Michigan runs physical and fast practices. Sometimes -- when it comes to injuries and wearing players down -- that’s not a good thing. But with the uptempo Indiana offense visiting Ann Arbor on Saturday, the Wolverines’ usual practice tempo is a very good thing.
“We pretty much all year practice [at a] high tempo,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. “We do it at a pace so we can get reps of what the plan might be against certain plays so that we can see it as coaches and evaluate it, if it’s good and all that. So we do that constantly.”
The Hoosiers average 77 plays per game -- nearly nine more plays per game than the Wolverines' own offense is accustomed to running.
Most of Indiana’s offensive attack comes in the air. The Hoosiers average a Big Ten leading 331.5 yards of passing per game. Their 18 passing touchdowns are second only to Ohio State (19) so far this season.
On the ground the Hoosiers are less effective, only averaging 172.8 yards per game. Sophomore Tevin Coleman picks up the majority of the yardage on the ground for Indiana.
But it’s not the speed of the players that makes the Hoosiers so difficult to defend. It’s the speed at which they play, call plays and execute.
In Indiana’s 44-24 blowout of Penn State on Oct. 5, the Hoosiers ran 80 offensive plays.
But simply slowing them down isn’t the answer. In Indiana’s three losses this season, it still averaged 74 offensive plays per game even though it didn’t possess the ball for more than 24 minutes in any of those games.
By those numbers, Michigan’s offense needs to work to sustain long drives that end in scores in order to give itself a chance against the Hoosiers.
But the defensive pressure will be paramount. Of late, Michigan’s four man rush has shown improvement as has its blitzing, and with the return of linebacker Jake Ryan, the Wolverines continue to build depth at crucial pass rushing positions.
Obviously the fast tempo can mess with Michigan’s schemes and communication, especially considering how much and how often Greg Mattison likes to rotate his defensive players. Hoke could only think of one time that Penn State really “got” Michigan in that kind of a situation, and he said it had more to do with the Wolverines trying to match personnel than anything else.
But just because the Hoosiers move at a faster pace doesn’t mean Hoke isn’t expecting a growth in the defense’s pressure on quarterbacks.
“I’m not going to say it’s harder because I think you can do it,” Hoke said. “I’ve experienced it being done. It can get you rattled a little bit and sometimes that makes it harder.”
But the Wolverines hope to get back on track this week, and a solid defensive effort would go a long way to making Hoke and Co. happy.