3 keys for a Michigan football victory vs. Indiana

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Indiana hasn’t beaten Michigan in Ann Arbor for 20 straight games. The Wolverines will be looking to make that 21 on Saturday night when they play the Hoosiers in a prime-time matchup.

Michigan was able to slot into No. 7 in the playoff rankings, which came out on Tuesday evening. With the only loss coming to the maize and blue being Michigan State — who is ranked third — the Wolverines still control their own destiny. Michigan can still do big things if it wins out, a big if, but it must start with the Hoosiers this weekend.

Indiana is coming into the Big House with a 2-6 record — its only wins being Idaho and Western Kentucky — and the Hoosiers offense is in shambles. The Hoosiers are onto their third quarterback, freshman Donaven McCulley, after Michael Penix Jr. and Jack Tuttle have exited the lineup with injuries. Indiana has the 108th scoring offense since it averages 22 points per game.

This should be a good rebound game for Michigan and here are three keys to getting that important win.

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Get red zone problems fixed

Photo: Isaiah Hole

The Indiana offense has been so bad this year, Michigan could probably kick six field goals and win this game.

But nobody wants to see that. This is a key game to get the red zone offense going before next weekend when the Wolverines go face the stingy Penn State defense who held the Buckeyes down last weekend.

The Wolverines are second in the nation in red-zone field goals with 14 field goals. Credit to Jake Moody for hitting all of those, but the Wolverines won’t win many tough games with that statistic — just like last weekend against the Spartans. Luckily for the maize and blue, the Hoosiers allow plenty of red zone touchdowns to the opposing team.

After eight games, Indiana has allowed 23 red zone touchdowns out of 33 attempts this season. Simply put, this is a game that Michigan needs to right the ship on its red-zone woes.

It seems like the play-calling gets a little tight when the Wolverines get into the red zone, but whatever the issue may be — play calling or the team just not executing — Michigan will want to make this a focal point this week.

If Michigan can at least get touchdowns 75% of the time this weekend when it reaches the red zone, we know things are going in the right direction.

Keep Cade McNamara locked in

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Michigan may have lost a really tough game to the Spartans last weekend, but Cade McNamara threw for his career-high, 383 yards.

There were so many people clamoring for J.J. McCarthy to start for the Wolverines, but McNamara should have put aside some of the quarterback controversy.

Last week was the best McNamara had looked all season: he was on point with his throws, made some really tough passes look rather easy, and he looked to be very confident last week. The first-year starter may have thrown the dagger interception last week, but the Wolverines wouldn’t have been in that game without the play from McNamara.

With all of that being said, we need to see it again from the starting signal-caller — the Hoosiers secondary can make that possible. Indiana is ranked No. 98 in the country in pass defense, it surrenders 253.4 yards-per-game thru the air each week. PFF doesn’t view the Hoosier secondary very highly either, they give Indiana a 62.6 in coverage, which ranks it at No. 90 in the country.

We saw an emergence from freshman Andrel Anthony last weekend, and McNamara seemed to connect with him right away. Let’s see if those two can have a similar connection this week against a worse secondary.

Michigan will want to keep McNamara’s confidence high and the Wolverines will need McNamara to continue playing at that high level as the season winds down.

Eliminate the explosive play on defense

Photo: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Ever since the end of the first half against Wisconsin, the Wolverines have been prone to allowing the big play happen against the defense. There were multiple explosive plays of 20-plus yards against Nebraska, one big run allowed against Northwestern, and way too many against Michigan State last week.

The first four weeks the defense held in check for the most part. Teams could dink-and-dunk to go down the field, but the Michigan defense would never truly break — until it did one time against the Badgers.

Michigan still has a very good defense, in fact, it’s still the tenth-ranked scoring defense in the nation only allowing 17.1 points per game. The Wolverines also rank No. 15 in total defense only allowing 311 yards per game.

This game could be a good starting point to get back to bending, but not breaking on the defensive side of the ball — or just dominating. As mentioned before, Indiana has a very bad offense and it is on its third quarterback this season. The Hoosiers rank No. 116 in total offense, they average 325 yards per game. Neither the passing game nor the run game has been very viable for Indiana this year — the Hoosiers are ranked 96th and 100th in passing and running respectively on the year.

The Wolverines have done a good job recently forcing some turnovers, and this very easily could be another game where the defense can bring the heat. Indiana is No. 76 in the nation in turnovers allowed this year — it has 10 interceptions and two fumbles allowed.

This should be another focal point for the Michigan defense before it has to face Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson next weekend at Penn State.

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