The Spartans look to get back on track by heading to Indiana for their first Big Ten road game of the season. This is a big rivalry game. The Big Ten said as much when it paired MSU with the Hoosiers as permanent crossover rivals. The Hoosiers haven't won the Old Brass Spittoon since 2006, and MSU holds a 41-15-2 edge in the trophy's history, which dates back to 1950. Say what you will about this "rivalry," it's actually a pretty cool trophy.
By the numbers:
100: Saturday will be Indiana's 100th homecoming. The have a 44-49-6 record on homecoming.
311: Passing yards per game for the Hoosiers, which leads the Big Ten.
510: Total yards per game for Indiana, which is second in the Big Ten behind Northwestern.
448.8: Total yards allowed per game for the Hoosiers, which is the worst in the conference. They allow 213.5 per game on the ground, which is also last. They give up 5.7 yards per play.
263.4: Total yards allowed per game by MSU's defense, which is the best in the Big Ten by more than 50 yards per game. They're allowing 4.3 yards per play.
103: Total yards for Le'Veon Bell against Ohio State, including just 45 yards on the ground.
38.3: Third-down conversion percentage by MSU this year, which is 10th in the Big Ten. Indiana is at 39.1 percent.
75.2: Penalty yards per game for Indiana, which is the most in the conference.
6.1: Yards per carry for running back Stephen Houston. He has 255 yards on 42 carries. --
Three keys for MSU:
Run the ball: It's pretty simple. When MSU has run the ball well this year, they've won. When they haven't, they've lost. That's really been the case for the Dantonio era. Having lost Fou Fonoti and now Travis Jackson, an offensive line that was a strength entering the year has had to be patched together again. With a week of the ones working together, MSU will need to get the ground game back on track against the worst defense in the Big Ten.
Turnovers: MSU has generally done well in this spot this year, but giving up the ball could keep the Hoosiers around. After a three-pick first half against Boise State, Andrew Maxwell hasn't thrown one since, and MSU forced three Ohio State turnovers last week to stay in that game.
Consistent pass rush: Yes, opposing quarterbacks have done a good job getting rid of the ball, but the fact MSU is last in the Big Ten in sacks among teams that have played five games has to be a little worrisome for a blitz-happy defense. With a pass-heavy team like the Hoosiers, MSU will have plenty of chances to get to the quarterback, and you'd like to see that part of the defense finish the job a little more as Big Ten play moves forward.
Three keys for Indiana:
Big plays: With it being homecoming, I'm sure Indiana is hoping for a big crowd, and there's no better way to get a crowd going than a big gain on offense. Johnny Adams has been burned in nearly every game this year, and a big play or two could keep this game close against an MSU offense that hasn't figured things out yet.
Stop the run: The reasons listed above pretty much say it all. Teams that have loaded the box to stop MSU's rushing attack have found success. Even EMU did at times two weeks ago. Force MSU to rely on Maxwell and his receivers.
Don't beat yourself: This is always key to an upset bid. This includes not turning the ball over. Indiana has only turned the ball over two times this season. Impressive for a team with so many pass attempts. This also includes penalties, and as mentioned above, Indiana is the worst in the conference in that. Play smart and don't give the favorite any more of an advantage.
Prediction: MSU 35-14
MSU was hoping Eastern Michigan was the game when the offense could put things together and gain some confidence. Coming off its best passing performance since the opener, Maxwell and his receivers should have plenty of open opportunities. The makeshift offensive line needs to have a good game in order to keep hope alive for bigger goals on the season.
Kevin Wilson knows how to run a pass offense, and while the Hoosiers may have not named a starter yet, they can throw the ball. I wouldn't be surprised if Indiana sticks around and this becomes a bit of a shootout, but MSU should be able to handle the Hoosiers quite easily.