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What We Learned Week 11: Have to be sharper for The Game

Michigan defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 31-20 and go into Columbus at 10-1.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Michigan Wolverines defeated a talented Indiana Hoosiers football team on Saturday to stay undefeated in Big Ten play, as they will head into Columbus next Saturday at 10-1. There were large portions of the Indiana game that this Michigan team stumbled by, but it always kind of seemed that they would pull away nonetheless.

That is exactly what happened after the Wolverines trailed the Hoosiers at halftime 17-15. The defense was not its usual self in the first half and it led to 385 total yards for the Hoosiers, the most any team has put up against this top-ranked Michigan defense.

Both sides of the ball would kick it up a notch in the second half for Michigan as the team would pull away and win 31-20.

Here is what we learned from the game, and how it will translate to The Game next week.

This defense needs to stop sleep walking

The Michigan defense completely rolled over every top-ranked opponent in their mid-season gauntlet of Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State. They held opposing quarterbacks to a sub 10 QBR and came into the week against Rutgers boasting the top defense in the country, including a top-10 rush defense and the No. 1 passing defense in the country.

Those stats just did not stay consistent over the past few weeks and it seems like some of these guys just expected to halt any offense that came before them. In reality, they got their butts whooped by two below-average offenses in the first half of back-to-back weeks, mostly coming from the rushing game.

In consecutive weeks, this Michigan defense gave up 140 yards rushing to two different running backs. This speaks more to the defense than it does the opposing rushing game.

Michigan fans have seen what these big fellas can do in the trenches and the attacking mentality that linebacking corps and secondary have if a runner tries to take the ball out wide. Guys like Devin Bush and Tyree Kinnel appear to be shot out of a cannon to restrict guys from even getting back to the line of scrimmage.

But in the last few weeks, they have been slow to the ball, not plugging up holes and letting opposing lineman run straight through them.

I cannot imagine what Don Brown said to these guys in the locker room as they continued to be knocked back and out-toughed by opponents in the run game. Brown knows what is to come with the Buckeyes, and this play is unacceptable by any coaches standards, let alone Don freaking Brown’s!

The Buckeyes have a dynamic duo of rushers in J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber. They have rushed for 1,600 of Ohio State’s 2,000 rushing yards this season. Wolverine fans all know the force Dwayne Haskins can be through the air; he has thrown for over 3,500 yards this season with 36 touchdowns. Having to shut down both facets of their offense is going to be tough enough as it is, but with the rush defense fans have seen lately from Michigan it will only further open up the possibilities for Urban Meyer and his staff.

Michigan’s offense is still conservative at times

Michigan should have had the lead at halftime. Jim Harbaugh completely mismanaged the ball game a number of times in the red zone this past week against Indiana, something that will haunt the Wolverines if they cannot put the ball in the endzone against Ohio State on Saturday.

Sure, Michigan has found its kicker moving forward with freshman Jake Moody, who went 6-for-6 in the game, but imagine if all six of those would have been touchdowns. On all six field goals for Moody, Michigan was inside the red zone at that point in the drive. To come away with six field goals in those circumstances is frustrating as an offense and frankly is what kept Indiana in the game for so long.

The epitome of this is the final possession of the first half, a Shea Patterson to Zach Gentry toss for 42 yards put the Wolverines inside the redzone and gave them the opportunity to score a touchdown and take a lead with only 40 seconds remaining in the first half.

What came next was mind-numbing play calling that cost Michigan the lead. Three straight running plays were called which gave the Wolverines a first down, but milked the clock to just three seconds where Patterson rushed a throw to Sean McKeon on the two yard line as the clock ran out.

The ball has to be thrown in this situation, and it has to be thrown into the endzone. These head-scratching, conservative play calls are exactly what will cost a game as important as the one Michigan plays on Saturday. With how explosive of an offense the Buckeyes have, Michigan has to take advantage of every single point they can get, meaning that settling field goals simply won’t cut it.

Let’s hope the Wolverines can figure out their issues on both sides of the ball so they can put on a top-notch performance in the biggest game of their season.

It’s time for Ohio

We all knew it would come down to this. Michigan. Ohio State. The most storied rivalry in college football is about to get another chapter, and this is a big one. The winner, a birth to the Big Ten Championship game and a chance at a College Football Playoff birth. The loser will have to answer to a fan base that expects nothing less. It all comes down to one week. Wear your maize n’ blue, try to get some sleep, and enjoy your Thanksgiving while hoping that Michigan gives you a little more to be thankful for come Saturday.