Monday, November 6, 2006 - Justin Mantell
For any fans who may have forgotten how the 2005 Michigan Wolverines played, and were coached, the team gave the Ball State Cardinals, and maize and blue fans a refresher. Turn the ball over, get a lead and (nearly) surrender it before the final whistle. If ever there was a team on this season’s schedule that Michigan could play the way they played last Saturday and get away with it, it's Ball State. The Wolverines still came out with an 8-point win, but it was too close for most fans to bear.
Indiana has been consistent and inconsistent at the same time, in 2006. The Hoosiers are 2-2 on the road and 3-3 at home. 3-3 in the Big Ten, and 2-2 in non-conference play. They have beaten Iowa and Michigan State, but lost to Southern Illinois and UConn. So which team shows up on Saturday in Bloomington? It shouldn’t matter if Michigan is prepared and takes this one seriously.
This could be a trap game, however. Indiana was almost assured a bowl bid with five wins heading into the Metrodome to play the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who had yet to win a conference game in 2006. However, Indy had 63 points hung on them and now they need to beat Michigan or intra-state rival Purdue to get a bowl bid and a payday.
The Michigan secondary cannot get caught napping again this Saturday. Indiana gashed a decent Iowa defense right down the middle of the field a number of times, and they have an impressive crew of receivers led by 6’7” James Hardy and his 8 TDs and 400 receiving yards. With a receiver that big, there will be at least one mismatch.
Another thing to watch will be mobile QB Kellen Lewis. Not only is he Indiana’s leading passer, but he is also their leading rusher in terms of yards (333) and TDs (4). Playing a mobile QB the week before seeing Troy Smith is good preparation for… Now BlueFan is guilty of looking ahead. Michigan has contained a few mobile QBs this season in games against Central, Sparty, and Vanderbilt (sort of). What Indiana needs to be concerned about is that the best run defense in the country is coming to town. A defense which has knocked at least four QBs out of games this season. If Lewis is forced to spend any time on the sidelines with the Indy trainers, the only shred of hope Indiana has of keeping it close vanishes.
One of the few rays of sunshine in Michigan’s underwhelming win over Ball State was the fact that the team rushed for a season-high 352 yards. Both Mike Hart and Brandon Minor hit the century mark and each had a TD. Even Jerome Jackson went over 60 yards and collected a TD. With Kevin Grady looking like he will be out indefinitely with an injury, it's great that two Michigan back-ups stepped up with big games.
A positive way of looking at Mike Hart's first fumble in over 600 carries is that he probably won’t be due for another fumble until he's playing on Sundays.
As far as receiving, Super Mario ran a few routes and the knee looked good. He couldn’t seem to get open, but it was good that he was eased back into the lineup in a game which Michigan did not need him in order to win. Hopefully he gets a few touches against the Hoosiers and is in game shape for the 18th.
Steve Breaston, Adrian Arrington and Carson Butler had some nice catches, but continued to drop a few easy ones. Butler has improved every week, but BlueFan is of the opinion that Michigan will need Tyler Ecker to beat OSU, which means hopefully he too sees the field against Indiana on Saturday. Mike Massey is the heir apparent to Ecker, but he doesn’t have Ecker’s hands…yet. Apparently, both Ecker and Massey could have gone against Ball State, but Coach Carr wanted to give them another week to heal and rest. Butler while serviceable as a frosh, has taken too many holding and false start penalties and has dropped some easy passes. He is an absolute beast, however, and will be a huge piece of the Michigan offense in a couple of years.
Another issue that caused Michigan problems last week was penalties. Eight penalties for seventy-one yards breathed life into a Ball State offense that was sputtering on its own. The defense especially will need to be more disciplined over the next couple weeks.
It will be another tune-up this Saturday, but hopefully not as close as last week. Something tells BlueFan the coaches and players will not allow that to happen again.
Tale of the Tape
10-0 (6-0) 5-5 (3-3)
Scoring 28.9/game 25.5/game
Yards 373.0/game 342.7/game
Rushing 193.6/game 115.5/game
Passing 179.4/game 227.2/game
Scoring 13.0/game 33.2/game
Yards 241.5/game 401.2/game
Rushing 30.3/game 169.9/game
Passing 211.4/game 231.3/game
Margin +11 +1
Per Game +1.1 0.1