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MnB staff roundtable: Don’t look ahead don’t look ahead don’t look ahead

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Not a trap, just a good team

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 16 Michigan State at Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kevin here. Remember when I said last week that Michigan needed to run over Michigan State? I didn’t think they’d actually do it. And then back the truck over them a couple more times while stealing their soul. 44-10. Through the plethora of unsportsmanlike penalties and flexing, Michigan looked like a death machine firing on all cylinders 44 to 10 and probably would’ve scored again had Lavert Hill not sacrificed certain points for throwing some disrespekt at a Michigan State tackler. There was never a point during that game where it felt like Michigan was ceding ground to the Spartans, nor did it feel like D’antoni’s boys were even trying that hard 44-10, which is unusual for the Annual Sparty Super Bowl of Inferiority. They lost more than their dignity, they lost the will to fight, and I loved every minute of it.

Right, I’m supposed to be talking about Indiana. Who is better than Michigan State.

Bloomington is a strange wonderland of football oddities. Don’t take to mean it’s particularly intimidating, but Indiana really loves to catch Michigan asleep. And almost has a few times. It’s a lopsided series, but gosh darn it they go for it every time, and Michigan has to respect that. It’s different than a trap game per se, since Indiana does not have a losing record or a roster full of three-stars that Michigan State didn’t want. Illinois was a trap game. Purdue’s stadium is named Trap Game Field (I assume).

The real danger is of course, looking ahead. What could possibly be a week after this game, you ask? The Irishman comes out, and That School South of Toledo comes in for a football game. We hope that Michigan has been planning for them the whole year, but that’s a double-edged sword. Indiana won’t care that a more important game is after them, Indiana can make their season by beating Michigan, so that’s what they’re gonna try to do. Back home in Indiana, a good team awaits...

Fire away. 44-10.

Daniel A: I’ve gone on record in the past saying that Rutgers week is my favorite of the year. On the flip side, I LOATHE Indiana week. This game is always a gigantic pain in the ass and recently has been a sneak peek into the flaws of the team for Ohio State to prepare for. Playing the Hoosiers sucks. It’s not a marquee enough matchup to feel good about winning, and they’re not a Rutgers-level cupcake to cruise through. While Harbaugh has avoided the shocking losses, they’ve cut it close.

Last week was the third most cathartic game of the Harbaugh era, sitting behind last year’s Penn State annihilation and the complete undressing of Notre Dame back in October. It’s very easy to believe that a switch has been flipped with this team, and that would suggest that the Indiana game shouldn’t be that close…. But the same thing kind of happened last year and once again, we got a close game.

I think the offense is for real. The spread concepts that Josh Gattis brought over have finally meshed with Harbaugh’s grindhouse mentality and Warriner’s blocking schemes. Hasan Haskins and Zach Charbonnet took advantage of thin defensive fronts for a few weeks and Shea Patterson absolutely stunted on the Spartans when they packed the box and dared him to throw. It took a while, but last week was really the first time we’ve gotten to see the Shea Patterson experience we were promised when he transferred two years ago. Spread the defense out and then matchup hunt to his armada of weapons. I don’t know if any of Tarik Black, Donovan Peoples-Jones, or Nico Collins will be back next year, but I’m excited about where this passing game can go with Ronnie Bell, Mike Sainristil, Cornelius Johnson, and Giles Jackson. Throw in the return of Chris Evans and you’ve got weapons on weapons for Dylan McCaffrey or Joe Milton.

Defensively, I want to see the defensive line play well again and the secondary continue to execute the bracket coverage looks they gave MSU fits with. Indiana is a bit more dynamic on the perimeter, and this will be a decent test ahead of the Buckeyes. Can this coverage work when you don’t have as drastic of an athletic advantage? I think that’s always the question with a Don Brown defensive adjustment. What happens when he loses his athletic edge? It’s been the group’s Achilles heel.

I’m slightly nervous for the game. I don’t think it’s a “trap” because Michigan’s current mindset and Indiana’s record make that near impossible. Teams playing for pride can’t get trapped. Teams gunning for 9-wins in a brutal Big Ten East are not teams that sneak up on you, especially when their seniors have given you three tough games in the past. With that said, Michigan’s offense is humming right now, and I think the defense will do enough to get IU down early, a spot where the Wolverines excel. Win for the good guys, 31-17.

Jared: While Michigan is traveling to Bloomington to take on a more than competent Hoosiers team, Alabama and Auburn will be taking on Western Carolina and Samford respectively. Not that the committee will take that into consideration when the rankings come out after this week, but they should.

It annoys me so much that we have to play this game at this point in the season, but that is how the schedule lines up. Daniel captured the reasons why this is an annoying matchup better than I could, so I will leave it at that.

As far as the actual matchup, Indiana is well coached under Tom Allen, and field a top 20 defense that should make life difficult on Shea Patterson and company. Marcellino Ball not only has an incredible name, but he is a difference maker on that side of the ball. Their Achilles heel is their run defense, which ranks in the 50’s. It might not have been coincidence that Michigan rested Charbonnet and Haskins for the entire second half against MSU, as they will likely be called upon early and often in this one.

Indiana’s offense is led by guys named Whop Philiyor and Ty Fryfogle, so I assume they are mostly Depression era dock workers on this Indiana team. While they may have names like Civil War surgeons, their receiving corp is legit, and could cause some problems. The back end of our defense has been a strength, and turn of the century constable Whop Philiyor is questionable, so I like Michigan’s chances to keep the passing attack in check. Stevie Scott is solid, and has one of the best running back coaches in the game in Mike Hart, so I expect he will be a big part of the Hoosiers gameplan on offense.

