Saturday, November 11, 2006

Michigan - Indiana Preview

Indiana is a team that Michigan cannot afford to take lightly, but given how close the last few games have ended up, I'm sure they are going to take this game seriously. I fully expect Michigan to be prepared to play for the full sixty minutes on both offense and defense today.

The chief concerns for Michigan should be stopping the passing attack and special teams of the Hoosiers. The passing attack is headed by freshman quarterback Kellen Lewis, who has restored respectability to the organization, and brought them within 1 win of bowl eligibility. Lewis has 13 passing touchdowns and 4 rushing touchdowns, and, as a mobile quarterback, he represents a decent preview for the Wolverine defense in preparation for Armageddon against supposed Heisman lock-in Troy Smith. Lewis' primary target will be James Hardy, who has 9 touchdowns on the season, and at 6'7" represents a very tough challenge for the Wolverine secondary. Finally, the third player to watch out for is Marcus Thigpen on special teams. Thigpen leads the division 1-A with 3 touchdowns on kickoff returns, and he is averaging an amazing 32.65 yards per kickoff return on the season.

Offensively, we should witness the best output for the Wolverines in quite a while. Mario Manningham looked comfortable last week in running routes, and drawing double coverage to open up the field, and he should be close to 100% this week. Having Manningham back in the lineup opens up everything for the Wolverines offense. Last week, Michigan's backs tore it up for over 300 yards rushing, and we should expect more of the same today, and Indiana is ranked 100th in the nation, giving up an average of 170 yards on the ground. I expect Hart and Minor to run for over 100 yards each again today. Henne should find Manningham streaking past the secondary at least once or twice for scores. Other than that, Henne will mix it up with screens are out routes to Breaston, mid-range passes to Arrington, and tight end options to Ecker, Massey or Butler, who should all be healthy for today's games.

With last week's 216 all purpose yard performance, Steve Breaston has officially re-emerged as another threat in the Wolverine's offensive toolbox. Breaston has played well for the majority of the second half of the season, although he took a huge step back in the cold/rainy/windy game against Northwestern. For the season, Breaston is now second in the big ten behind Thigpen, averaging 25.46 yards per kickoff return. Every Wolverine fan wants to see him break one more kickoff/punt return for a touchdown before the end of his career, and if he saves that for the winning score against Ohio State, I'm not going to complain, but I feel like we might see one today. For all the talk about Breaston being overrated or "worthless", he has put up some pretty impressive numbers over his career: Steve Breaston is the #3 Active Career Leader in Division 1-A All Purpose Yards, with 5146, behind only Garrot Wolfe and Ryne Robinson, who both play in much weaker conferences. He is also #2 overall in Punt Return Yards, with 1516, and #2 overall with 1857 kickoff return yards, #4 overall in punt return touchdowns with 3, and #7 overall in average yards per kickoff return, at 25.44. That’s about all you have to now about Steve Breaston to recognize his worthiness to the Wolverines offense.

Today's game could end up being another battle to the wire, but if the Wolverines come prepared to take care of business, it shouldn't be close.

Final Score: Michigan 38 - Indiana 13