No. 24/23 Michigan State will open the Big Ten season against the Indiana Hoosiers Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.
The Spartans (1-1, 0-0 B1G) are coming off a weeks rest after losing to Arizona State 16-13. Whereas Indiana has finished an unblemished non-conference record going 3-0 prior to facing MSU.
“I’ve been very impressed with coach Allen and what he’s been able to accomplish at IU since becoming the head football coach,” said Dantonio. “He instills toughness, they play great defense, and obviously they’ve always played great offense.”
Tom Allen was named the Indiana head coach back in 2016 and made his debut at the Foster Farms Bowl. Over his first two years, the Hoosiers have been the most improved nationally in total defense and passing defense.
This will be the 65th meeting between the Spartans and Hoosiers. MSU leads the all-time series 46-16-2. Mark Dantonio is 8-1 against Indiana, including a 3-1 record on the road.
The last time Indiana beat Michigan State in back to back games in Memorial Stadium was in 1991 and 1993. Needless to say, the Battle for the Brass Spittoon has favored the Spartans thus far.
“Playing for the brass spittoon, a long standing trophy game for us. We’ve been fortunate on the front end of that for the most part,” Dantonio said. “When you look at them as a football team right now, they are 3-0. So they’ve beaten FIU, Virginia, and then this past weekend Ball State.”
The Hoosiers have won 14 of their last 15 regular season non-conference games, including six straight with only one loss at home over a span of 11 games. Indiana has found some success with sophomore Peyton Ramsey leading the way. He’s completed 73.7% of his passes for 479 yards and five touchdowns.
“Offensively, Peyton Ramsey is their quarterback. I think he’s done a tremendous job there. He’s throwing the ball for 72-74% completion rate, but very high. He’s been very productive,” Dantonio said in his opening statement about the Hoosiers.
So far the Spartans have played against two teams who ran an up-temp style of offense and the defense started off struggling, especially against Utah State. This week Indiana will pick the speed as well and come at Michigan State with multiple looks on offense. It’ll be up to the MSU defense to step up and make plays in big situations.
“I think against all these teams you have to be able to play up-tempo offense. You gotta be able to stop the run, be able to play against their controlled passing game, and be able to play the deep ball down the field,” said Dantonio. “Most of the teams right now are vertical attack teams. They attack you vertically off of play action, RPO, or intermediate or short.”
Mark Dantonio, like most football coaches, instill certain philosophies and sayings to their football teams. According to him, Tom Allen lives by some of the same things MSU does.
“A lot of the things Coach Allen talks about — you have to be able to tackle in space, come up with turnovers, and you have to play with great effort. Those are the three things he talked about which are really the three things we are constantly talking about here.”
Heading into the bye week MSU had plenty of guys banged up from the previous two weeks. A few sat out including LJ Scott (second half against ASU), Cole Chewins, and Jake Hartbarger. Dantonio usually doesn’t talk about injuries but it can’t hurt to try and get an update out of him. When asked if the bye week helped injured players become healthy sooner than they would have he responded in typical fashion.
“I will say yes.”
Last week, Dantonio said he only commented on the Hartbarger injury because he was going to be out long term. This week he was reluctant to comment on the others which could mean some of them will be available for Saturday’s game.
He reiterated his previous statement when asked about the availability of LJ Scott this weekend. “We need to run the ball better. You know I don’t talk about injuries.”
The last time we watched the Spartans their offensive line still had it’s struggles. The inability to get a push up front caused problems in the run game and hurried Brian Lewerke on numerous occasions. It’s an area of focus for the MSU football team and will play a critical part in how much success this team has. That being said, coach Dantonio’s hands out some high praise to right guard Kevin Jarvis in his second year with the team.
“I think Kevin is an outstanding player. He’s a big strong guy, 320 pounds, 6’5,” said Dantonio. “The consistency aspect, he’s still young and he’s saw a lot of different fronts these last couple of weeks. Physically, he’s got talent. I was very impressed by him last year. Again when you talk about the offensive line, four guys could play well and one could make a mistake. Which makes all of them look bad. But I think he’s been solid, I think he has a tremendous future here, and I think we could build our offensive line around that guy.”
The Spartans will need a healthy offensive line if they want to be successful within the conference. Unfortunately for them it begins sooner rather than later.