Indiana linebacker Marcus Oliver spoke with Campus Insiders about Saturday’s game against Michigan, his preparation and the Hoosiers’ pursuit of a bowl bid.
Marcus Oliver doesn’t view Michigan any differently because Wilton Speight is injured. As far as the standout Indiana linebacker is concerned, the Wolverines will be to be just as difficult to beat.
Speight won’t play Saturday afternoon when the Hoosiers visit the Big House because of a shoulder injury, leaving Houston transfer John O’Korn to take over under center. Oliver told Campus Insiders in an exclusive interview that Indiana’s game plan still will be the same.
“I don’t think [Speight’s injury] changes much,” Oliver said. “Michigan is a great program, and they have a lot of great players. I’m sure the backup is just as good. Our job is to focus on details and continuing to do our job and have better discipline.”
The Wolverines have won 20 consecutive meetings with the Hoosiers and enter Saturday’s matchup ranked No. 3 in the latest College Football Playoff standings despite losing to Iowa, 14-13, last week on a field goal as time expired. Oliver fully expects the Wolverines to be hungry to make up for that defeat.
Michigan likely will feed running back De’Veon Smith plenty of carries until O’Korn gets comfortable, and Oliver knows Heisman contender Jabrill Peppers might see some action on offense. He said he’ll be ready for whatever the Wolverines throw at him.
“I just need to get the necessary preparation and focus on everything they do. They do a lot of different formations and concepts, so it’s my job to communicate so the whole defense knows what it’s doing. Just picking up on those tendencies and keys they have.”
And Oliver has made a name for himself doing just that. The redshirt junior has a knack for tracking down the ball and leads the Big Ten with four forced fumbles. He is also tied for seventh in the conference with 10.5 tackles for loss and is in the top 15 in total tackles.
“It just comes natural,” Oliver said of knocking the ball loose. “It’s a habit I’ve had since high school. Every time I see somebody with the ball, the first thing I look at is the ball. It’s just a mindset of going for the ball all the time.”
That type of killer instinct has eluded the Hoosiers at times this season, though. They trailed by only seven at Ohio State in the third quarter before allowing the game’s final 14 points in a 38-14 loss Oct. 8, then lost by five to Nebraska the following week despite having chances in the fourth quarter.
Indiana missed another opportunity for an upset last week, when it led Penn State, 31-28, with 11 minutes remaining before the Nittany Lions scored 17 straight to pull out the victory.
“Our mindset toward the end of games, we have to feel the finish,” Oliver said. “That was the biggest thing against Penn State: we didn’t finish. Our offense gave us a chance. We have to have that killer instinct, and I think we’re still developing that.”
Indiana needs a win against either Michigan or rival Purdue to become bowl-eligible for a second consecutive season, something that hasn’t been accomplished since 1990 and ’91. Oliver knows what reaching a bowl game would mean for the program and is doing all he can to help make it happen.
“What we’re doing is trying to get the seniors another game,” Oliver said. “I love playing with this group, and we have fun every day at practice. Having that extra month with everybody would be great.”