The Michigan State Spartans are 5-1 (3-0 B1G) which is quite the surprise to a large portion of the fan base. But either way let’s enjoy this journey back to the top while it’s ripe for the taking.
MSU is coming home after another huge road win, this time over the Minnesota Gophers in a fourth quarter thriller. The game came down to one onside kick (unfortunately) after the Michigan State defense decided to give up three touchdowns during the final minutes.
Despite all the excitement Spartan Nation is ready to go this week against Indiana in another battle for The Old Brass Spittoon. Last year the Hoosiers beat MSU in overtime. So per our usual Q&A segment of the week we have brought in Ben Raphel, a managing editor for the Crimson Quarry.
If you are an Indiana fan and don’t read their stuff, click on the link and head over there NOW!
Let's start with an easy one. This year the Indiana Hoosiers are led by first year head coach Tom Allen. He has led them to a 3-3 (0-3 B1G) record so far and gave No. 19 Michigan a run for their money in overtime recently. What are your thoughts on Allen six games deep? What were your thoughts on him previously when he took over as interim head coach in 2016?
3-3 is about where I expected Allen to be after six games with such a front-loaded B1G schedule. What I like about Allen is how positively IU players have reacted to his hire, and how much the team has bought in to his ideas. That being said, I'm still waiting for IU to take that mythical "next step" when it comes to the football team - we once again came close last weekend
Ultimately, I think we won't be able to judge Allen's hire until 2-3 years down the road, just because of the circumstances under which it happened. I was somewhat hoping IU would go on a coaching search and target someone like Jeff Brohm or PJ Fleck, but Allen was a good choice at the time and I think IU was rightfully worried about losing a guy who had turned around their much-maligned defense in just a year.
Give me your pre-season prediction for the Hoosiers this year and how it lines up with where they are now.
I predicted 6-6 before the season started because that's how I'm wired to think IU will do every season. They have 4 more winnable games on their schedule (Maryland, Illinois, Rutgers, Purdue) so I think 7-5 is a possibility. But I'm afraid they'll mess up one of those, so I'm sticking with 6-6.
Walk me through Indiana's most recent overtime loss to Michigan. How were you guys able to send it into OT and potentially put your football team in a position to win that ball game?
Down 20-10, IU rallied for 10 points in the final 4 minutes of the game to send it into overtime (despite Simmie Cobbs recovering an onside kick and the Big Ten refs calling him out of bounds despite indisputable evidence he was in, but I'm not bitter or anything). On the first play from scrimmage in OT, Karan Higdon took it to the house for Michigan, and despite four chances inside the 5, IU couldn't counter. I think what helped in this game is that the Hoosiers played Michigan very evenly, didn't try to force too much, and did a great job of stopping Michigan on 3rd downs. Ultimately, though, the playcalling will need to be a little less conservative for IU's offense if they want to win these types of matchups.
This next question is purely out of curiosity because I've never seen it happen with the B1G before. How did you feel about Indiana having a conference game right out of the gates against then ranked No. 2 Ohio State? Was it good or bad? Why?
As someone who's now moved back to the East Coast after graduating, I didn't love the OSU game being on a Thursday night to start the season, since it prevented me from traveling out for it. For the students and the local fans, however, this was great exposure and a great opportunity. Yes, IU lost by 28, but if we don't play OSU on a Thursday night in week 1, we aren't getting the College Gameday treatment, and a tearful Lee Corso reunion with his former players, and a chance to show a national audience that yes, IU can be about more than just basketball. So I'd call it a net positive.
Also, you seen how Ohio State is playing the past few weeks? Someone needs to stop them.
There has been a bit of a quarterback situation at Indiana this season. Peyton Ramsey or Richard Lagow. Which one do you personally choose and why?
Peyton Ramsey had an impressive spring game, and ever since fans have been all on board for him as the starter. Ramsey had his breakout coming in for Lagow in a win over Virginia, and was named starter two weeks ago. Tomorrow will be his first road start. Ramsey gives the IU offense another dimension that Lagow couldn't, because of his ability to be a dual threat QB and not as much of a pocket passer, especially since the offensive line has had some injury issues this season.
Simmie Cobbs Jr. is an amazing talent. The kid is such a great receiver and needs to be getting much more national recognition. He's already tallied 37 catches on the year compared to his 60 in 2015. Along with 409 yards and three touchdowns. How does Allen make sure he's involved this weekend against Michigan State?
Simmie Cobbs is awesome and I could see him contributing for an NFL team in the near future. Against a ranked team on the road, I think OC Mike DeBord shouldn't be afraid to dial up some deep shots to Cobbs. Even against a very talented Michigan State defense, it's worth targeting him and seeing if he can make an impact from the start. As mentioned earlier, he seems to also be getting involved in special teams situations as well when needed.
What are the keys to victory for Indiana?
Stop LJ Scott (or whoever plays RB tomorrow), contain Brian Lewerke, don't give up big clock-draining drives, and come up with some huge plays on the offensive side of the ball. Also Peyton Ramsey can't let a Big Ten road environment intimidate him.
Prediction Time: Final score? Who Wins? Why?
I got MSU winning this one, 23-14. This should be a low-scoring game, but Michigan State being at home should be an advantage. Sparty is a much better team this year than last, and last year it took IU overtime to beat a 3-9 MSU squad in Bloomington. So I got a feeling the Old Brass Spittoon will be heading back to East Lansing this year.
Thanks again to Ben and all the people over at Crimson Quarry. I’m telling all you Indiana fans head over there now if you haven’t done so already.