Allen anticipating defensive battle against Michigan

Tom Allen has never met Don Brown.

But Allen, IU’s head coach, has long admired the Michigan defensive coordinator for his ability to scheme and shut down opposing offenses wherever he’s gone.

“He’s one of the best, he truly is,” Allen said. “I have a ton of respect for him.”

Brown’s defenses have led the nation the past three years — two at Michigan and 2015 at Boston College — so for Allen and his group of Hoosiers, Saturday’s noon homecoming contest against the No. 17 Wolverines represents a chance to measure themselves in their quest to assert themselves among the nation’s best.

“Defensively, we want to be a top-25 defense,” Allen said. “That’s our stated objective, and as the season progresses and (after) we have had to face a couple high-powered offenses within our conference, we just continue to fight and claw and scratch to get back into the top 25.”

As it stands, Indiana is No. 47 in total defense, allowing 357.8 yards per game. Michigan tops the list, yielding only 213.0 yards per contest.

A deeper dive into the Wolverines’ style shows exactly why they’re so good yet again this season.

They have a fast and attacking defensive front that has largely shut down opposing backfields this season. According to SB Nation’s advanced statistics profile, Michigan ranks third nationally in defensive rushing success rate (30.3 percent), which measures an ability to keep an offense off schedule from what its expected to produce. The national average is 42 percent.

The Wolverines also lead the country in defensive power rushing success rate (36.4 percent), which measures the percentage of runs on third or fourth down, with two yards or less to go, that produced a first down or score. The national average is 69.3 percent.

Michigan is also No. 1 nationally in passing success rate (21.6 percent), which could complicate the shorter routes that IU quarterback Peyton Ramsey has largely relied on through the first five games. However, opening up the intermediate passing game for Ramsey could lead to some success against Michigan’s secondary, which is ranked No. 103 in explosive pass plays allowed.

Altogether, teams have had very little success driving downfield against a Michigan defense that is allowing only 3.6 points per trip inside the 40-yard line.

“They have great team speed,” IU offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “In the secondary, they’re very simple in that they’re going to play a lot of man-free (coverage), but up front is where they’re very complex. Sometimes, they’ll be in a four-down front. As of late, they’ve been in more of a 3-3 front, blitzing the three linebackers. I see a team with great speed that has a complex front.”

Both Indiana’s and Michigan’s offenses have largely underwhelmed thus far. So from IU’s perspective, Saturday’s objective will be keeping the Wolverines from finding traction.

This week, Allen lauded his defense’s accumulation of three-and-outs through five games.

Unofficially, Indiana has posted 28 three-and-outs on the year, 15 of which have come against the Hoosiers three Power 5 opponents. By comparison, Michigan has posted 32 three-and-outs, 19 of which have come against Power 5 competition.

Moving forward, Allen wants to see continued progress with takeaways. The Hoosiers have produced only four on the year, though they’ve had opportunities for many more.

Allen is keeping track of the misses, too, counting 30 chances of takeaways through five games.

“We’re just going to really do a great job of helping our guys see where those opportunities are, make sure we take advantage of those,” Allen said. “(We) also did a summary of every single time we turned the ball over of exactly what happened. (We) had this all written up: why the turnover occurred, and what are we going to do to get it corrected. So we’re going to take a proactive approach to getting what we want. We know as we get back into Big Ten play, those takeaways — those turnovers — are going to be huge in each and every game.”

Particularly this week, when the defensive matchup looms large.


  1. t, you are right about this game as IU’s defense has to play well enough to give IU a chance to win. On Offense it would be nice to see a lot of crossing routes against the man coverage.

    1. v you’ve said a mouthful using few words. Crossing routes against man coverage matching up our WR’s if it is not to IU’s advantage at least makes it a horse race. With Ramsey’s propensity for throwing strikes it certainly keeps the DL from gaining any consistent success. Also a long ball or 2 to tall Hale and big Cobbs on a PR rollout will keep the back 7 worried. I believe too Gest’s quicks can be used to neutralize their DL speed with some inside dive handoffs. Have to wear out their D more and before they wear out Allen’s. Really hoping I can offer compliments to DeBord for a solid game plan.

  2. I’d like to see IU break some of their tendencies. I hope they take a page from Michigan State and don’t try to match Michigan’s defense athelete-for-athlete. Instead, MSU went with 2 backs and 2 tight ends, ran straight ahead and just punched Michigan in the mouth.

  3. Crossing routes sound musically good only if qb, line and receiver successfully executes it. Either, IU runs at least as successful as intermediate and shorter passing game or simply, IU loses.

    1. Crossing routes is 1 of the best ways to defeat man coverage. It allows the QB to throw as soon as the WR gets separation. Which is why it’s used to succeed against man. Our WR’s are of that caliber. Very good for the OL as they don’t have to hold blocks much longer than they have to for runing plays. QB needs to execute accuracy as Ramsey has demonstrated.

  4. Agree….But if not executed, they result in far bigger losses of field position in the event of interceptions. If the sell of these patterns is too quick, the potential for picks comes from multiple defensive positions. A deep bomb intercepted can sometime be better than a long punt….The risk of turnover isn’t compounded by a d-back in full stride anticipating a crossing route and either getting a pick-six as a result …or exceptional field position.

