Monday, November 06, 2006

Pressing Questions: Indiana

Can This Club Play Focused with OSU Looming?

Yes, there's no question this team can play with focus. See e.g., UM v. ND. However, they seem to be a little bit too enamored with themselves these days for my liking. Let's be honest - close wins over Iowa, PSU and Northwestern were not nearly as close as they might have seemed. Did anyone at any time during those contests ever feel like we were in danger of losing them? Nope. Rest assured, these guys probably never felt like they could lose those games either. They knew they were beating some ass on the field physically, and could continue to beat some ass as necessary. Under such circumstances, it is virtually impossible for players to work up an appetite for the likes of Ball State (goes for fans too - see prior post).

I guess the worrisome part is that, again, did Ball State really threaten to win that game? Probably not. So why would this team gain any focus heading into Indiana when they seemingly have been unable to do so before you ask? Two reasons. First, LC and company will absolutely demand it. Those not going 100% in prep this week are likely to be picking splinters out of their asses on Saturday. These guys lost the right to cruise through in last week's second half. Second, the Ball State performance caught the national attention. There's something once again to prove this week. And let's face it - this team is a better team when it's pissed and has something to prove. If people would have not made such a big deal about it, Indiana probably could have slipped past, possibly creating a "scare" of their own and the Buckeye showdown looms. Not now.

Can Indiana Win This Game?

No. Next Question.

Ok, alright. I lost my my right to cruise through as well. Indiana has discovered that it has some offensive weapons, particularly in Hardy. The guy has been off the hook lately, and is probably licking his chops watching film of Johnny Sears and Charles Stewart et al. chase shadows. But don't forget about the "1s." Hall and Trent, as a pair have been better than solid - Hall on his own has been outstanding, while Trent has certainly been better than I had expected. Then there's the issue of the pass rush. We can flat out get after it when needed, and guys without "All-American" following their names in the program will have a hard time stopping us. My guess is that any use of the word "All-American" in the Indiana program is probably some sort of cross-reference to the upcoming basketball season.

Assuming Indiana can score some points on this defense. How are they going to stop the Michigan offense? Put simply, they can't - not over 60 minutes. While Michigan hasn't been anywhere near the top of the conference in offense, few doubt the range, velocity and accuracy of Michigan's big guns when called upon. We'll score as many as we need to in this one.

What's the Injury Situation?

Actually, pretty good. People like to bitch about injuries (myself included), but we have been as fortunate this year as I can remember being in a while. Riley was back at OT last week, which was huge. [Note: Put this on the list of things I never thought I would say.] One or both of Massey should be able to play Saturday. Manningham will be that much closer to 100%. Grady is apparently nursing a shoulder, but let's face it, has become even LESS of a factor with the emergence of Minor. I'm not giving up on Grady, but the fact is we can afford to be hurt at the RB position more than any other spot on the team.

Aside from nagging bruises, there appears to be only one injury we need to watch over the next 10-12 days - Prescott Burgess. He was in street clothes in the second half Saturday with a sprained ankle. My guess is that he'll dress but won't play, or play sparingly in Bloomington.

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