The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines are set to take on the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday.
With that in mind, we spoke with Ben Raphel of CrimsonQuarry.com to get some intel on IU, a team that has played Michigan tough of late.
Behind Enemy Lines Q&A
Q: Indiana hasn’t beaten Michigan at The Big House, but that doesn’t really matter. In recent years, the games have gotten quite competitive, with a couple nail-biters the past three seasons in overtime. Does this feel like a rivalry to IU fans?
A: I wouldn’t call this a rivalry because it’s too one-sided for that designation, plus this game always seems to be a bigger deal for IU fans than Michigan fans. That being said, they now play every year because of Jim Delany’s devotion to lopsided divisions, so you have to figure IU will pull the upset one of these years, right? (Spoiler alert: it won’t happen on Saturday). Regardless, I do think Michigan fans show some respect towards IU because of all the close contests (I was at the 2015 game in Bloomington, which was the biggest gut punch of a loss I think I’ve been to for IU football). And it’s comforting to know that at least we’re not a punchline like Rutgers.
Q: From my view, Tom Allen seems like the kind of coach the Hoosiers needed, he’s all in, he’s a passionate guy, and looks like a good football coach, do you agree with that assessment?
A: Tom Allen is enthusiastic, has the Indiana ties, and is generally thought of as a Good Guy (unlike our previous head coach). All good qualities, for sure. That being said, his hire of a familiar Michigan name as OC, Mike DeBord, has not gone over well with the IU faithful. In addition, the defense has regressed this year, and Allen has made some questionable in-game calls and has a gametime demeanor that resembles a previous IU coach in another sport named Tom. Regardless of how this season ends, Allen has earned a third year in my mind, especially with the recruiting class coming in and the development of freshmen like Reese Taylor and Mike Penix (who sadly tore his ACL against Penn State). With that said, I’d love to see some more investment from the school in his salary (Allen makes less than any other B1G coach), plus a new OC, and a dedicated full-time DC, going into next season.
Q: IU is 5-5 and fighting for a bowl berth, if they finish 6-6 and go to a bowl, would you deem that a good season?
A: 6-6 would be successful for this team, and an improvement over last season. The Maryland win last weekend was huge. IU hadn’t won a game in over a month and this one at least put us in position to get to a bowl berth. Let’s face it, it’ll likely take a win over Purdue to get to a bowl. Last year the Hoosiers were in the same position and lost the Bucket game. A few weeks ago, I would’ve told you the same thing will happen this year. However, after Purdue’s 31-point loss to Minnesota, plus all the rumors about Jeff Brohm going home to the Louisville job, I’d say that game isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Yes, 6-6 and a bowl is a success in my mind. But man, if we hadn’t blown that Minnesota game, or made one more play against Penn State, we’d already be there. These are the things that stick with you perennially as an IU fan.
Q: QB Peyton Ramsey has completed over 67% of his passes this season and has rushed for 266 yards, do you believe he’s underrated in the Big Ten?
A: Peyton Ramsey’s accuracy has been great. But that’s a bit of an illusion - this success has also has come from Ramsey being forced into short passes when the run game has been completely boxed up. Fans have been especially upset at DeBord when a throw short of the sticks on third-and-manageable situations gets called. Stevie Scott got it going on the ground last week against the Terps (103 yards on 19 carries and a score), but against Don Brown’s defense, I’m worried that won’t be a factor and we’ll be forced into the dink-and-dunk offense again.
Q: Could you tell us about IU’s big bodied receivers?
A: In terms of the big-bodied guys: Donovan Hale is good for 4-5 catches a game and has found the end zone 6 times this season. Nick Westbrook missed all last season and while his numbers aren’t up to what they were in 2016, the junior has been productive. Ty Fryfogle keeps improving and is usually good for one long catch a game. As for the smaller guys: Luke Timian provides senior leadership and has been a great security blanket for Ramsey. Whop Philyor is probably hurt for this one, but does have one of the best names on the team. And J-Shun Harris is a remarkable story, still gunning out there despite 3 ACL tears in his IU career.
Q: What is the biggest strength and weakness the IU team has?
A: Strengths: see above about the receiving corps. Special teams have been good as well - kicker Logan Justus just won B1G Special Teams Player of the Week after hitting the game-winning FG against Maryland. Jonathan Crawford’s been a beast on defense.
Weaknesses: The defense is young and has slipped in S&P ratings throughout B1G play. The run game has been erratic. DeBord’s playcalling can be maddening at times, and the team often gets too conservative at opportune moments.
Q: Any thoughts about the 2018 Michigan football team? What’s your scouting report?
A: Before the season, I saw a very tough schedule for Michigan (including road games against all three rivals), plus a couple other tough games, and thought this might be an 8-4 team, and that Harbaugh would suffer some blowback. Well, already they’ve surpassed that and are in great position for the CFP this season, and not only that, they’ve been laying waste to teams they lost to last season, such as MSU, Wisconsin, and Penn State. The defense is great as usual, Karan Higdon smoked IU on the ground last year, and Shea Patterson didn’t take long to adapt to a more pro-style offense than what he was used to at Ole Miss. They’ve been a great team, especially at home, and I think they’ll take this one easily. 38-10, Michigan.