Michigan vs. Indiana: Complete Game Preview

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2015

Michigan vs. Indiana: Complete Game Preview

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The No. 15 Michigan Wolverines will travel to challenge the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday, Nov. 14, in Bloomington, Indiana.

    Jake Rudock threw for a career-high 337 yards last time out, leading Michigan (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten) to a 49-16 dismantling of Rutgers. The Wolverines are still in the chase for the East Division crown, but they can't afford a letdown against the Hoosiers.

    Indiana (4-5, 0-5 Big Ten) enters the clash as losers of five consecutive games, most recently falling 35-27 to undefeated Iowa. Jordan Howard racked up 189 total yards and two touchdowns in the loss.

    According to Odds Shark, Michigan is an 11.5-point favorite. Depending on your local listing, ABC or ESPN2 will televise the 3:30 p.m. ET matchup.

Michigan Keys to Victory

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Play Within the System

    Rudock is by no means an elite quarterback, but the offense doesn't need a playmaker under center. The senior showed why that's the case against Rutgers.

    Michigan's coaching staff designed a tremendous game plan, attacking the Scarlet Knights' aggressiveness with screens and misdirections. Rudock didn't force the issue, stayed within the offense and assembled a stellar day.

    That won't change opposite Indiana. The Wolverines don't need to stray from the balanced attack that's worked so well all season in order to pick apart the nation's ninth-worst defense.

    Limit Big Plays

    During the three previous games heading into the clash with a shorthanded Rutgers offense, Michigan had surrendered 40 gains of 10 or more yards—32 of which came through the air.

    The Scarlet Knights couldn't quite continue the trend Michigan State and Minnesota started, but the Wolverines will face a respectable test Saturday. Indiana averages 11.6 passes of 10-plus yards and 3.9 of 20-plus per contest.

    Michigan has played an ideal bend-don't-break defense, recovering after a sizable gain and keeping opponents out of the end zone.

    As long as the Wolverines don't allow strings of big plays, they'll limit Indiana to field goals. And against this Michigan defense, field goals spell defeat.

Indiana Keys to Victory

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    Establish a Balance

    Although there isn't a perfect blueprint for how to shake the Wolverines defense, success is highly unlikely without a balanced offense.

    Utah registered 127 rushing yards, Michigan State scored twice on the ground and Minnesota tallied 144 yards. Utah and MSU knocked off Michigan, while Minnesota came up a single yard short.

    Indiana has a terrific back in Howard, but before his 174-yard explosion against Iowa, the team struggled to overcome top run defenses. The Wolverines are the nation's third-best team against the run.

    Nate Sudfeld is going to throw plenty, and he has decent targets in Ricky Jones, Simmie Cobbs Jr. and Mitchell Paige. However, if the Hoosiers don't establish Howard, a one-dimensional pass offense won't survive 60 minutes.

    Start Strong, Finish Stronger

    Although Indiana has regularly hung around through the third quarter, Michigan has built a 165-56 advantage during the first half. The Hoosiers must start fast to stick around heading into the locker room, but they've consistently done that in 2015.

    The fourth quarter, on the other hand, is a serious issue.

    During Big Ten action, opponents have outscored Indiana 84-20 in the game's final frame. Rutgers scored 22 straight to steal a three-point win in Week 7. Michigan State notched 24 unanswered to pull away in the team's next contest.

    It wouldn't be a surprise if the Hoosiers battle for 45 minutes. Watching them finish the final 15 would be a near-shocker.

Michigan Players to Watch

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    Jehu Chesson, Wide Receiver

    While Rudock typically looks for Amara Darboh and Jake Butt, Chesson has emerged as a big-play weapon.

    He scored 36- and 66-yard jet sweeps against UNLV and Maryland, respectively, caught two touchdowns versus Minnesota and tagged Rutgers for another. The senior also returned a kickoff for a touchdown to open the Northwestern blowout.

    Michigan has found ways to get Chesson the ball, and he's consistently made it worth the effort.

    Jabrill Peppers, Cornerback and More

    Speaking of getting someone touches, the Wolverines would be wise to continue increasing Jabrill Peppers' role.

    In addition to his normal responsibilities as a starting cornerback, the former 5-star recruit typically returns kicks. As of late, though, he's been more involved offensively, lining up primarily in the backfield to take tosses and hit the edge.

    Peppers has scored a touchdown in two straight games, including a fantastic 18-yarder against Rutgers seen in the accompany video. He's easily the most electric player on the roster.

Indiana Players to Watch

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Nate Sudfeld, Quarterback

    As long as Indiana's trends continue, the hope of springing an upset rests on the right arm of Sudfeld.

    First and foremost, the Hoosiers need him to protect the ball. That's a quarterback's job, sure, but ceding possession and field position is a critical mistake against Michigan's stout defense.

    Additionally, it's Sudfeld's responsibility to make sure Indiana finds the end zone when it pushes inside the 20-yard line. The Wolverines have allowed the nation's fewest red-zone opportunities, and their 37.5 percent touchdown rate is sixth-best.

    Nick Mangieri, Defensive End

    The Hoosiers must win at the line of scrimmage, and Nick Mangieri has accomplished exactly that on a regular basis.

    Mangieri, through nine games, has eight tackles for loss—seven of which are sacks—five pass breakups, four quarterback hits and two forced fumbles. It's easy to understand why the senior earned a spot on the Ted Hendricks Award's midseason watch list, the annual award given to college football's top defensive end.

    When he takes the field Saturday, however, Mangieri's most recent sack will be more than a month in the past. He should snap that streak opposite Michigan.

What They're Saying

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press


    Following the win over Rutgers, head coach Jim Harbaugh was practically at a loss for words when describing Peppers and his sensational 18-yard touchdown run.

    "I knew he was good. But he's, he's really good. He's really good," Harbaugh said. "I thought there was not another rung to go on the ladder, but there is. He found another rung to go even higher. I told him that, I said, 'Man, you're really good.'"


    Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star notes Sudfeld expressed his dissatisfaction of Indiana continually losing to the country's top teams despite being competitive for most of the game.

    "We've been competitive all season against the best teams in the nation, but I'm tired of being competitive," the senior QB said. "We're good enough."


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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The final score is tough to predict because it's not clear how Indiana will respond after losing another Big Ten contest it had a chance to win late.

    However, we'll give the Hoosiers the benefit of the doubt at home since they've taken Ohio State, Rutgers and Iowa down to the final minutes at Memorial Stadium.

    Nevertheless, Michigan has some extra motivation. Barring an unexpected Michigan State loss, the Wolverines were likely eliminated from Big Ten East Division contention entering Week 10 play. Well, MSU fell to Nebraska. The Wolverines know they need this victory.

    Michigan's three road contests have featured slow starts, so Indiana will stay within one possession at halftime. But Harbaugh will light a fire under the Maize and Blue for the second half, and Michigan will pull away late.

    Prediction: Michigan 31, Indiana 13

    All recruiting information via 247Sports. Stats from CFBStats.com. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.