As the University of Michigan and University of Indiana football teams head into their Week-Four matchup, both teams have a perfect 3-0 mark.
However, this is somewhat misleading.
The No. 23 Wolverines have a big victory over a dangerous and talented Notre Dame squad and also handed two Mid-American Conference foes big defeats including Western Michigan.
The Hoosiers, on the other hand, snuck out a win over the the same Broncos in Bloomington.
A 23-19 game was clinched by Indiana as WMU's Aaron Winchester fumbled on the Indiana eight-yard line with under two minutes left as his team was charging for the go-ahead touchdown and his team down by just six points.
Indiana was also only able to muster a six-point victory over Eastern Kentucky at home in the season opener.
Now Indiana faces its toughest opponent of the season to date.
Here is my preview for Michigan and Indiana as they open their conference schedules:
Michigan with the ball
It is no secret that the Maize and Blue like to run the ball.
The squad leads the Big Ten in rushing offense racking up more than 270 yards per game. Carlos Brown looked electric in his outing against Eastern Michigan last weekend and the Wolverines have plenty of good options in the run game. The depth at running back should prove valuable as the season progresses.
The Hoosiers have the second-best rush defense in the conference so far in 2009, but have yet to face a rushing attack that comes close to matching Michigan's.
Tate Forcier did little throwing last week and I expect the coaches to try and get him back in the groove this weekend. He needs to continue developing a good rapport with the receivers such as Greg Mathews, Martavius Odoms, Junior Hemingway, and Darryl Stonum.
Indiana has some ability to pressure the quarterback and senior defensive end Jammie Kirlew has 2.5 sacks and 6.5 tackles for a loss through three games this season. Expect a double team for Kirlew to try and keep the pocket intact and keep Forcier protected.
I don't think Michigan will struggle to throw or run in this game, especially at home.
Indiana with the ball
Indiana scored 38 points last weekend on the road, so the offense is starting to click a little better.
Junior Ben Chappell is a very capable quarterback who has completed 68.5 percent of his passes so far this season. He also, however, has thrown one pick for all three games this season. His top targets are a pair of sophomores in Tandon Doss (21 receptions, 270 yards) and Damarlo Belcher (16 grabs, 183 yards, one touchdown).
In the backfield, senior Demetrius McCray has 228 yards so far this season and carries the ball at a 5.4 clip.
I expect Indiana to air it out early to try and quiet the fans and maybe pick on the younger secondary at the Big House. Chappell has already thrown 92 passes this season, so the pass seems like the likely weapon.
Michigan needs to attempt to get more pressure on the quarterback. The squad sits dead last in the conference in sacks so far this season. Brandon Graham can't do it all by himself, as teams will double-team him, so pressure from other areas is a must.
Michigan's defense has been better than last season, but still has a long way to go. One area that is much better is at linebacker, where Kevin Leach and Craig Roh stepped up last week to strengthen a talented group that includes seniors Obi Ezeh and Stevie Brown.
One thing to note is that Indiana leads the conference in penalties with 25 through three games and this could stall several drives if that continues.
Michigan plays its fourth straight game at home and in front of 110,000 fans.
Forcier is now starting his fourth straight game and although I don't believe he'll win every game in his freshman campaign, Indiana is not the team he will lose to. Rich Rodriguez will have his team playing determined football in the first conference game of the 2009 season.
The Maize and Blue can't overlook Indiana and to Michigan State next week and it must take care of business this week first.
Last week against Eastern Michigan in the first half might have been a good example of that. They won't let it happen again, especially in the first conference game.
Prediction: Michigan again unleashes its horde of running backs and jumps on the Hoosier defense early. I don't expect any 90-yard runs, but instead the squad chips away with five- and six-yard gains. The Wolverines get a little more pressure on the quarterback this week and this forces Chappell into some mistakes. Michigan hits the 30-point plateau again and takes home their first conference win of the season.
Michigan 33, Indiana 20