Jeff Hanisch, USA Today Sports)

Our season preview series continues with the first Big Ten squad we have previewed so far. The Indiana Hoosiers are the third-easiest opponent Michigan will face this fall, behind non-conference foes UNLV and Oregon State. Michigan visits the Hoosiers on Nov. 14, just two weeks before the regular season ending battle with Ohio State.

Overview

Schedule
Date Opponent
Sept. 5 Southern Illinois
Sept. 12 FIU
Sept. 19 Western Kentucky
Sept. 26 at Wake Forest
Oct. 3 Ohio State
Oct. 10 at Penn State
Oct. 17 Rutgers
Oct. 24 at Michigan State
Nov. 7 Iowa
Nov. 14 Michigan
Nov. 21 at Maryland
Nov. 28 at Purdue

After going 1-11 in his first season in Bloomington, Kevin Wilson looked to have the Hoosiers on the upswing. A 4-8 season in 2012 followed by a 5-7 finish in 2013 had Indiana poised to break through in 2014. Instead, the Hoosiers were unable to capture their second winning season in 20 years, falling back to 4-8.

Indiana sandwiched an early season road upset of Missouri with losses to Bowling Green and Maryland and then suffered further setback when quarterback Nate Sudfeld injured his shoulder. The injury forced unheralded true freshman Zander Diamont into action and the results were predictable. In six starts, Diamont completed just 48.5 percent of his passes for 515 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions. Indiana went 1-5 over that span, beating only lowly rival Purdue to close the season.

Now, Indiana returns the second lowest offensive and defensive production in the Big Ten and it might be Wilson’s last chance to turn the program around. Only Maryland returns a lower percentage of offense (29 percent compared to Indiana’s 40 percent) and defense (44 percent compared to Indiana’s 53 percent), and only Iowa returns a lower percentage of offensive touchdowns (31 percent to Indiana’s 35 percent). Can that somehow equate to a winning season? Let’s take a look.

Offense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2014 Stats
QB Nate Sudfeld (Sr.) 6’6″, 240 101-167 for 1,151 yds, 6 TD, 3 INT
RB Jordan Howard (Jr.) 6’1″, 225 306 rush for 1,587 yds (5.2 avg), 13 TD (at UAB)
WR Simmie Cobbs (So.) 6’4″, 215 7 rec for 114 yds (16.3 avg), 0 TD
WR Dominique Booth (Fr.) 6’0″, 205
WR Ricky Jones (RS Jr.) 5’10”, 185 3 rec for 58 yds (19.3 avg), 0 TD
TE Anthony Corsaro (Sr.) 6’3″, 250 5 rec for 39 yds (7.8 avg), 0 TD
LT Jason Spriggs (Sr.) 6’7″, 305 10 starts (34 career starts)
LG Jacob Bailey (RS Jr.) 6’5″, 298 2 starts (5 career starts)
C Jake Reed (RS Sr.) 6’4″, 288 4 starts (4 career starts)
RG Dan Feeney (RS Jr.) 6’4″, 305 12 starts (24 career starts)
RT Tim Gardner (RS Fr.) 6’5″, 310 OSU transfer, sat out 2014

In 2014, Indiana ranked 61st nationally in total offense (fifth in the Big Ten), ninth in rushing (third in the Big Ten), 120th in passing (last in the Big Ten), 123rd in pass efficiency (last in the Big Ten), and 87th in scoring offense (10th in the Big Ten). The main factor in Indiana’s offense was running back Tevin Coleman, who ranked second in the Big Ten with 2,036 rushing yards, averaging 169.7 yards per game. His 7.5 yards per attempt matched Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon’s for tops in the conference. But now Coleman is in camp with the Atlanta Falcons as a third round pick in this year’s NFL Draft.

The good news for Wilson is that he has a talented back coming in to replace him. Jordan Howard transferred from Alabama-Birmingham after the program disbanded. He set a UAB single season record with 1,587 yards, averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and scoring 13 touchdowns. His 132.3 yards per game ranked seventh nationally and he earned first team All-Conference USA honors. But he’ll have to beat out sophomore Devine Redding, a Glenville High School product, who showed some promise last season behind Coleman.

The other good news is that Sudfeld is healthy again. He ranked among the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten in 2013 as IU’s pass offense ranked 17th nationally. He was on pace for similar production through the first six games of 2014 before injuring his shoulder and missing the rest of the year. Now, in his senior season, he has one final chance to show what he can do.

The receiving corps has some talent, but not very little proven production. It suffered a big loss when its only returning receiver, J-Shon Harris, suffered an ACL injury in the spring and will miss the entire season. His 18 receptions for 168 yards and two touchdowns led all returning receivers. In fact, he was the only returning receiver on the team that caught a touchdown pass in 2014. His spot will likely be filled by incoming freshman Dominique Booth, a four-star recruit out of Pike High School in Indianapolis. The other expected starters are sophomore Simmi Cobbs and redshirt junior Ricky Jones, who combined for 10 receptions for 172 yards and no scores a year ago.

The strength of the offense should be the line that returns 67 career starts, most notably senior left tackle Jason Spriggs and redshirt junior right guard Dan Feeney. The two have combined for 58 career starts, including 22 in 2014. Left guard Jacob Bailey and center Jake Reed started a combined six games last season, while the expected right tackle is Ohio State transfer Tim Gardner.

