#2 Michigan Looks to Stay Undefeated Saturday on The Road in Indiana
With one game to go before the most anticipated matchup of the year in college football, the second-ranked Wolverines (10-0, 6-0 Big Ten) look to avoid letting their guard down again when they visit Indiana (5-5, 3-3) on Saturday.
The Wolverines' showdown with top-ranked Ohio State on Nov. 18 has been talked about throughout the season, and the hype surrounding the game has grown as both teams have remained unbeaten and atop the Top 25 and BCS standings.
That buildup finally proved to be a distraction for Michigan last weekend, as the Wolverines had to hang on for a 34-26 win over Ball State.
``I think that is a lot of the reason why we weren't focused,'' Wolverines quarterback Chad Henne said. ``Coming into the game, people were reading too many press clippings.''
Michigan was a five-touchdown favorite, but the Cardinals had a chance to get within two points with 2:46 remaining in the fourth quarter, only to fail to convert a fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line.
``I definitely believe that it was a wake-up call,'' defensive end LaMarr Woodley said. ``You've got to remember who you were at the beginning of the season - we were ranked 14. Now, we're the team that's No. 2.
``Coming into this game, everybody was talking about the hype about Michigan and Ohio State, and it kind of overlooked a team like Ball State. If you disrespect a team, they're going to come out and give their all.''
Mike Hart's first fumble in two years and Henne's interception that was returned for a score gave Ball State a 9-7 lead, just the second deficit Michigan has faced this season.
After giving up their highest point total of the year against the Cardinals, the Wolverines will be trying to make sure their thoughts this week are solely on avoiding another close call against Indiana.
``It will be a good test for us,'' Michigan receiver and return specialist Steve Breaston said. ``It makes us get back to being focused. You can't overlook Indiana because I know they have been waiting for this game.''
The Wolverines have won 14 straight over the Hoosiers since a 14-10 defeat at Memorial Stadium on Oct. 24, 1987. Michigan leads the series 49-9, including 15-2 at Bloomington.
The Wolverines beat Indiana 41-14 last season behind three touchdown passes by Henne.
Michigan's quarterback threw for 155 yards and a touchdown against Ball State, and the Wolverines passing game should receive a major lift Saturday with the return of receiver Mario Manningham from minor knee surgery.
Manningham's value to Michigan's offense was very apparent during the four games he missed. The Wolverines averaged 33.5 points in the first six games, and only 22 in the contests the sophomore sat out.
Manningham leads the team with 527 receiving yards and caught nine touchdowns in the first six games.
``He's right where he needs to be and he'll be ready to start,'' Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. ``He makes a big difference in how we're going to be defended.''
In addition to their strong passing game, the Wolverines have the fourth-best rusher in the nation powering their ground attack. Hart has 1,281 rushing yards and 10 TDs, and has run for at least 91 yards in each game this season.
Michigan's offense will try to take advantage of an Indiana defense that gave up a season-high 541 yards in a 63-26 loss to Minnesota on Saturday.
Indiana trailed 35-0 in the second quarter and allowed 378 passing yards in the game.
``An amazingly embarrassing performance,'' Hoosiers coach Terry Hoeppner said.
Indiana, which finishes its season at Purdue on Nov. 18, needs one win to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 1993.
``We didn't play like ourselves, but the season is not over,'' said Demetrius McCray, who caught two touchdowns and ran for one Saturday, but was held to 39 yards on 15 carries.
The Hoosiers have the worst rushing offense in the Big Ten at 122.5 yards per game, and they'll be facing the nation's top-ranked run defense. Michigan is allowing 30.3 yards per game on the ground.
The Wolverines have given up 61 rushing yards on 88 attempts in their last four games combined.
Indiana defeated the one ranked team it played at home this year, stunning then-No. 15 Iowa 31-28 on Oct. 14.
by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us
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