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The 3-2-1 Preview: 3 things we want to see, 2 key stats, 1 best bet for MSU football vs. Indiana

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You know the drill

Tulsa v Michigan State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Happy almost-game day everyone!

MSU has a nice little afternoon on deck for us Saturday as Indiana comes to town to celebrate homecoming with the Spartans. How nice?

Indiana is still a mysterious team as they’ve beaten the brakes off of three prep school teams and got completely steamrolled against Ohio State. Heck, we don’t even know who the starting quarterback will be.

Anyway, we still have thoughts and stats for Saturday’s game. Duh.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Northwestern Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

3 Things We Want To See

Limit the bullets in the feet

MSU has shot themselves in the foot too many times this season. The weird play calling at times. The 4,000 penalties so far this season, 3,290 which came against Arizona State. Untimely turnovers (as if there’s ever a good time for them). To blatantly plagiarize what I wrote in last week’s recap, this is what happened after MSU’s first touchdown of the season:

  • Cody White fumble on the punt return to set up the Wildcats
  • Two possessions later: Personal foul on the first play on MSU’s 42 yard line, backing it up to 1st-and-25 from MSU’s 27 instead.
  • Next possession: Jet sweep for a loss of eight on second down, making it a 3rd-and-18 that wasn’t converted.
  • Next possession: Three straight pass plays (all incomplete) after Elijah Collins was road-grating the Wildcats into oblivion.

That’s what I’m talking about – a myriad of mistakes right off the bat in drives. Polish those up, and let’s give this homecoming crowd a somewhat stress-free afternoon.

Julian Barnett and/or Laress Nelson getting more into the mix

These two kids are playmakers, and you can never have enough of those in the passing game. Right now MSU has one bonafide playmaker in the passing game in Darrell Stewart. Don’t get me wrong – Cody White is great at running routes and getting separation and CJ Hayes has done a fine job filling in. But the Spartans need another guy that can make magic when they get the ball in their hands, not just before. Nelson showed flashes of that last year. Barnett showed it on his first catch of the year, and his athletic background suggests he can keep that going.

Now that Barnett’s pinkeye has subsided, he could be in good standing to get some more run this Saturday.

The defensive line feasting

Obviously we want to see this every game and most times we do. The reason I’m pointing this out is because Indiana’s senior starting left tackle Coy Cronk is out for the season as of last week (having left tackle issues is all the rage these days) and the Hoosiers will rely on right tackle Caleb Jones to slide over into his spot.

This only makes the matchup juicier for MSU. Indiana was already coming in averaging 3.5 yards per carry (91st in the nation) against MSU’s powerful run defense. The Hoosiers also hold a solid sack percentage at just 3.6 percent, but missing their left tackle could shake things up there against the Spartan Dawgs.

2 Key Stats

7.8

That’s the amount of penalties per game MSU is rolling at right now, which kind of goes back to the first point of this whole blog post. That puts MSU at 107th in the nation, and only Rutgers draws more penalties in the Big Ten than our Spartans. For reference, Indiana gets flagged at a clip of 5.0 times per game – that’s solid enough to place them 29th in the nation and fifth overall in the Big Ten.

8.9 percent

That’s Indiana’s sack rate, which will make for another good challenge for MSU’s MASH unit of an offensive line. The Hoosiers rank 23rd in the nation in sack percentage, which is close to Northwestern who sits at 19th with a 9.1 percent sack rate (wow that was a lot of numbers). Last week the Spartans did solid, letting up just two sacks. Of everything on Indiana’s defense, the pass rush is what scares me the most.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Northwestern Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

1 Best Bet

MSU -14, Over/under 44

MSU’s offense was too good last week for under 38.5 for two reasons. 1) They scored too many points (duh). 2) They made the lead so big that the backups got some run on defense, which is when Northwestern got their garbage time touchdown. Grr.

ANYWAY, I am going to go back to picking against the spread because, well, my game prediction actually adds up to 44. I’m feeling a 27-17 MSU win, so that means I’m taking the Hoosiers and the points.

The Hoosiers pass rush with MSU’s offensive line injuries still has me a little shook. I still don’t entirely trust MSU’s offense. I think the mystery of who starts between Peyton Ramsey and Michael Penix makes planning for the Hoosiers tricky. All in all, I just think 14 points is too much.

Pick: Indiana +14

Record: 2-2

Poll

Place your bets for Saturday’s game

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    MSU -14
    (114 votes)
  • 22%
    Indiana +14
    (59 votes)
  • 17%
    Over 44
    (46 votes)
  • 18%
    Under 44
    (49 votes)
268 votes total Vote Now