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Scouting Indiana ahead of Michigan’s trip to Bloomington

Harbaugh vs. Allen. Indiana vs. Michigan. Who has the “edge” on Saturday?

Northwestern v Indiana Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This isn’t your typical Indiana Hoosiers football team, they’re having one of their best seasons in years. Even if it was a “typical” Hoosiers team, they always seem to play Michigan tough and the games go down to the wire, in recent history, anyway.

The 7-3 Hoosiers have a potent offense and a formidable defense, along with a coach who has the team believing in one another. Let’s take a look at what makes IU tick in 2019.

Indiana Offense

The IU offense is pass-heavy this season, and quarterback Peyton Ramsey is in the midst of a fine season since taking the reigns. Ramsey’s 72.7% completion percentage is best in the Big Ten. The QB has thrown for 10 touchdowns to just three interceptions while also rushing for 153 yards. Aiding Ramsey’s production has been his ability to stay upright and clean. The offensive line has given up the fewest sacks per game in the Big Ten and rank No. 31 in the nation.

Indiana doesn’t run a ton, but running back Stevie Scott is their bell-cow back with 791 yards and 9 touchdowns. Scott is an asset in the passing game as well, with 25 receptions and 211 yards. Indiana’s formula for victory, however, may rely on Scott a bit more than in prior games this season. Last year Scott rushed for 139 yards and a touchdowns against Michigan. One way or the other Indiana tries to slow the game down, and they’ll look to do the same against the Wolverines. The Hoosiers rank 10th in time of possession.

When it comes to the Hoosiers receiving corp, they may be without Whop Philyor in this one, and if that is the case they still have a few talented options on the roster. Ty Fryfogle, Nick Westbrook, Peyton Hendershoot, and David Hale all have become reliable targets for Ramsey. Each player is tall and physical, with a heights ranging from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-4.

While IU has been known to be fond of a screen pass game, Ramsey is inclined to push the ball down the field, and he has the ability to have success in that realm. Expect comeback routes and back shoulder throws aplenty, something Michigan’s defense will need to be wary of. According to Pro Football Focus, Ramsey’s adjusted completion percentage is 80.7%, which is third best in the nation behind LSU’s Joe Burrow (83.3) and Utah’s Tyler Huntley (86.2). In short, Ramsey is an accurate quarterback that can get things done. This doesn’t mean Michigan cannot stop him, but he’s as good as any quarterback they’ve faced this season, and quite possibly the best they’ve faced to this point.

Harbaugh on Indiana’s offense:

- “Offensively, they don’t beat themselves and they make big plays. It’s a good-looking team, too, from a physical and athletic standpoint, and the way they run. They’ve done a great job.”

- “They’re really good up front. I’ve always thought Ramsey was terrific. Peyton Ramsey, terrific quarterback, played against us as a true freshman, played really well, played a lot of good football. Very experienced quarterback now. They do a good job. They can get on the edge, they can throw, they can power the ball as well. Strong, athletic front, and their backs are really impressive looking. I think they’re as challenging as any offense in the Big Ten. Receivers that are dynamic, that can make plays downfield, quick, fast, can catch the ball and run with it.”

Offensive Rankings

  • 3rd Down Conversion Pct- 18th
  • Total Offense- 31st
  • First Downs Offense- 23rd
  • Passing Offense- 13th
  • Rushing Offense- 101st
  • Passing Yards per Completion- 73rd
  • Passes Had Intercepted- 49th
  • Red Zone Offense- 33rd
  • Scoring Offense- 36th
  • Sacks Allowed- 31st
  • Fumbles Lost- 32nd
  • Tackles for Loss Allowed- 48th
  • Team Passing Efficiency- 18th
  • Time of Possession- 10th
  • Turnovers Lost 29th

Indiana Defense

The Indiana defense is ranked No. 18 in total D, but surprisingly rank quite low in a couple categories. Their red zone defense is ranked 99th, rank 126th in passes intercepted, and are middle of the pack at No. 50 in team sacks.

The strength of the Indiana defense, despite not being able to haul in many interceptions, has been their secondary, which has kept opposing passing games in check. Even in a 34-27 loss to Penn State a week ago, they neutralized Sean Clifford’s arm. Clifford was just 11-of-23 for 179 yards and 1 touchdown. The explosive K.J. Hamler was bottled up for the most part, hauling in only 2 grabs for 52 yards.

While the Hoosiers have a decent defense that should be respected, it’s worth noting that they gave up 28 points to Maryland, 31 to Nebraska, 31 to Michigan State, 51 to Ohio State, and 24 to Ball State. Indiana’s rankings look a bit better because of the fact they gave up 0 points to Rutgers, 3 points to Northwestern, 3 points to Connecticut, and 0 to Eastern Illinois. Those are all bad teams. Teams such as Michigan State and Maryland had good days offensively overall vs. Indiana, while those same teams were quite putrid offensively vs. the Wolverines.

What kind of style of defense does IU play, and the team overall? Here’s some quotes from Allen in May describing how the game unfolded vs. Michigan last season and what U-M can expect moving forward:

  • “I got a whole bunch of nasty text messages and e-mails because of how physical our team played,” Allen said at an alumni event in May. “They didn’t think that we were playing very nice.”
  • “We went to Michigan last year, and things didn’t finish the way that we wanted to, but I promise you this. They knew they played the Indiana Hoosiers, and they didn’t like it.”
  • “I’ve got news for those fellas up there. That’s how we’re going to play. Physical, mean and nasty. And that ain’t going to change.”

Michigan fans will have their own views about Allen’s comments, but Allen has instilled a new culture that has led to more physicality and what he calls “grit”. Jim Harbaugh seems to agree with this rationale.

Harbaugh on Indiana’s defense:

- “Defensively, I think he (Tom Allen) has built that team into being a winning team through the defense. It’s a physical front up front and very athletic in the secondary, at the linebacker position.”

- “They’ve got a lot of good schemes and adjustments. They’re very good by formation, the different formations, different calls to get to the same defensive structure, and I think he’s got a lot of enthusiasm. He’s really focused, you can tell, as a coach, and that rubs off on his football team.”

Defensive Rankings

  • Total Defense- 18th
  • 3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense- 23rd
  • First Downs Defense- 24th
  • Passing Yards Allowed- 10th
  • Rushing Defense- 46th
  • Team Sacks- 50th
  • Passes Intercepted- 126th
  • Red Zone Defense- 99th
  • Tackles for Loss- 56th
  • Team Passing Efficiency Defense- 28th
  • Turnovers Gained- 93rd