No. 17 Michigan seeks to extend mastery of Indiana

The Sports Xchange

October 10, 2017 at 7:40 pm.

Oct 7, 2017; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback John O'Korn (8) scrambles away from Michigan State Spartans defensive end Brandon Randle (26) in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 7, 2017; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback John O’Korn (8) scrambles away from Michigan State Spartans defensive end Brandon Randle (26) in the first half at Michigan Stadium. Photo Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — If you like punting, Michigan-Indiana might be the game for you.

“You got the top two teams in the country defensively in three-and-outs coming to play on Saturday,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said.

The Hoosiers (3-2, 0-2 Big Ten) are ranked No. 2 in three-and-outs and will be hosting the leader in that category, No. 17 Michigan, on Saturday in Big Ten action.

History indicates that Indiana will blink first. The Wolverines (4-1, 1-1) have won 21 consecutive games in the series. The Hoosiers’ last win over Michigan was 30 years ago in Bloomington.

Allen said Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown is one of the best around.

“I have a ton of respect for him,” Allen said. “I always kind of studied what they do. Don’t really know him, never met him, but have always watched (his teams).”

The Wolverines rank No. 1 nationally in total defense, allowing 213 yards per game.

Michigan senior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst is playing superbly in the trenches with 26 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, while senior outside linebacker Mike McCray (34 stops, 5.5 for loss) is also playing at a high level. Defensive end Chase Winovich leads the Big Ten with 5.5 sacks.

“They create a lot of havoc, a lot of movement, that’s why they create a lot of sacks,” Allen said.

Indiana is averaging just 3.59 yards per carry, which is a troublesome stat against the Wolverines’ stout front. Freshman running back Morgan Ellison leads the Hoosiers with 358 on 69 carries.

The Hoosiers are ranked No. 47 in total defense but are coming off a 27-0 win over visiting Charleston Southern on Saturday.

“To hold a team to a shutout, the first time since 1993, is a big deal,” Allen said. “I think it’s hard to do that, no matter who you’re playing.”

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said senior John O’Korn will remain as his starting quarterback, not that he has a lot of good options. O’Korn took over when senior Wilton Speight sustained multiple cracked vertebrae in his neck in the first quarter at Purdue on Sept. 23.

Harbaugh said Speight would be out multiple weeks, but wasn’t sure if the quarterback would miss the rest of the season.

Behind O’Korn on the depth chart are redshirt freshman Brandon Peters and true freshman Dylan McCaffrey. Peters has thrown one collegiate pass, while McCaffrey hasn’t taken a snap.

O’Korn has completed 35 of 62 passes for 503 yards with four interceptions and one touchdown this season. He threw three interceptions Saturday in the Wolverines’ 14-10 loss to Michigan State.

“We’ll go through it, we’ll make corrections, we’ll make improvements and we’ll move on,” Harbaugh said.

O’Korn struggled against Indiana last season in his first start for Michigan, when he was just 7 of 16 for 59 yards.

Allen said Speight and O’Korn have similarities.

“I don’t think there is a huge drop-off; there is not a big difference,” Allen said. “It’s a very similar skill set, similar size. I think O’Korn is more mobile, he creates more issues there, for sure.”

Harbaugh said there is no frustration carryover from the loss to the team’s in-state rival.

“We’re fortunate to have an opponent to play this week and ready to attack this week’s opportunity,” Harbaugh said. “(The Hoosiers are) a good football team. We’ve had competitive games with them. They’re playing very good this year, especially at home. They have a very good defense, very athletic.”

Hoosiers redshirt freshman quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who had been sharing time with fifth-year senior Richard Lagow, made his first start against Charleston Southern. Lagow did not play. Ramsey completed 32 of 41 passes for 321 yards.

“I thought Peyton did a nice job of running the offense and being a good distributor of the ball, throwing for over 300 yards in a very methodical type of way,” Allen said.

Harbaugh is impressed with Ramsey and Lagow.

“Both their quarterbacks are good players and comfortable throwing the ball from their pocket or moving and making athletic plays,” Harbaugh said.

Allen expects Michigan to be plenty motivated.

“There’s no question they will come back with resurgence in their focus in some ways,” Allen said. “It’s a Big Ten game, and we expect to get their very best.”