    You need utmost accuracy and a qb who doesn’t sell the route 24/7. If the qb sells it to soon, defensive lineman and linebackers can often get a hand up to tip the ball…You also need receivers capable of handling the bullet passes….Balls being tipped and bullet passes bouncing off the numbers are also prime candidates for interceptions.

    1. Fair job of describing the weaknesses of any passing offense. Tell us something we don’t know.

      1. Just giving balance to the glowing manner you described the strengths of crossing routes in a bubble…along with a premise that builds such successes based on “as soon as the WR gets separation.”
        Yes, tell us something we don’t know. A receiver gets separation, he’s momentarily open. Brilliant. Unfortunately, it sounds as if this is the quickest defense we’ll face all season and it’s the Michigan Wolverines….and not the Michigan Wolverines Wax Museum.
        Do our receivers have the sort of burst against Michigan’s “great team speed” ….? Will Ramsey find them in his very narrow window to execute? Will he be lured into a closing window when Michigan is anticipating and baiting the young and rather inexperienced qb?

        And isn’t one of Ramsey’s greatest assets his mobility? Marino wasn’t very mobile. Quick crossing routes with world class track stars for receivers was to play, not only to Marino’s strengths(his accuracy and lightning fast release), but to reduce the exposure of limitations in mobility and getting out of a pocket.

  5. Crossing patterns could be one be one effective strategy. However, receivers can also get lit up on crossing patterns if passes are not handled resulting in fumble or injury if defense knows or thinks it’s coming. Of course everyone knows that. If IU has a chance in this game they are going to have to run the ball. What kinds of passing strategy is used to get there the success of running game will be key. The negative is IU has not been strong in this area. The positive is the Virginia win was an excellent win.

  6. I guessing this is where the real BIG 10 schedule starts for IU football? Why? Everybody was convince that IU had no chance against Ohio State and Penn State. It has been 21 years since IU beat Michigan, although the last two games have been very close, I truly expect a blowout this weekend. Michigan just looks to big, fast and physical. Jim Harbaugh is rebuilding Michigan into a BIG 10 East (maybe National) contender again. Whereby IU football is rebuilding again for mediocrity. Will the next few games reveal (as some fans say) how poor Kevin Wilson last few recruiting class where or what a substandard or great coaching staff IU football has assembly. Let the fun begin.

  7. Or…maybe Wilson could do a much better job with his recruits(especially on the offensive side) than Allen?

    Personally, I think Wilson’s style was a much better avenue to defeat a team like Michigan. You need a big play potential offense. You need so very high quality running backs to combine with that big play potential. You need hurry-up over grind it out. You need more risk while hoping to minimize the mistakes within that propensity to use four downs and taking more shots at a Goliath of an opponent.

    I see Allen as trying to go toe-to-toe in punching out George Foreman. Wilson played the game of football more like Muhammad Ali….There was more artistry….some rope-a-dope(attempting to bend on defense without fully breaking…stretching the game as a fighter will stretch the rounds)…and some hurry-up jabs and big punches(running game and big arm quarterback).

    Indiana is not built to grind anything out against Michigan. They are not built to only sustain via a top 25 defense. You need some long game…And you need some power running game.

  8. The best predicter of future behavior is past behavior. You have to look at success % of rehab programs. (how often are they successful. In reality pretty low %.

  9. Here’s my opening run play against Michigan….

    Isn’t Ramsey a bit of a Trubisky…? Intelligent ….poised…good speed…some running ability…more of a bullet passer than a deep arm…both 6-2.

  10. And with Ramsey’s ability to get outside of the pocket, maybe some tight sideline patterns(receiver paralleling Ramsey’s outside sprint) would be a positive yardage variance on the typical crossing patterns across the vulnerable middle( this also takes the turnover and interception more out of the equation when your receiver gets inside his single coverage defender on the sideline) ?

    And there’s always the potential of a big play if Ramsey’s running ability pulls in the outside lane and he locates one of our receivers drifting 10 yards behind the coverage.

  11. Hopefully, DeBord has been withholding significant portions of his playbook, especially in regards to IU’s passing game, and is ready to turn it loose against Michigan. In addition to crossing patterns, we need to throw the ball down field, using the height advantage provided by Cobbs and Mack. If Cobbs wants to play at the next level, this is his opportunity to demonstrate that he can win the ball going against physical and well-coached cornerbacks playing tight man-to-man coverage.

  12. There are many strategies to winning a football game and often the best plan falls apart when you get busted in the mouth. Crossing routes, at least for me, are not passes over the middle but receivers that cross the field and catch the ball outside the OT. There are many combination routes that can punish man coverage whether they are rub off routes or post behind crossing routes. UM’s defense is tough but the pressure comes from blitzers as much as the DL. This leaves Corners on an island and I think our WR and TE can win those battles. Man coverage is also susceptible to QB runs if the defense loses their rush lanes. Whether IU can do these things will be seen Saturday but it would be great to see them execute the game plan like they did the 1st half of OSU.

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