Three keys to a victory in Michigan football

Michigan football appears to remain undefeated on Saturday as it travels to Bloomington, Indiana to take on the Hoosiers 3-2.

The Hoosiers have lost consecutive games after starting the season 3-0. Indiana lost to Cincinnati and Nebraska by a combined score of 80-45.

The corn and blue are coming off a huge road win last week beating Iowa at Iowa City. The Wolverines won 27-14 and the running game beat a top-ranked Iowa running defense. Michigan was able to generate 172 rushing yards against the Hawkeyes.

The Wolverines lead the all-time series against Indiana, 60-10. Michigan beat the Hoosiers last year in Ann Arbor, 29-17. The Corn and Blue have won the last 25 of 26 games against Indiana — the Hoosiers won again in 2020.

Michigan has competed fairly well at Memorial Stadium, where Indiana plays, the Wolverines have an all-time record of 19-2 when playing the Hoosiers in their home stadium.

Here are our three keys for Michigan to keep the train rolling against the Hoosiers.

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Push Bazelak

Rich Janzaruk-The Herald-Times

Indiana has really changed its offense with Connor Bazelak under center. The transfer from the former Missouri Tigers has the most pass attempts in the country this season for Indiana. Bazelak has attempted 246 passes in five games.

But, he is not that precise. The Hoosiers gunslinger has completed 52% of his passes this season. The last two games have not been very good either. He completed 47% against Cincinnati and 50% against Nebraska.

The correlation between that is the number of sacks and the amount of pressure put on the Hoosiers. Bazelak has been sacked 11 times this season and seven times in the last two weeks. During that stretch, he has thrown three interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, 13.9% and 11.8% of pressures against Cincinnati and Nebraska, respectively, were sacks.

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Bazelak’s overall approval rating from PFF is 56.6. But, when he’s in the clean pocket, he’s rated 66.3. Everything collapses when you feel pressure. PFF gives him a 41.3 rating under pressure and that’s when he has thrown three interceptions.

The offensive line hasn’t done Bazelak any favors. PFF ranks pass blocking for the Hoosiers 119th in the country and PFF gives them a 45.7 rating.

Michigan has sacked the quarterback seven times in the last two games against Maryland and Iowa. While most of them have been in the second half, this could be a game where the Wolverines could rush their pass much sooner.

If the Wolverines can get to Bazelak early and make him uncomfortable in the pocket, then it looks like he could be prone to losing. The Hoosiers will be throwing the ball a lot on Saturday with their up-tempo offense and if Michigan can make some plays on defense, then we’re going to see some turnovers coming down the road from the Wolverines.

Get JJ McCarthy comfortable with the ball deep

Photo: Isaiah Hole

JJ McCarthy is statistically the most accurate passer in college football. He is completing 78% of his passes and has thrown six touchdowns compared to zero interceptions.

The sophomore has been exceptionally accurate on throws of 20 yards or less. From 0 to 9 yards he completes 92.9% of his passes, from 10 to 19 yards he completes 71.4% of his throws.

But it’s the 20+ yards where he’s had some trouble. McCarthy is completing 40% of his passes for 20 yards and has missed several attempts in the past two games.

Facing Indiana would be a good time to mark his arm. The Hoosiers have the 118th ranked pass defense allowing 277.8 yards per game. PFF ranks Hoosier coverage 109th with a rating of 58.2.

Indiana has been susceptible to giving up a lot of yards in the passing game all season. With a tougher road ahead for Michigan, like Penn State next week, this really is a good week for McCarthy to connect with his receivers on the field.

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Don’t get caught looking ahead

Photo: Isaiah Hole

On paper, this game should be a blast. Michigan dominates all the stats as they take on Indiana on Saturday.

The Wolverines could lose this game for only two reasons: either they get sloppy with football, or Michgian is thinking of Penn State.

Next week there will be a matchup against the Nittany Lions, who will be 5-0 with a potential top 10 team coming to Ann Arbor.

But Michigan has to get past the Hoosiers before turning its attention to Penn State. As mentioned above, Indiana will have a fast-paced offense that could cause some substitution problems for the Wolverines. Indiana may keep the same staff on the field, which will limit Michigan’s ability to get in and out. So the Wolverines will have to watch out for that and some of the defenders may see more plays than usual on this one.

Offensively, the Wolverines just need to run and take care of the ball. Indiana allows 420 yards per game and doesn’t do anything very well on the defensive end of the ball. The only thing the Hoosiers do remotely well is stop the race. Indiana allows 142 rushing yards and is the 69th-ranked rushing defense in the country.

But Michigan has Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Indiana has yet to face running backs at that level this season. Corum has the most rushing touchdowns in football with 10 and is the fourth running back in college for five weeks.

As long as Michigan focuses on Indiana and just the Hoosiers, the Wolverines should leave Bloomington undefeated before Penn State week.

The story originally appeared on Wolverines Wire.

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