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Michigan injury report, keys to victory: Indiana shines in one area

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Sandwiched in between two games that may determine Michigan’s trajectory this season is Indiana, a scrappy, middling Big Ten team Jim Harbaugh knows well.

The Hoosiers knocked off the Wolverines in 2020 in Bloomington, Michigan’s first loss there since 1987, capping what had been a series of close games.

Four of the last five meetings at Indiana have been determined by seven points or less, or an IU victory, suggesting that Michigan could be in for a fight on Saturday in Bloomington (Noon, FOX).

The advanced numbers, however, say otherwise. The Wolverines are currently 22-point betting favorites and ride a 5-0 record into the game, and coming off an impressive 27-14 win at Iowa. While Penn State is on deck next week, Harbaugh’s team must focus on the task at hand — going on the road for a second straight week and securing a Big Ten win. Those are never easy, no matter who the opponent is, but go a long way in showing us the real identity of a team.

INJURY REPORT

QUESTIONABLE:

WR Roman Wilson— Michigan’s No. 2 receiver was knocked unconscious and forced out of last week’s win at Iowa, and Jim Harbaugh was unwilling to discuss his status for Saturday, putting in doubt his ability to play. We’re going to hold off from designating Wilson (12 catches, 224 yards, TD) as “doubtful” without a disclosed diagnosis, but we believe he’s more likely to not play than suit up.

DOUBTFUL:

Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh high-fives Michigan Wolverines tight end Erick All (83) Michigan faces off against Colorado State at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. Jacob Hamilton | MLive.comJacob Hamilton | MLive.com

TE Erick All — The nature of All’s injury has not been disclosed, but it’s now sidelined him for two consecutive games and there hasn’t been much explanation as to why. To us, that indicates All could be dealing with a long-term issue, and without Harbaugh saying much at all, it’s unlikely he plays on Saturday.

LB Nikhai Hill-Green — There was a belief a few weeks back that Hill-Green (soft tissue) could give it a ago, but the inside linebacker with six starts under his belt remains sidelined through five games. There’s been no indication of late that he’s close to returning, forcing Michigan to lean on Michael Barrett and Kalel Mullings for another week.

Story: Mike Hart sees himself in Blake Corum, and it’s paying off big for Michigan

OUT:

QB Cade McNamara — No update on Michigan’s backup quarterback who suffered an ankle injury in the Week 3 win over UConn, but there remains a belief that he can return before the end of the season. Just don’t expect it to happen this Saturday.

S/ST Caden Kolesar — A huge blow to special teams, Michigan safety Caden Kolesar suffered an ACL tear on punt coverage last week, sidelining him for the rest of the season.

LS Will Wagner — We don’t have the specifics here, but we’re also told that Michigan’s primary long snapper is out for the season due to injury, too. Wagner might be a bigger blow than Kolesar, who was a special teams ace, just by nature of the position. It’s not easy to find aa steady, reliable long snapper.

KEYS TO VICTORY

Connor Bazelak

Indiana quarterback Connor Bazelak drops back to pass during an NCAA college football game against Cincinnati, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 45-24. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)PA

Keep Indiana off the field. The Hoosiers have thrown the ball more than any other FBS team this season, averaging more than 49 attempts per game. IU likes to move fast, and Missouri transfer quarterback Connor Bazelak has no problem slinging it around (1,394 yards, 8 TDs), so third-down defense will be important for Michigan. The Hoosiers are converting third downs at just a 41-percent clip, and if the Wolverines can limit it to around 30 then I have a hard time envisioning IU scoring many points.

Establishing the run early. This might sound counterintuitive on its face, but Indiana’s porous defense is best at stopping the run — ranking 70th nationally and 12th in the Big Ten. Michigan can really make a statement with its ground attack by pounding the pavement, giving its healthy offensive line another week to freeze and Donovan Edwards an opportunity to get more carries. If the Wolverines can have any iota of success on the ground, it should open up the passing game for JJ McCarthy, who has the potential to put up big numbers against an IU team that ranks 118th nationally and dead last in the Big Ten in defending the pass.

Limit turnovers. If there’s one way to let IU hang around, it’s turnovers. We have witnessed a spat of fumbles in recent weeks, and luckily for Michigan there’s almost always been someone around to fall on top of the football. Eventually, those are going to start going against you, and a scrappy, tough Hoosiers team would like nothing more than short fields and easy to points to make this game closer than it should be.

Read more on Michigan football:

Michigan freshman tracker: Eight have burned redshirt through 5 games

Special teams star out with season-ending injury

At Michigan, Eyabi Okie is out to change the narrative about him

DT Mazi Smith sheds blocks, early-season attention

UM football energized by fast starts, especially on the road

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