There were a lot of reasons Michigan lost last Saturday, but the only things worth dwelling on are those that impact the future. A few players (and one coordinator) have some clear areas for improvement, but there are some positive takeaways as well. Most of the team’s goals are still attainable, though that requires focusing in on the remainder of the schedule and not letting one loss become two.
The Wolverines actually jumped up to fifth per S&P+, mostly thanks to the strong offensive performance last weekend. That unit now sits 18th in the country and should feel pretty good after watching Cade McNamara finally take the reins on the quarterback job and Andrel Anthony break out in his hometown.
Of the four remaining games in the regular season, Indiana is the weakest opponent (61st), with struggles on both sides of the ball — especially offensively as of late. The perennial thorn in Michigan’s side finally won a head-to-head contest during the anomaly of 2020, but quarterback issues have completely derailed the Hoosiers this season. No excuse for not dominating this one at the Big House.
Indiana Hoosiers (2-6, 0-5) vs. No. 7 Michigan Wolverines (7-1, 4-1)
The quarterback controversy should now be officially over, not because of anything J.J. McCarthy did (or dropped) but because McNamara proved once and for all that he can run this offense. Sure, 93-yard touchdowns are not going to happen consistently, but even without that play he put up nearly 300 yards against a legitimate defense. Next season? Absolutely, it should be McCarthy. But for right now the answer is clear.
What is less clear is what to think of the run game. Against good Big Ten run defenses, the rushing attack has slowed down, which is not great with a couple more tough opponents ahead. Indiana should not provide too much resistance for Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum, but this duo needs to go above just a solid performance to rebuild some momentum.
Defensively, Michigan looked all out of sorts against the rushing attack, getting beat up at the line and just lacking good fundamentals (substitution issues aside). The secondary mostly did its part, but the game was lost by the defense as a whole. This is a week to really buckle down and win up front because there is not much to fear vertically.
The Hoosiers have been without Michael Penix for a while and backup Jack Tuttle is injured as well, leaving freshman Donaven McCulley to start at quarterback again. While McCulley was the No. 25 quarterback in his class and has some good raw talent, he is very inexperienced. The defense needs to look out for his ability running the ball, but the Wolverines should absolutely feast against this below-average offense.
Not to overreact to just one game, but perhaps Anthony is the piece this offense has been missing. Cornelius Johnson had a miserable showing, and speedsters like A.J. Henning and Roman Wilson have not really gained traction in the offense. Anthony can play the Ronnie Bell role, working out of the slot but also acting as a vertical threat downfield. Combined with Erick All, it looks like McNamara may have the right supporting cast around him.
McCulley was fine against Maryland, passing for 242 yards and a couple scores with no picks, but Michigan should tear apart this boring offense. Indiana ranks 97th nationally in rushing yards against conference opponents, so this is a chance to force the Hoosiers to win through the air, which they have not proved capable of doing. Look for the pass rush to wreak some havoc and make this a comfortable win.