Michigan-Indiana Football: Can Hometown Hero Lead Hoosiers to Big Ten Upset?

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Michigan-Indiana Football: Can Hometown Hero Lead Hoosiers to Big Ten Upset?
Leon Halip/Getty Images
Denard Robinson injured vs. Bowling Green

If this was South Bend, the movie crews would already be on campus. They’d be here to film the hometown hero leading his college football team to glory. But this is not South Bend—in fact it’s only Bloomington. There are no Gipper’s, no Rudy’s, and no Horsemen.

Unfortunately for Michigan, the hometown hero is for real. He’s Indiana signal caller Ben Chappell, who played his high school ball at nearby Bloomington South High School.

Chappell and his supporting cast will host the Wolverines Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Game time is 3:30 p.m. and Michigan is favored by 13. Indiana (4-0, 0-0) defeated Akron 35-20, while Michigan (4-0, 0-0) demolished Bowling Green, 65-21 last week.

The real question here is if Chappell can run Indiana’s "pistol" offense* well enough to outscore Michigan’s read-option spread.

The 6'3", 242 lb. senior certainly has the tools to pull off an upset. Along with Chappell are a trio of tall receivers and a competent stable of running backs. Even the tight ends are getting involved.

Last season it took Tate Forcier’s late game heroics for Michigan to pull out a 36-33 victory. Forcier’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Martavious Odoms with 2:29 remaining was the gamewinner.  Michigan was very fortunate indeed, since Chappell shredded the Michigan defenders, going 21-for-38 for 270 yards.

Indiana wide receivers Damarlo Belcher (6'5", 220 lbs), Terrance Turner (6'3", 209 lbs) and Tandom Doss (6'3", 200 lbs), each had their way with the Michigan defense, and each will be in the lineup Saturday.

You’ll also see Tailback Darius Willis (6'0", 224 lbs), who ran for 152 yards on 16 carries in last fall’s thriller. Freshman tight end Ted Bolser already has four TD catches in 2010.

Both teams teased their followers last year with effective offenses, and disappointed them with ineffective defenses.  Each squad crumbled in the Big Ten season, losing its final five games. Michigan finished at 5-7 (1-7 Big Ten), and Indiana ended up 4-8 (1-7 Big Ten).

This season, both teams are encouraged by their offenses, while puzzled by their defenses. Indiana’s defense a year ago was a mess. The jury is still out this season, since Towson, Western Kentucky, and Akron are not exactly scoring machines. Michigan’s defense has been inconsistent at best.

It appears it’ll be left to the quarterbacks to attack the mine-less mine fields.

Chappell had a fine season in 2009 and has been brilliant this year—albeit against questionable competition.  In three games thus far, he has completed 71-of-98 passes for 890 yards, nine touchdowns, and no interceptions. Without a doubt, he will be the most effective passer Michigan has seen to date.

In Michigan’s corner, of course, is sophomore sensation Denard Robinson, who is by no means a supporting actor on any stage. Currently he has a banged up knee, but all reports have him ready to play by Saturday.

If anything the screenwriters already have their eyes on the quarterback/magician from Deerfield Beach, Florida. We definitely know the t-shirt printers do.   

In just short of three games and a quarter, Robinson has put up these amazing numbers:

Passing: 57-of-80, 731 yards, four TDs

Rushing: 79 carries, 688 yards, six TDs.

His backups haven’t been too shabby, either. Forcier, who also silenced Notre Dame a year ago, tossed a “perfect game” in relief,  going 12-for-12 against Bowling Green. True freshman Devin Gardner, also in relief, completed seven of 10 passes and rushed for 25 yards.

So there will be no titles won, no trophies awarded, and no movies made. Just a Big Ten opener for undefeated Indiana and undefeated Michigan.

*See video for a breakdown of the pistol offense by the Big Ten Network.

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