While Memorial Field in Bloomington is certainly a far cry from Kinnick Stadium, it is still a tricky place to play, and the Indiana faithful show up and sound a lot louder than the 52,000 capacity would suggest. Michigan might be in a dogfight early, but this is a team riding a massive wave of momentum, and I don’t see a letdown with you-know-who looming the week afterwards. Michigan 38- Indiana 24

Jay S: Indiana week is always hell. It’s been that way since I was in undergrad. It consistently amazes me that Michigan has such a long winning streak over the Hoosiers when things like Peyton Ramsey slant routing them to death, OT in Bloomington, John O’Korn Presents: Wolverines On Snow Holiday Special and the Jordan Howard vs Jake Rudock game have all happened in THE LAST FOUR YEARS. Indiana is #CHAOSTEAM personified and this year, the cream and crimson may actually be for real. The Hoosiers pushed Penn State to the brink, and are chasing the aptly titled #9Windiana.

Rant aside, some good news: Michigan appears to be the lean mean wrecking machine all the offseason hype promised! Speed in Space is functioning, the defense has looked incredibly strong since going down 21-0 vs Penn State and the Wolverines are playing their finest football. Aside from Indiana being, well, Indiana, this game scares me because the Indiana game has proven to be somewhat of a harbinger for Ohio State when played the week before The Game. In 2016, Michigan struggled with a much weaker Indiana team at home, but put the Hoosiers away. OSU barely eked out the victory in Columbus that year. Last year, Peyton Ramsey and the Hoosiers threw crossing routes that gave Michigan fits. Unsurprisingly, Dwayne Haskins and the Buckeyes bevy of NFL talent embarrassed Michigan like never before.

The last time we saw Michigan on the road against a team with a pulse was Penn State. Michigan showed resolve in that game, and will need to channel its second half effort from that game if the Wolverines are to beat the Hoosiers and not fall into the dreaded Trap Game hole, or the Indiana in Bloomington hole. Carrying momentum from last week’s monumental disposal of Michigan State should carry the Wolverines past Indiana and into Ohio week. My gut tells me Michigan wins 31-17, but I promise you this, something incredibly, amazingly stupid will happen several times in this game, as is tradition.

Dan P: I’m with Dan A on this one. Indiana is one of my least favorite opponents Michigan plays. It isn’t because I have any disdain for the university or its fans, but rather because they always seem to play Michigan close, and it seems like they always meet up right before The Game with Ohio State.

Now, I want to address something; the trap game term that is being thrown around with this matchup with the Hoosiers. In my opinion, a trap game is when you face a lesser team with a game the following week against a much more difficult opponent/rival. I believe that that is even more amplified when the ‘trap game’ is on the road.

The Michigan vs Ohio State rivalry is the most prolific rivalry in college football and maybe even in all of sports. When the stakes are that high, I would consider almost any game prior to The Game a trap game, and Indiana perfectly fits that mold. At 7-3, fans know that Indiana isn’t a slouch of a football team which adds to the debate, but they are nowhere near as talented as the Buckeyes. There is no denying that you, me, the fans, and members within this program are going to have their thoughts on what is ahead with the Ohio State game looming. It is just a natural human tendency to worry about a much bigger problem in the future than a seemingly smaller one that is coming up tomorrow.

With that being said, Michigan has to fend off their thoughts on OSU to avoid being trapped in Bloomington. Peyton Ramsey has two years of experience with Don Brown’s defense behind him, and he fully understands the Michigan D’s MO. They are going to blitz aggressively and play tight man-to-man defense. There may be a few different wrinkles thrown in, but largely the philosophy hasn’t changed for Michigan’s defense. Ramsey has had two performances that have put his team in position to win this football game and vengeance is in the eyes of the Indiana team. A signature win over Michigan would prove that they are the real deal heading into bowl season and next year.

Michigan has been playing some really good football as of late, but they have struggled on the road this season. Indiana is going to hang around in this one, but I think the Wolverines win 42-31 after a late surge propels them to victory.

Jay W.: Yikes. Indiana is one of those games that you look at and go “oh man we really have to do that again this year, huh?” My colleagues have already illuminated the ways that this is and isn’t a trap game, and I think it is fair that there is some debate as to whether or not this qualifies. Trap or not, Michigan is on the road against a team looking for its 8th win, that has given them scares every game in recent memory without actually pulling off the upset.

I would be a lot more worried about this game if Michael Penix Jr. was available for the Hoosiers. I recognize that Peyton Ramsey looked pretty good against Penn St. last week, and I expect him to make some good throws again this week. But I’m not sure he has the big plays in him that Indiana will need late if they want to win this game.

Maybe it’s pure homerism, maybe the effects of the weird Polish stuff I had at last week’s tailgate haven’t worn off, but I honestly think Michigan’s got this. Michigan has played shutdown defense for three and a half straight games. Michigan knows Ramsey’s tendencies, and Don Brown has proven time and again he’s able to make mid-game adjustments to counter what they haven’t seen before. The offense is finally rolling. One thing I think is interesting is that the Wolverines went about the Notre Dame and MSU demolitions completely differently. They showed that they are willing to adapt to teams’ weaknesses, playing #SpeedInSpace-ball when the run D is strong, but attacking on the ground when they get the opportunities. I think they’ll hit Indiana where it hurts. It’ll be close at the half, maybe 17-10, but I think in the second half Michigan is going to pass all over them, 37-17 final.