For whatever reason, the Indiana Hoosiers always give the Michigan Wolverines their best. It always appears as the trappiest of trap games on Michigan’s schedule, yet Michigan hasn’t lost to Indiana since 1987.
In all four matchups against head coach Jim Harbaugh, Indiana has given the Wolverines a run for their money. In 2015 in Bloomington, it took double overtime, and 440 passing yards and 6 touchdown passes from Jake Rudock to win. In a snow-filled 2016 game, the Wolverines squeaked out a 20-10 win. In 2017, it took 200 rushing yards and a game-winning touchdown in overtime from Karan Higdon to beat the Hoosiers. And last season, Indiana gave Michigan fits with crossing routes and stuck around for much longer than Michigan would have liked them to.
But 2019 is a new year, and this year the Hoosiers look better than in any of the previous four games Michigan has played them. Even with redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. being out the rest of the season, redshirt junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey looked impressive in the loss last weekend against Penn State, throwing for 371 yards and 1 touchdown while also running for 31 yards and 2 touchdowns.
He didn’t play well against Michigan last season, but Ramsey’s confidence has to be pretty dang high after a good game on the road with his team playing really well.
Indiana has always had some pretty good running backs, and this year is no exception. The Hoosiers’ two-headed monster at running back is sophomore Stevie Scott III (791 yards, 9 touchdowns) and true freshman Sampson James (104 yards, 2 touchdowns). The numbers aren’t there for James, mainly because Scott III has the bulk of the carries (165 compared to James’ 39), but he remains a threat in Indiana’s backfield.
This may sound strange to hear, and it’s definitely strange to write, but Indiana has one of the most impressive wide receivers I have seen in the Big Ten this year — junior Whop Philyor (61 catches, 863 yards, 3 touchdowns). However, he suffered a concussion in the Penn State game last week. It remains to be seen if he can suit up this weekend, but if he does, he is by far Indiana’s top receiving target.
If Philyor does not play this weekend, Michigan will have to keep track of junior receiver Ty Fryfogle (502 yards, 3 touchdowns), fifth-year receiver Nick Westbrook (387 yards, 4 touchdowns) and redshirt sophomore tight end Peyton Hendershot (444 yards, 4 touchdowns, with an average of 44.4 receiving yards per game...that’s a lot of 4’s).
Indiana’s offense line gives up the fewest sacks in the Big Ten — 1.5 sacks allowed on average per game. While the Wolverines are good at rushing the passer and forcing pressure, it’s been a struggle for every team to get Indiana quarterbacks on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Hoosier’s defense has also been pretty stout. They have the No. 18 total defense and the No. 32 scoring defense in the country (21.4 points per game). They also have the No. 23 3rd down defense, so they know when to get a stop when they need one.
They also really know how to get their opponent to cough up the football. They have 10 forced fumbles and 9 fumble recoveries. The Wolverines have done a good job securing the football over the last month after their early-season fumble issues, but if Indiana is able to force a fumble, odds are they would recover it as well.
In terms of who to watch for, sophomore linebacker Micah McFadden is one of their young leaders. This season, he leads the team in tackles with 46 and tackles for loss with 7.5. He also has 1.5 sacks and 4 quarterback hurries.
Other solid players on Indiana include senior defensive lineman Allen Stallings IV (5 sacks), redshirt junior defensive back Marcelino Ball (5 quarterback hurries, 2 pass breakups), sophomore defensive lineman Demarcus Elliott (5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks) and sophomore linebacker Cam Jones (4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hurries, 2 pass breakups, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble).
As is tradition, this is going to be a real challenge for Michigan. Considering the last two games in Bloomington have went to overtime, this game is sandwiched between home rivalry games and the spread is, at this moment, 8.5 points, I would be on high alert for a potential upset. This is senior day for the Hoosier seniors, so this team is going to be hyped up and give Michigan everything they got. Expect an intense game on Saturday.