It’s been a long 36 hours for the maize and blue.
On Saturday night, the Wolverines were upset on the road by the unranked Iowa Hawkeyes proving, for the first time all season, they they are indeed vulnerable, especially outside of Michigan Stadium.
Things got worse on Monday afternoon when Wilton Speight was diagnosed with a broken left collarbone which will likely put him out for the rest of the 2016 regular season and possibly whatever bowl game the Wolverines are placed in.
Michigan has been seen as a legitimate contender for a spot in the College Football Playoff all season. Now, they’ll need to truly prove themselves in order to get there. They’ll start this Saturday when they host the Indiana Hoosiers in their final home game of the season.
The Hoosiers (5-5, 3-4) may be hovering around .500, but they are certainly a force to be reckoned with. Just last week they held a 31-28 lead over No.10 Penn State with just four minutes in the game. However, the Nittany Lions would go on to score 17 points the rest of the way to hold off Indiana.
Their offense is led by junior quarterback Richard Lagow who has thrown for 2866 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Devine Redding will take a strong majority of reps at running back as he has run for 901 yards and five touchdowns on 190 carries. Other running backs to watch include Tyler Natee, Zander Diamont, Mike Majette and Devonte Williams.
The Hoosiers boast a strong stable of wide receivers, arguably the best Michigan has faced all season. Their 3027 receiving yards as a team are good for second in the Big Ten behind only the Purdue Boilermakers. They’re led by sophomore Nick Westbrook who has made 44 catches for 793 yards, also second best in the Big Ten.
Players to Watch
John O’Korn-With Wilton Speight all but done for the season, it will likely be up to John O’Korn to lead the Wolverines’ offense. The redshirt junior got off to a red-hot start with the Houston Cougars throwing for 3117 yards and 28 touchdowns in his freshman year and winning the 2013 American Athletic conference Rookie of the Year Award.
However, O’Korn was benched after starting the first five games of his sophomore campaign in favor of current-starter Greg Ward Jr. One month after the end of the season, O’Korn decided to transfer to Michigan and sit out the 2015 season.
As the main backup for Michigan, O’Korn has gone 13 for 18 with 114 yards and two touchdowns. He is a lot like Wilton Speight in that he is mainly a pocket-passer who can scramble when necessary. The only real difference is that O’Korn is a little bit more prone to run the ball. He’ll have a lot of options throughout the game assuming the receivers can break out of the funk they seemed to be in against Iowa.
Michigan’s Defense-In a lot of ways, Michigan’s defense continued to dominate. However it just wasn’t enough to stop the Hawkeyes on Saturday night.
The secondary did a great job, but they’ll have a big challenge a head of them. It seems obvious that they’ll have Jourdan Lewis matched up with Nick Westbrook, as they probably should. Channing Stribling, Dymonte Thomas and Delano Hill will also need to have great games to keep Indiana’s receivers under control.
To stop the run, Michigan will have to shut down Devine Redding. He has accumulated 54 percent of the team’s total rushing yards and if the Hoosiers can’t get him going, Michigan can force them to be more one-dimensional.
The Running Backs-Michigan’s offense looked worse than it has all season last week and the running game was a big reason why. Their 98 total rushing yards was a new season low and they need to get it going again if they want a shot at the College Football Playoff.
De’Veon Smith and Chris Evans look like the ones who could spark the running game again, but given how deep it’s been for most of the year, anybody could do it. Regardless of who does, it will pay dividends to have the running game back to the way it was on a more consistent basis.
The game will be broadcast this Saturday, November 19 at 3:30 ET on ESPN and on the WatchESPN app.