Michigan-Indiana Preview

Michigan’s 4-0 opening in 2009 deteriorated into another

bowl-less winter, but there’s far more optimism surrounding Rich

Rodriguez’s latest perfect start – as long as Denard Robinson stays

healthy.

Robinson left his most recent dynamic performance with a knee

injury, but the No. 19 Wolverines should have the sophomore star

back Saturday as they look to open Big Ten play with a 17th

consecutive victory over Indiana.

Tate Forcier threw seven touchdown passes in his first four

games as a freshman to lead Michigan to an unbeaten start last

season, but that promising beginning quickly unraveled with a 1-7

finish.

Robinson has taken the reins in 2010 after seeing sporadic

playing time as Forcier’s backup, and he leads the nation in

rushing with 688 yards and 10 touchdowns – six on the ground – as

the Wolverines are again 4-0.

After running for 127 yards and two scores in the first quarter

of a 65-21 win over Bowling Green on Saturday, Robinson left after

being taken down following a 47-yard run and didn’t return. Forcier

went 12 for 12 for 110 yards and a score before also leaving with a

knee injury, but the major concern was the status of Michigan’s

budding Heisman Trophy candidate.

Robinson has a bruised left knee but should be fine, according

to his coach. Rodriguez planned to lessen the load on Robinson

during practice this week, but won’t let his star merely be a

spectator.

“The quarterback especially has to stay in there to stay

sharp,” Rodriguez said.

The Wolverines may not need a stellar effort from Robinson to

beat Indiana (3-0). They’ve won the last 16 meetings by an average

of 21.5 points, though they needed a late TD pass from Forcier to

Martavious Odoms to pull out a 36-33 win in Ann Arbor last Sept.

26.

That was Michigan’s only conference victory before the

Wolverines ended up sitting out the bowl season for a second year

in a row.

“It is a little motivation for us to keep working,” leading

receiver Darryl Stonum said. “Last year we were 4-0. This year

we’re 4-0. We can’t get big heads.”

While Robinson’s rushing has sparked the Wolverines’ hot start,

Ben Chappell’s passing has done the same for the Hoosiers. The

senior has thrown nine touchdowns without an interception, and his

296.7 yards per game through the air are tied for 10th in the

nation.

He threw a career-high four TDs in a 35-20 win over Akron last

Saturday, and didn’t waste much time looking ahead to the Michigan

matchup.

“I watched quite a lot of film (Sunday), and I’ve tried to get

somewhat comfortable with them,” said Chappell, who threw for 270

yards and an interception against the Wolverines last season. “They

are similar to last year defensively. I think they’re better. I

think they had a lot of young guys last year and they were getting

used to that system. So, now they’ve had a year in it and they’re

moving around a lot.”

Indiana hasn’t started 4-0 since 1990 and hasn’t won its Big Ten

opener since 2000. The Hoosiers have a number of problems that need

to be corrected in order to accomplish both Saturday.

Chief among Indiana’s issues is its average of 177.0 rushing

yards allowed per game. That’s 92nd in the nation, a weakness that

figures to play into Robinson’s hands.

“Everything has to be ratcheted up because (Michigan) is a team

on a roll,” coach Bill Lynch said. “… Denard Robinson is scary

good.”

The Hoosiers could catch one break with Wolverines tailback Mike

Shaw, second on the team with 245 rushing yards, day to day with a

sprained knee.

There’s plenty of room for Michigan’s defense to improve as

well. The Wolverines have forced eight turnovers, but are 93rd in

the nation with 400.0 yards allowed per game.

“We don’t want to be the Achilles’ heel of this team,”

defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said.

Michigan’s 14-10 loss in Bloomington in 1987 was its only one in

16 games at Memorial Stadium, and its only defeat in the last 32

matchups.