Led by a rejuvenated running game, Michigan has been putting the disappointment of last year behind it. The unbeaten Wolverines have a good chance to continue their promising start this week as they face an opponent they have not lost to at Ann Arbor in 42 years.
The 23rd-ranked Wolverines try to extend their home and overall winning streaks against Indiana to 16 as the teams open their Big Ten seasons Saturday.
Michigan improved to 3-0 - matching last year’s win total - with a 45-17 victory over Eastern Michigan last Saturday. Carlos Brown rushed for a career-high 187 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries, while Denard Robinson added two rushing TDs.
The Wolverines finished with 380 yards on the ground - their best total since rolling up 392 against Houston in 2003.
After ranking seventh in the Big Ten with 147.6 rushing yards per game in 2008, Michigan is averaging 270.7 - third-highest in the nation. The Wolverines hasn’t averaged 200 yards per game in a season since 2000, when they ranked 14th in the country with 220.00.
Michigan is averaging 38.0 points and 439.0 yards per game, thanks in large part to the powerful ground attack.
“We might have had the most yards we’ve rushed for, but I don’t think this is the best running game we’ve had,” Brown said. “We can still do a lot better.”
Michigan’s run game made up for a below-average day from their two freshman quarterbacks last week. Tate Forcier went 7 of 13 for 68 yards while Robinson was 0 for 4 with two interceptions. Forcier threw for 240 yards in the 38-34 win over then-No. 18 Notre Dame the week before.
“We had the intention of throwing a little bit more,” coach Rich Rodriguez said. “But why would you when you don’t have to?”
Brown was limited to 51 yards in the first two games, including minus-3 against Notre Dame, but his performance last Saturday showcased the Wolverines’ depth in the backfield. The senior earned co-Big Ten offensive player of the week honors after receiving more playing time because starter Brandon Minor was bothered by an ankle injury. Minor rushed for 533 yards and nine touchdowns in 2008.
Brown and the Wolverines look to continue their roll heading into conference play as they face Indiana (3-0), which they haven’t lost to Michigan Stadium since 1967.
Michigan is 50-9 all-time against the Hoosiers and 34-7 at Ann Arbor. The Wolverines have pushed their home win streak in the series to 15 with lopsided victories in the last three matchups at the Big House, winning those by an average of 33 points.
“I hope the guys get a lot of confidence,” Rodriguez said. “But trust me, we’re still very much a work in progress. There’s a whole lot of things we have to play better at and get better at.”
The Wolverines will be without center David Molk, who broke a bone in his foot last weekend. The previous week, right guard David Moosman dislocated his shoulder, and starting safety Mike Williams and Minor are listed as day to day with ankle injuries.
Besides trying to end its losing streak at Ann Arbor, Indiana is looking to open 4-0 for the first time since 1990. After close victories against Eastern Kentucky and Western Michigan, the Hoosiers beat Akron 38-21 last Saturday.
Ben Chappell was 18 of 28 for 163 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and Indiana held the Zips to 271 yards of offense and recorded four interceptions. The Hoosiers have given up 228 yards rushing in three games, and that newly formidable run defense will receive a serious test against Michigan this week.
Indiana finished last in the Big Ten in 2008 with one win in conference play. The Hoosiers averaged 14.5 points against Big Ten opponents while giving up a league-high 41.0 points.
Chappell, in his first season as the No. 1 quarterback after a slow start to his college career, threw for 674 yards and three touchdowns in the first three games, although he also tossed three interceptions.
The Hoosiers haven’t beaten a Top 25 opponent on the road since September 2003.
Indiana and Michigan have not met since Nov. 11, 2006, a 34-3 Wolverines win at Ann Arbor. The Hoosiers’ last victory in the series came in 1987.