Defense

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2014 Stats
DE Nick Mangieri (Sr.) 6’5″, 270 37 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 3 QBH
DT Darius Latham (Jr.) 6’5″, 305 26 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 FR
NT Nate Hoff (RS So.) 6’2″, 300 29 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks
LB Zack Shaw (RS Sr.) 6’3″, 252 24 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sack, 1 FR, 1 QBH
LB T.J. Simmons (Jr.) 6’0″, 233 72 tackles, 65. TFL, 2 sacks, 1 FR, 2 FF
LB Marcus Oliver (RS So.) 6’1″, 238 10 tackles, 1 FF
LB Tegray Scales (So.) 6’0″, 220 46 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 INT, 2 QBH
CB Rashard Fant (RS So.) 5’10”, 175 23 tackles, 5 PBU, 1 FR
CB Noel Padmore (RS So.) 5’11”, 180
FS Tony Fields (So.) 5’11”, 205 14 tackles, 1 PBU
SS Chase Dutra (RS So.) 6’1″, 205 34 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FF

Indiana had one of the Big Ten’s worst defenses in 2014 and returns only four starters and none from the secondary. The Hoosiers ranked 120th nationally in total defense, 114th in scoring defense, 115th in rush defense, 118th in passing yards allowed, and 103rd in pass efficiency defense. The 32.8 points per game allowed were worse than every team in the Big Ten except Illinois.

There’s a lot to improve on Indiana’s defense, but at least the line is experienced, returning all three starters. Nose tackle Nate Hoff ranked second on the team with 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss last season as a redshirt freshman, while defensive tackle Darius Latham recorded 5.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Last year’s starting defensive end, Bobby Richardson, is gone and so are his team-leading 9.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. But starting outside linebacker Nick Mangieri is making the move back to end, where he played his first two seasons in Bloomington and started 10 games in 2013.

With Mangieri’s move to the line, the Hoosier linebacker corps returns just one starter from a year ago, junior T.J. Simmons. He’s the leading returning tackler with 72 and he also ranked fourth on the team last season with 6.5 tackles for loss. A couple of promising youngsters join Simmons in the middle. Sophomore Tegray Scales was a Big Ten All-Freshman team member last season after notching 46 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two sacks, and three interceptions. Marcus Oliver was an honorable mention Big Ten All-Freshman team member in 2013, but tore his ACL in the third game of the season last year. The fourth linebacker should be fifth-year senior Zack Shaw, who has 36 games of playing experience under his belt.

While there is some talent and experience in the front seven, the secondary will get a complete makeover this fall. Last year’s leading tackler, safety Antonio Allen, should have been back to lead the group, but was kicked off the team in June due to legal troubles. The former U.S. Army All-American will be replaced by sophomore Tony Fields, who recorded 14 tackles and one pass breakup last fall. Strong safety started one game as a redshirt freshman in 2014, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. He tied Scales for the team lead with three interceptions. The corners will likely be a pair of redshirt sophomores, Rashard Fant and Noel Padmore. Fant recorded 23 tackles and ranked second among Big Ten freshmen with five pass breakups. Padmore played exclusively on special teams last season.

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Position Name, Yr. Ht, Wt 2014 Stats
K Griffin Oakes (RS So.) 5’10”, 197 13-of-18 (72.2%), Long 58
P Erich Toth (RS Sr.) 6’3″, 208 40.7 avg., 18 in-20, 7 50+
KR J-Shunn Harris (So.) 5’8″, 170 19 ret, 20.6 avg
PR J-Shunn Harris (So.) 5’8″, 170 3 ret, 4.0 avg

Both kicking specialists return for a unit that wasn’t very strong overall. Kicker Griffin Oakes was solid, connecting on 13-of-18 field goals and set a school record with a  58-yard field goal against Maryland. It was the longest in the country last season and the 10th-longest field goal in Big Ten history. Punter Erich Toth has two-and-a-half years of experience under his belt and ranks fifth in school history with 177 career punts. Last season’s 77 punts set a school single-season record — not exactly a stat one wants to hold. Indiana ranked 98th nationally in net punting and Toth’s 40.7 yards per punt ranked eighth in the Big Ten.

Sophomore receiver J-Hunn Harris returns to handle the kick return duties and should also take over punt return duties from the departed Shane Wynn. Harris led the team with 19 kick returns for 20.2 yards per return last season, but returned just three punts in 2014.

Outlook

The schedule sets up nicely for Indiana with a non-conference slate of Southern Illinois, FIU, Western Kentucky, and Wake Forest. The first three are at home and only WKU had a winning record among the four (8-5). The schedule gets much tougher after that with Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State in the month of October, with Rutgers in between. November sees Iowa and Michigan visit Memorial Stadium and IU travel to Maryland and Purdue.

Getting seven wins out of that schedule will require the Hoosiers to pull off at least one upset like they did against Missouri last season. But with very little experience in the secondary and no Tevin Coleman, a lot of pressure will be on Sudfeld’s arm. Indiana is looking at yet another bowl-less season.

What it means for Michigan

By the time Michigan visits Indiana, the Wolverines will already have played nine games. I expect the Harbaugh era to gain steam throughout the season — a departure from the previous two coaching staffs — so that bodes well for Michigan in this one. Michigan’s defense will be one of the Big Ten’s best and Indiana doesn’t have the firepower to score enough to keep up. It’s Michigan’s last good chance to get a win with a trip to Penn State the following week and then Ohio State coming to town a week later. But Harbaugh’s boys will get take care of business in Bloomington.