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IU will have its hands full with Michigan on Saturday

Indiana’s last two weeks have gone awry, for many reasons. But the Hoosiers will look to put those games behind them with a big opportunity on Saturday.

IU (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten) will host No. 4 Michigan (5-0, 2-0) at Memorial Stadium Saturday at noon. The game will air on FOX, with their Big Noon Kickoff show set to air live from outside the stadium leading up to the game.

Michigan is coming off a 27-14 win at Iowa. Indiana, meanwhile, lost in disappointing fashion, getting shut out in the second half in a 35-21 Nebraska home win.

IU head coach Tom Allen acknowledged tough outings like the Nebraska and Cincinnati games create a challenge for maintaining confidence. But he said IU’s staff emphasizes a strong mindset every day.

“It really puts a high premium on how you practice, the attention to detail during those practices and being able to allow yourself to have that confidence,” Allen said. “It’s not getting any easier for us with who we are going to play and who we have to execute against. As these teams continue to increase in their talent level and the way that they are playing, we have to elevate ours as well.”

IU will have its hands full with Michigan on both sides of the ball. Michigan is tied for sixth in the country, and second in the Big Ten, with 45.4 points per game. The Wolverines’ defense is sixth in the country and fourth in the Big Ten with just 11.6 points allowed per game.

Indiana’s offensive outlook will significantly hinge on who’s available at wide receiver. Cam Camper (eighth in the country with 104 yards per game) is still recovering from a non-COVID illness, and D.J. Matthews is working his way back from a hamstring injury suffered in the Cincinnati game. Allen said Thursday that both players will be game-time decisions.

The Hoosiers were outgained by Nebraska by nearly 100 yards, and only managed five total yards in the fourth quarter. And IU’s run of slow starts continued — the offense has scored nine total first-quarter points through five weeks.

Michigan is one of the toughest opponents in college football to face when trying to break out of spells like those. And if Indiana can’t execute offensively from the opening kickoff, it could be a long afternoon.

Offensively, the biggest challenge the Wolverines pose is their rushing attack. As a team, Michigan ranks 13th in the country and third in the Big Ten with 222 rush yards per game.

Junior Blake Corum has been one of the top running backs in the country this season, with over 122 yards per game (sixth in the country) and 10 rushing touchdowns (first in the country). Sophomore Donovan Edwards is also a big threat, averaging just shy of six yards per carry.

Allen knows Michigan is strong on the ground, and said his defense has focused on defending the run this week.

It is about run fits, tackling, pursuit, (and) being able to get the proper numbers in the box that you need to be able to match up to the formations that they are going to give you,” Allen said. “We have been working hard this week on our tackling drills and the angles, as well, to make sure we always have the layers to our defense to where if one guy leverages the ball properly, there is always somebody else there to be in position for that.”

Michigan sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy isn’t a high-volume passer, but he’s been efficient this season. He’s fifth in the country and second in the Big Ten with a 186.94 passer rating. His 78.6 completion percentage is the top mark in the nation.

IU defensive coordinator Chad Wilt called McCarthy’s play effective and efficient — terms he used to describe the entire Michigan offense.

“They ask the quarterback to do a lot. It’s not just game management, like Trent Dilfer with the Ravens, just don’t screw up the game. That’s not the situation with them at all,” Wilt said. “They know what they’re asking him to do, and ask him to do things that he does well.”

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