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Indiana linebacker Cam Jones surveys the offense during Indiana's overtime win over Western Kentucky on Sept. 17. (HN photo/Max Wood)
Indiana linebacker Cam Jones surveys the offense during Indiana's overtime win over Western Kentucky on Sept. 17. (HN photo/Max Wood)

Spaletto's Scouting Report: Michigan

Stopping, or at least slowing, the Wolverine rushing attack will be key

Coming off a 35-21 loss in Lincoln to Nebraska, Indiana football without a doubt faces its most challenging task of the season Saturday afternoon back at home against the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines. Since this is Indiana’s first game against a Big Ten East opponent this year, it is essential that Indiana plays a flawless game to hang around with a very talented Michigan team.

Tom Allen announced earlier in the week that starting wide receivers D.J. Matthews and Cam Camper will be game-time decisions for Saturday. Matthews is dealing with a hamstring injury and Camper is dealing with a non-COVID-related illness. Indiana will need these guys on the field if they are ready to go to give Connor Bazelak some targets to throw to.

Taking a look at the Wolverines

Jim Harbaugh’s crew is off to a strong 5-0 start, coming off a 27-14 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes in Kinnick Stadium. The defending Big Ten East champions are looking to make it two in a row atop of the Big Ten, and they sure have a good chance to do so with the roster that they have assembled.

Running back Blake Corum is off to a blazing hot start to his junior season, as he is getting a little bit of early Heisman talk with the numbers he has put up so far. Corum is third in the Big Ten on the rushing leaderboard, only behind two other very good running backs in Chase Brown from Illinois and Mohamed Ibrahim from Minnesota. Corum will need to be the center of attention for Tom Allen’s defensive game plan going into Saturday.

Quarterback JJ McCarthy is also a guy to look out for on the offensive side for Michigan. What makes McCarthy such a threat is not only his ability to find receivers such as Ronnie Bell or Roman Wilson down the field, but his ability to take off and run as well. The Wolverines like to do a lot of option plays with McCarthy, so the Indiana defense will need to look alive for all sorts of plays come Saturday.

Losing talented players such as Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson to the NFL can be tough for any defense to reload, but the Wolverines have done a good job of doing so. Michigan ranks second in the Big Ten in sacks, and Mike Morris ranks third individually with four solo sacks. Indiana will certainly have its hands full with this Michigan defense, so the offensive line will need to come to play.

Keys for Indiana

With Michigan running the ball so well, the Hoosier front seven is undoubtedly the biggest x-factor for this game. Cam Jones is off to a phenomenal start this season, but he’s going to need to play another flawless game and get to the backfield to disrupt the Michigan offense. If the Indiana defensive line allows Corum to do what Anthony Grant did last Saturday, the Michigan offense will have a field day at the Hoosiers’ expense.

Indiana will also need to generate some sort of running game of its own. Averaging 2.9 yards per carry against quite frankly a weak Nebraska defense is not going to cut it against an elite college football team. Josh Henderson has shown flashes the past couple of games breaking off some big runs, so he will be another player to watch closely in Saturday afternoon’s game.

And lastly, turnovers just cannot happen. Indiana is already at a strong disadvantage as it is with Michigan being the more talented team, so Bazelak and the offense cannot afford to give the Wolverines more opportunities on offense. It will be quite a daunting task for Indiana on Saturday afternoon, and it will be interesting to see how Indiana performs against a very good Michigan team.

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