Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez endured more disappointment than satisfaction during his first two seasons with the program, so he entered this campaign on the "hot seat" in the eyes of many fans and analysts. Clearly, Rodriguez has silenced his critics, at least for now, as his squad has cruised to four straight victories, Last weekend, the Wolverines crushed Bowling Green as expected by a 65-21 final.
Indiana has recorded three double-digit victories to open the campaign, enabling Bill Lynch's squad to generate some confidence. It should be pointed out, however, that the quality of the opposition to date has been rather low. After all, the Hoosiers knocked off Towson, an FCS squad, and Western Kentucky, the team with the longest current losing skid in the FBS, before defeating Akron last weekend by a 35-20 final.
The Wolverines squeaked by the Hoosiers last season by a 36-33 final to increase their lead in the all-time series to 51-9.
Few players in college football have been as impressive through the first four games of the season as Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. The man they call "Shoelace" has rushed for 688 yards and six touchdowns while passing for 731 yards with four scores and one interception. For that reason, fans of the team held their breath when Robinson went down injured against Bowling Green.
"According to the trainers and Denard, who is not as qualified as the trainers, he'll be fine," said Rodriguez of Robinson. "He just tweaked his knee a little bit, and actually it took us a while to diagnose it because he fell on the ball and lost his breath."
The Wolverines finished that tilt with a staggering total of 721 total yards, the second-best mark in program history. Robinson ran for 129 yards and two scores before exiting, and backup Tate Forcier played well in relief. Roy Roundtree made nine grabs for 118 yards.
Michigan is averaging 41.2 ppg and 562.8 total ypg, impressive numbers to say the least. The Wolverines are racking up 331.2 ypg on the ground, and they have already scored 17 rushing touchdowns. Michael Shaw has rushed for 245 yards and five touchdowns, while Vincent Smith has three scores to his credit. As for the receivers, Roundtree leads the way with 20 catches.
Opponents are scoring 23.0 ppg against Michigan, which is yielding 400.0 total ypg. While the offense has been spectacular, the defense has been average at best. Michigan has shown the most obvious weakness against the pass, surrendering 13.2 yards per completion. Still, seven of the 12 touchdowns scored by opposing offenses have been of the rushing variety.
Last weekend, the Wolverines held the Falcons to 283 total yards, including just 32 rushing yards on 27 attempts. Clearly, a pair of interceptions helped the cause.
"It was better, but it was not at the level we need to be at going into the Big Ten," said Rodriguez after the Bowling Green tilt. "We've got to tackle better. I thought our guys responded well, some third downs we had some big stops, but we still need to put more pressure on the quarterback."
Indiana is scoring 41.3 ppg this season, and the squad is racking up 417.3 total ypg. The majority of the damage done by the Hoosiers has come through the air, as quarterback Ben Chappell has been tremendous. Not only has the unheralded signal caller completed 72.4 percent of his passes, but he has thrown for 890 yards with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. Demario Belcher leads the receivers with 21 grabs for 284 yards and two touchdowns, while Ted Bolser has four receiving touchdowns to his credit. As for Darius Willis, he paces a modest ground attack with 219 yards and two scores.
Against Akron last week, Chappell was an efficient 23-of-33 for 342 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Terrance Turner made six grabs for 121 yards and a score in that game, while Bolser reached the end zone twice. As for Willis, he rushed for 87 yards in the win.
"I thought Matt Canada and the offensive staff did a nice job of putting together a gameplan," said coach Lynch. "They had some things down there in the red zone that were effective. It was good to score touchdowns. That was something that we talked about."
Defensively, Indiana is yielding 19.3 ppg and 338.3 total ypg. The Hoosiers are permitting 177.0 rushing ypg at a clip of 5.2 yards per carry, so that is an area of obvious weakness. The pass defense has been stronger, but there has still been five scores permitted through the air.
The Hoosiers didn't allow a rushing score against Akron despite yielding 160 yards on the ground. The pass defense put forth a mediocre effort in that tilt, but the defense certainly played well enough to win.
"I thought we played with good effort and good energy," said Lynch of his defense.
Michigan will defeat Indiana this weekend, especially since Robinson seems to be in good health. "Shoelace" will strengthen his Heisman bid with another big day.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 41, Indiana 20