MSU looks to get back on track when it heads to Bloomington for a battle for the Old Brass Spittoon. John from The Crimson Quarry was kind of enough to answer some questions about Tre Roberson, the Spittoon and Bloomington tips. You can read my answer to his questions here, and check out our preseason Q&A here.
1. How have the Hoosiers changed or surprised you since we last talked?
I do think that IU has improved quite a bit on offense. All three quarterbacks that IU has used (Tre Roberson, Nate Sudfeld, Cameron Coffman), have looked proficient, and I think that reflects pretty well on the coaching staff. As always seems to be the case, IU has some options at all of the offensive skill positions, but one thing that hasn't changed much is the defense. IU was torched badly by Ball State and even worse by Northwestern (700+ yards). That simply has to change.
2. How much did Tre Roberson's leg injury set things back for the program?
I think it was a blow mostly because of how bad IU's defense is. That may sound strange, but where Roberson would be an advantage over the current QBs is in his ability to make something out of nothing. As bad as IU's defense has been, the offense has been occasionally stagnant in the two losses (the third quarter against Ball State; the entire first half against NU). Roberson can turn a busted play into a 20-yard gain. I think that's a big advantage for a program that is trying to improve. At the very least, while no Big Ten team ever should lose to Ball State, I think IU would have won that game with Tre.
3. What are three keys for IU on Saturday?
1) It's not likely, but IU needs to find a way to stop the run without selling out against the run. I don't care what you think about your offense. Wait until you see IU's secondary. I don't have any expectation that this will happen, but I'm at a loss as to how IU will win otherwise. I know that Andrew Maxwell hasn't exactly lit it up, but I promise you he will if IU has to put eight in the box.
2) Something "special" has to happen. Currently, IU is +3 for the season on turnovers and has one special teams touchdown (a kickoff return by Tevin Coleman last week). Something like that has to happen. Probably, multiple things like that need to happen. The Hoosiers aren't going to win this one if it's normal.
3) IU has had some serious penalty problems. Any hope of victory depends on a cleanly played game by IU.
4. Do you guys care about the Old Brass Spittoon at all?
As I'm sure I mentioned when we talked last year, it's really a strange trophy. There is no obvious geographic connection between the schools, or a history of playing every year, or a particularly competitive series. As I mentioned on my site this week, among Big Ten programs, only Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State (yes, even with the vacated wins) have higher winning percentages against IU than MSU does. The Spittoon doesn't really rate compared to the Old Oaken Bucket, or even the Bourbon Barrel, the retired trophy from the defunct Kentucky series. Still, we would be glad to have it, and as far as I know we've never forgotten to bring it to East Lansing, so I guess by default IU cares more than MSU. On the other hand, MSU has the trophy 75 percent of the time, so I guess that creates more opportunity for a mistake.
5. Give me a score prediction and why.
I will say MSU 38, Indiana 17. I don't think the bloodbath of last year will be recreated, but I do think MSU will pull away.
Bonus question: Any tips for places to visit for MSU fans who head down to Bloomington?
Nick's is the iconic IU bar. It's on Kirkwood Avenue, near the main gate to the campus and about a mile from the stadium. Other spots of local interest are Kilroy's (one on Kirkwood and one on North Walnut), and Upstairs Pub. It's homecoming, so the bars will be packed, even if the stadium isn't.
Thanks again to John for answering questions, and make sure you check out The Crimson Quarry for all things Indiana.