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Maize n Brew Roundtable Week 11: The Indiana Hoosiers

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Michigan still has the goal of a Big Ten championship within reach if a few pieces fall their way. First, they get Indiana on the road, and read on to get the lowdown from the Maize n Brew staff.

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Indiana is often very good at throwing the ball, and MSU and Minnesota had success doing that. See any adjustments Michigan needs to make to cut down the passing yards allowed?

Zach: I think simply sticking with the scheme as it is and cleaning up some of the mistakes are all Michigan needs to focus on. This defense has been one of the best in the nation against the pass all year, and while the numbers don't look good for either MSU or Minnesota, I think viewing those stats in the context of the games themselves softens the impact of 300-plus passing yards. Michigan will be fine. It has enough depth and talent on the front line to pressure the quarterback, and Michigan's man-press coverage on the outside makes life hard for passing offenses based on timing.

I think the only thing Michigan really needs to worry about is playing against tempo. That will be what dooms Michigan if there is any doom involved, not adjustments against the pass specifically.

Nick C: I agree with Zach. Major adjustments aren't necessary. The defense just needs to continue to sharpen its blade, and Michigan will continue to be in position to win games. However, there's a lot of chatter surrounding the defensive line depth now that Glasgow's in a sling. So it will be critical to eliminate as many mistakes as possible moving forward.

Drew: Against Michigan, the Spartans' passing game mostly consisted of jump balls from their future first-round quarterback to their future NFL wide receiver, a 30-yard double move, and a 74-yard fullback wheel. That's two well-designed plays and a bunch of 50-50 balls. Very few teams have the ability to make such a tactic work. And, while Mitch Leidner had some excellent throws through tiny windows, many of his passing yards were the result of good fortune and Michigan not locating the ball while in coverage. It was more of a fluke than anything. Indiana can sling the football -- Nate Sudfeld is great -- but there are no adjustments that Michigan needs to make in coverage. As Zach said, the biggest concern is how Michigan handles IU's tempo.

Against Rutgers both Drake Johnson and De'veon Smith did OK but not spectacular...either of them sway you in the great Johnson v. Smith debate?

Zach: No, but that has more to do with neither of these guys looking capable of winning the job outright, and I mean that in the most broad sense. We have two years of evidence on both backs, and while each has improved to be serviceable, neither are a complete package running back. Both will continue to get carries because they complement the other, and both will struggle with certain parts of the game.

Nick C: I think we've reached a point this season where we can conclude that Michigan's run game will be by committee for the rest of the year. Barring injury, no one back deserves the starting role.

Drew: I've said since Day One that Michigan's at its best with a Drake Johnson-De'Veon Smith tandem at running back. Neither has shown the consistency needed to be the workhorse back, and they complement each other well, with Johnson as a one-cut slasher and Smith as a punisher.

Another obscure rules issue this past Saturday: Harbaugh didn't get a very good explanation of the "intent to deceive/confuse" penalty. Can any of us help him make sense of this?

Zach: I don't like the call but mostly because it is way too feelings-ball for me, but it was the right one given the rule. While Michigan went to great pains not to send Butt off with those exiting the field, his leaving the huddle before it was full was a little too early, and parking himself about five yards off the sideline didn't help. I think there are ways of getting uncovered players through deception, but given all the regulations around substitutions these days (even more important with spread/hurry-up offenses proliferating), it makes sense to err on the side of the defense.

But, as the old saying goes: "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying."

Nick C: I've read enough on the call to be fine with it, even though I was heated during the game. I was hoping Michigan would try it again later on just to mess with the refs some more. But obscure rules don't bother me as much as more well known rules being bungled, such as targeting...

Drew: In the moment, I thought it was ridiculous, and I still think the rule is ridiculous. But an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for "intent to deceive" indeed is a penalty, and, based off what I have read and my understanding of the rule, the officials called it correctly. Jake Butt never really stood in the huddle and trailed three Wolverines that were exiting the field as if he was doing the same. Michigan may have gotten away with it if Butt had line up on the numbers rather than right next to the sideline -- it screamed "hideout" play -- but the officials were on top of this.

KB: I never thought I'd get an excuse to mention Matt Millen during these roundtables, but he claimed that Jake Butt was in the huddle and broke with those exiting players. It was way more of a blatant error than when I saw it live. Harbaugh was still steamed about it on Monday, and argued that it isn't expressly written in the rules where a player has to be lined up to draw the penalty. All of this leads me to believe a lot of teams do this but are better at hiding it. Maybe Jake missed the part where he was supposed to line up somewhere other than four feet from the sideline.

