This Saturday, Michigan will host Indiana in Ann Arbor for its fifth conference game of the season. TBHR asked Hoosiers blogger Kyle Swick of SB Nation’s The Crimson Quarry about what Indiana has been looking like this season and what we can expect to see on Saturday afternoon at the Big House.
1. The atmosphere at the Big House is going to be different this weekend. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but a very gracious donor has purchased 2,000 T-shirts with #FireDaveBrandon printed on them, and everyone in support of the cause who can’t get a shirt is asked to wear white. Many say he’s ruining the program, and we’re going to see the second major movement of the season this weekend. I ask every writer this in our Q&A: What does this mess look like from the outside?
I’ve developed a habit of minimizing these situations despite the 24 / 7 sports news cycles that want to proclaim the downfall of Michigan and the “goodness gracious how will they ever come back from this?” #narrative. I’ve been around college sports long enough to know that top programs packed with legacy, tradition, and a huge budget don’t stay down long. Yes, Brandon and Hoke have to go, this season has been an embarrassment for the Wolverines, but as long as they don’t do anything dumb on their subsequent AD / coach hire, I have a feeling things will be pretty close to normal in Ann Arbor next year. There’s no NCAA violations to worry about, there’s plenty of talent on the roster, the ship just needs a new captain.
2. Let’s get to the game. I was disappointed to hear about Nate Sudfeld’s season being cut down, but that’s just the sad fact. This means that Indiana is going to need to rely HEAVILY on Tevin Coleman in the run game, and they’ll need to use Shane Wynn to get creative and make plays. I feel for Chris Covington, but it’s not like he’ll have to keep pace with an explosive offense. Nonetheless, Michigan’s defense is undoubtedly going to be aggressive against the true freshman. Does Indiana have what it takes to move the ball this weekend?
I will correct you here, as Chris Covington is also now out for the year and we’ve turned things over to other true freshman Zander Diamont. It’s been tough to keep up with the QB depth chart this year, so don’t feel too bad. As for my answer: Based on what I witnessed with Zander under center, I think it’s at least possible if the play calling puts us in favorable situations. There’s no real reason to go away from Tevin Coleman as the main source of yardage, and I would expect to utilize Shane Wynn and others in the screen game. Any play that gets one of our playmakers in space without requiring Diamont to hang in the pocket and make a big throw should be considered. He was horribly off the mark against MSU, and while that’s a tough first assignment for a true freshman, they need to make sure he’s playing within himself. IU has two very good backs behind Tevin Coleman that can spell him when necessary. Michigan has a great run defense but we’ve faced a handful of great run defenses this year that have had no answer for Coleman. No reason to think he can’t find some success Saturday.
3. I’ve never asked another writer this, and I don’t know why, but it’s very simple: Would you fear Devin Gardner more if he was allowed to work in a more up-tempo, spread offense?
Yes. I, admittedly, haven’t seen a ton of Michigan tape but I’ve seen enough to believe that Devin Gardner is being miscast in the pro-style scheme. I certainly think he’s a QB you can win with but he just doesn’t have the refined ability or decision-making that you need to succeed in that scheme. He’s a great athlete with a pretty good arm and that’s usually the portrait of a successful spread QB, whether a switch to the spread would help Michigan overall, I have no idea. I see a lot of Tate Forcier in Gardner’s game, honestly, but without the douchebag factor.
4. I previewed Indiana for a magazine this preseason, and I loved the potential I saw in that defense under Brian Knorr. Giving up over 34 points per game ranks the Hoosiers at No. 107 in the country, though. What do you blame for a defense prone to points on that scale, and what can Michigan do specifically to take advantage of that?
Fundamentals. It all comes back to fundamentals. These guys are still missing tackles. They’re also adjusting to a new scheme for what I believe is the third year in a row. I think Knorr will bring stability and continuity to the defensive side of the ball, and I think he’s an excellent man for the job, it just sucks to see so little improvement in year one. There’s tons of talented athletes on that side of the ball, but getting them to play cohesive team defense is going to take some time. I think they have the makings of a very good unit next year, assuming Knorr can replicate the kind of success he had at Wake Forest with what I have to assume are similarly talented players.
5. Your prediction for the game.
If Sudfeld were at the helm, I’d have no problem shamelessly picking IU to win by a decent margin. But given what little I’ve seen of Diamont and how uninspiring what I saw was, I think Michigan will manage to take advantage of the defense enough to win comfortably. Tevin Coleman gets a long touchdown run but the Hoosiers won’t be able to muster much more. 24 – 13, Wolverines.