I’d have been less enthused about this game if Indiana had fallen to Penn State last week. Not only did they beat the Lions for the first time, but IU put 44 points on them and shut down their tough running attack, hardly a Hoosier forte. The Spartans are coming off a tough away win over an impressive looking Iowa team, and QB Connor Cook is starting to provide a passing attack to take the pressure off a mediocre running attack and outstanding defense. So, who will win, and what needs to happen to make it so?
Time and Place: 12:00 in East Lansing
The Skinny: The speedy but inconsistent Hoosiers take on the suffocating Spartan defense.
What Indiana needs to do:
Make Cook beat them: the sophomore may have flashed some ability at times, but I’m not ready to bet the house on him yet. The Spartan running attack is pedestrian at best, but the Hoosiers lack much push at DT. They may to have blitz heavily to compensate for this. The Hoosiers gambling pass defense is better than stats indicate, breaking up 39 passes already this season.
Get something going on the ground: Indiana didn’t exactly rip PSU to shreds when running the ball, but they provided enough of a threat to keep the offense balanced. Of course, getting it going against a Spartan defense that’s allowing a ridiculous 51 yards per game is easier said than done.
Don’t throw away points: IU have scored on 22 of 28 trips into the redzone (19 TDs). While this is by no means awful, the Hoosiers have to maximize every scoring opportunity against the gnarly Spartans. Touchdowns over field goals could be the deal-breaker here.
What Michigan State needs to do:
Run the ball: Penn State made some plays on the ground against the Hoosiers, but not enough to keep the chains moving, leaving the game in the hands of freshman Christian Hackenberg. MSU can’t afford this, and need to keep Cook in 3rd-and-under 5-yardage situations. As mentioned before, the Hoosier secondary is aggressive.
Get after Sudfeld: Indiana has thrown for at least 319 yards in every game, with Sudfeld providing the lion’s share of the work. The Spartans have allowed more than 193 yards just once, against Iowa (241). However, they lack much of a pass rush. After 9 sacks in three weeks, MSU hasn’t downed a QB since, but Indiana’s offensive line has been hit pretty hard with injuries, and this could be the key factor in the game.
Home is where the hearth is: This will be Indiana’s sixth game of the season and their first at home. The Hoosiers won just 2 games away from last season, against Massachusetts and Illinois, as did the Spartans (Boise State and Eastern Michigan). If Sparty wants to contend this season, they have to play strong at home.
Prediction: Michigan State 16, Indiana 13.
Topics: Boise State Broncos, Christian Hackenberg, Connor Cook, Eastern Michigan Eagles, Illinois Fighting Illini, Indiana Hoosiers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Massachusetts Minutemen, Michigan State Spartans, Nate Sudfeld, Penn State Nittany Lions, Tevin Coleman