The Spartans open Big Ten play this week, coming off a bye week following their loss at Arizona State. It will be another night game for MSU, their third in a row to open the season. This week’s opponent is Indiana, a team that always seems to play the Spartans close, even if MSU is usually able to pull out the win. Two years ago the season started to come off the rails with an overtime loss in Bloomington, and this group will hope to avoid that fate this weekend.
School: Indiana University
Location: Bloomington, Indiana
Head Coach: Tom Allen (2nd season)
Record: 3-0 (0-0 in B1G)
Rivalry Trophy at Stake: Old Brass Spittoon
All Time Series: Michigan State leads 47-14-2
The Hoosiers are off to a 3-0 start under second year head coach Tom Allen having grabbed wins over Florida International, Virginia, and Ball State. Not exactly a murders row of competition, but they did win at FIU and easily dispatched a Ball State team that gave Notre Dame problems just a week earlier.
The Spartans have dominated the series, especially lately, winning eight of the last nine and 12 of the last 14 meetings between the two schools. But last year’s win in East Lansing was a comeback win for MSU, after losing in overtime the previous season. And despite the final score of the game three years ago, the Hoosiers hung around quite a while before Connor Cook took over and put them away. The only two MSU losses in the series since 2002 both came in Bloomington.
Indiana currently comes in as the 68th scoring offense in the country, averaging an even 32 points per game through their non-conference schedule. The Hoosiers have run the ball well, checking in at 29th in the nation in rushing offense at 235 yards per game and averaging a very solid 5.3 yards per attempt. The passing offense hasn’t quite got it going yet, averaging 201.3 yards per game, which is just 87th nationally.
Last year the Hoosiers were the third in the conference in passing offense, so the slow start is somewhat interesting, although the fact they have been successful on the ground is probably a factor. Indiana certainly is no stranger to throwing the ball, and will likely spread MSU’s defense out and throw quite a bit considering the Spartans come in leading the nation in rushing defense allowing only 34.5 yards per game on the ground.
On defense the Hoosiers come in at 18th in scoring, allowing just 18 points per game. They are 95th nationally against the run, allowing 187.33 yards per game, and a little bit worse in yards per carry, where they allow 4.8 per attempt. However, the passing defense has been very stout, ranking ninth in the country allowing just 135.3 yards per game and five yards per attempt.
The overall defensive improvement at Indiana under Coach Allen has been something that has been really noticeable. In the past Indiana would have to hope to outscore their opponents, and usually end up on the wrong end of that equation. Now, the Hoosiers defense has started pulling their weight a little, and if the offense can get on track, they could start spoiling some seasons of the teams at the top of the division.
The Hoosiers defense has also forced five turnovers through the first three games of the season, recovering three fumbles and picking off their opponents twice.
Players to Watch
Freshman running back Stevie Scott is off to a very nice start to his college career. Scott has 388 rushing yards on the year, averaging 129.33 yards per game and 5.62 yards per carry. He has also found the end zone three times. He had over 200 yards rushing against Virginia, and has averaged better than six yards per carry each of the last two games.
Sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey is a dual threat option for the Hoosiers. He has completed almost 74% of his passes so far this year for 479 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions. On the ground, Ramsey is the team’s second leading rusher with 106 yards on 23 carries (4.61 yards per attempt), and also has a rushing TD. He has been sacked just one time through the first three games.
Ramsey has spread the ball around to his receivers, with no player averaging more than 46 yards per game. However, junior wideout Donovan Hale leads the team with three receiving touchdowns on just eight total receptions.
Junior linebacker Reakwon Jones leads the team with 3.5 tackles for loss and is one of five different players with one sack. Jones is also third on the team in total tackles.
On special teams, J-Shun Harris II is a difference maker. He is averaging 13.88 yards per punt return and already has a punt return touchdown. Last year he averaged 19 yards per punt return and had two touchdowns.