Welcome back to the 3-2-1 Preview, but with a twist this time.
I’m good for doing this at least once a season — changing the format of this preview. I’ve flipped it so we will be doing three key stats and two things we want to see instead of the opposite.
I hold liberty to do that. I’m holding you all hostage of my power trip with this article. I cannot think of a lamer power trip to be on, but here we are.
3 KEY STATS
That’s the yards per carry Indiana has been getting on the ground this season, good for third...to last place in the Big Ten. Only Iowa (oddly enough) and Purdue trail them.
Here are some more numbers that paint a picture of how rough it’s been for the Hoosiers on the ground. Their stuff rate (percentage of runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) is a whopping 20.5 percent, ranking 97th in the nation. Their opportunity rate (percentage of runs that go for more than four yards) is 45.9 percent, ranking 83rd in the nation.
In Indiana’s last game against Penn State, the Hoosiers averaged just 2.9 yards per carry on 24 attempts, seeing the longest run go for 11 yards.
Michigan State has done solid against the run so far this season allowing 3.3 yards per carry, which ranks the Spartans sixth in the conference. If MSU can limit the run game, that puts a lot of pressure on the passing game that’s likely missing Michael Penix Jr. this week, so let’s talk about the next man up...
That was Jack Tuttle’s completion percentage in his two full games last season after Penix ended his season. The first was an impressive 13-for-22 outing with two touchdowns and no interceptions against a stout Wisconsin pass defense. The second was a gun-slinging 26-for-45 outing with zero touchdowns and one interception against Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl.
Tuttle was thrust into the Penn State game in Week Five after Penix sadly went down with another injury, and the former four-star recruit couldn’t click and completed just six of 12 passes with one interception. Still, there’s a solid quarterback there and having two weeks of prep instead of coming into the middle of the game will give him a better state of mind at the very least.
MSU will have a good test ahead of them with the receiving corps as well, with last year’s star Ty Fryfogle leading the way for the Hoosiers with 26 catches. Peyton Hendershot is one of the better tight ends in the conference and has racked up 188 yards in just the last two games.
Long story short, Indiana’s air game won’t be something to gloss over just because the Hoosiers are on quarterback No. 2
That’s how many teams ranked in the top-seven Indiana has played this season so far. And, no, this isn’t a bunch of “Oh, they were ranked in the top-seven at the time and now aren’t there anymore.” No, no — Indiana has faced No. 2 Iowa, No. 3 Cincinnati and No. 7 Penn State so far. No wonder the Hoosiers are 2-3.
So yes, Indiana has not carried last season’s magic into this year but the pieces for a solid team are still there.
2 THINGS WE WANT TO SEE
Tre Mosley (or someone new, perhaps?) balling out
Indiana’s first-team All-American defensive back Tiawan Mullen will more than likely be back for this game after being a late scratch against Penn State. The junior is a stud and, while I think Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor are amongst the best in the country at what they do, it could be a tough day for whichever Spartan he’s lined up against.
Enter Tre Mosley, who’s been having a fine season this year. This game just smells like one where an under-the-radar guy gets a lion’s share of the targets. Hell, maybe its Connor Heyward. Or let’s get nuts and give Montorie Foster some targets. I don’t know, with Mullens in the picture I could see a big part of this passing game going beyond Reed and Nailor.
An afternoon of clean game management
Yes, I’m still lingering on this from last week’s game. The odd fake field goal call. Punting on fourth-and-three from the 34-yard-line. Whatever you want to call the end of the half. The constant penalties before the ball could even be snapped.
You can do that against Rutgers. You probably can’t do that against Indiana. And you certainly can’t do it moving forward the rest of the season. Please just make the correct and obvious game plan calls, manage the clock better and avoid any unnecessary penalties or stress on Saturday. My feeble heart can’t take it.
1 BEST BET
MSU -4.5, O/U 48.5
All right, we are back to 3-3 on the season after sweating out the under last week. And, of course, we are greeted with a tough pick of bets to get to north of .500. I’m just oozing confidence right now on this game (sarcasm).
Ah the hell with it, give me the points. I think this game is close and, even with their backup quarterback, the Hoosiers are a solid and hungry team. I’m still thinking the Spartans pull this one off, but it’ll be too close for comfort.
PICK: Indiana +4.5