Rudock was lights out against Rutgers. What will you be looking for from him this week and how will he and the boys do against the Hoosiers?

Zach: Probably not as well statistically as he did against Rutgers, but I imagine Indiana will go into one with some concept of what a "screen play" is and a plan to stop it.

However, what struck me about Rudock was his confidence in that game, and how it built as things progressed and he hit a few throws. Considering how few times he has gotten into any sort of sustained rhythm this year, it is great to see everything click for him. I doubt the light has permanently turned on, but I'd gather that we see more sustained evidence of Good Rudock over the next couple weeks.

Nick C: Consistency. I'd like to see Rudock repeat a lot of the things he did last week, e.g. throwing the ball where only Butt could catch it, etc. Like Zach said, he probably doesn't have as good of a game on paper, so I just want to see him not regress. So if Rudock shows signs of consistency, I'll be as happy as a clam at high water.

Drew: Jake Rudock threw 26 ball if we include the pass interference his underthrown bomb drew. Of those, I graded 22 of them as being balls thrown to perfect spots. And only two of those 26 passes traveled more than 20 yards in the air. The gameplan was simple: throw intermediate routes and screens and hope that Michigan's receivers can generate yards after the catch against a Rutgers pass defense that's one of the nation's worst. It worked, and, as it did, I could see that Rudock was stepping into his throws with more confidence. Some of those passes were simple, but, as he got rolling, he threw a few that were dimes. He seems to have more trust in what he's seeing and that his receivers can make plays in one-on-one matchups. My guess is that we'll see a similar gameplan this week, though Indiana's pass defense isn't nearly as poor as Rutgers' is. But I predict that Rudock will play well enough to lead Michigan to a 35-24 win in what will be a back-and-forth contest until the fourth quarter.

KB: This time Rudock threw a perfect long ball, and the Rutgers defender decided to just push the intended receiver out of the way. There is hope yet that we'll get to see a long pass completed before the end of the season. I really admire Rudock for not being afraid to try those over and over until one works.

November games keep getting bigger so what're you watching before and after Michigan/IU?

KB: Two sneaky games in the Pac-12 that will get dwarfed by the big OU-Baylor game. Oregon plays at Stanford, and Wazzu plays at the Rose Bowl against UCLA. Oregon was able to beat Arizona State on the road, and Stanford seems to have one struggle game in Palo Alto per season. Wazzu has had some unlucky losses and might outscore a UCLA team that has looked terribly plain with all their injured starters.

Nick C: I'll have an eye on Arkansas-LSU for a few reasons: they are playing for that obscenely large "Golden Boot" trophy, the game tends to bring madness, two silly coaches, and I'd like a Razorbacks upset. If you're gonna dream, might as well dream big, so I'll also be watching any other games with teams above Michigan in the CFP and hoping for upsets that will inch us closer to a highly improbable spot in the top four.

Drew: Oklahoma-Baylor.

Extra point! What odds are you giving our Wolverines to win the B1G East?

Zach: Honestly, pretty good.

The way I see it, Michigan State won't be able to beat OSU. I think the Buckeyes have enough defensive talent to slow the Spartan offense, even one led by a QB as good as Cook. Meanwhile, a JT Barrett led offense against this iteration of the MSU defense is going to go poorly for the Spartans. That result puts the B1G championship birth dependent on the winner of The Game.

Now, this isn't to say Michigan should roll over the Buckeyes. That is the most complete and talented team Michigan will face all year, and finally going with JT Barrett at QB should have the OSU offense operating near its peak potential. However, it is a home game for Michigan, a rivalry game, and we've got Harbaugh.

I'd put it at 60/40 in OSU's favor right now.

Nick C: 100% Homer gonna homer.

Drew: Ohio State will be a double-digit favorite over Michigan State, so it's pretty much the odds that you think Michigan will win out. I'd give Michigan an 80-percent chance to win at Indiana, 70-percent chance to win at Penn State, and a 35-percent chance to beat Ohio State.

Multiply those fractions together, and you get 19.6 percent. So about one-fifths. Sounds right.

Kevin: Michigan won't overlook their next two opponents, but if Ohio State is still figuring out the quarterback problems on November 28th, I'd bet the house on Michigan.