The Michigan State Spartans survived a close one in Bloomington on Saturday, beating the Indiana Hoosiers 20-15 and returning to East Lansing with the Old Brass Spittoon for the first time under Mel Tucker. It wasn’t the prettiest, but the Spartans found their stride when it mattered most, and came away with their fourth win in conference play. Michigan State is currently sitting alone atop the Big Ten East Division heading into a bye week with a perfect 7-0 record.
With a big matchup set for Saturday, Oct. 30 against the Michigan Wolverines in East Lansing on the horizon, let’s take a look at some takeaways from the win.
The Michigan State defense may have played its best game of the season
The MSU defense took another step forward this week against the Hoosiers. The unit was on its heels fairly quickly, backed up into its own end zone early in the first quarter, but held the Hoosiers to a field goal after settling a bit. In fact, the defense kept the Hoosiers out of the end zone for the first three quarters of the contest as well, and linebacker Cal Haladay scored the first touchdown of the game for either team in the first quarter — and the first defensive touchdown of the year for the Spartans — with his pick-six.
Each week, the defense has consistently improved. The unit now leads all Power Five teams with 26 sacks on the year, as well as averaging 3.71 sacks per game, which ranks fourth in the nation overall. The defensive line continues to eat up opposing offensive lines. With Michigan coming up, it will be interesting to see if the defense can continue its success against one of the better offensive lines in the conference. Getting pressure on Cade McNamara and shutting down Michigan’s run game will be big in that matchup.
Michigan State’s Defense is now tied for 4th in the Nation with 26 Sacks and 3.71 Sacks/Game (both 1st among Power 5 Teams).— Al Karsten (@bigalfredosauce) October 18, 2021
Spartans need to get creative with Kenneth Walker III
Kenneth Walker III has been an absolute superstar for Michigan State this season. Having a consistent running game has been one big reason the Spartans have gotten off to a 7-0 start. Walker’s playmaking ability forces defenses to have to keep an eye on him at all times, which helps open up the passing game and allows for the playmakers at wide receiver to shine, and gives the team more overall balance on offense. However, for just the second time this season, the Spartans couldn’t seem to get Walker going, and the offense stalled as a result.
Moving forward, the Spartans need to find other ways to involve Walker in the offense if the running lanes aren’t there. Weirdly, Walker only has five receptions for 25 yards on the entire season. Perhaps getting Walker involved with short passes and screens when the running lanes aren’t there could open up the offense a bit more and allow Walker to showcase his skills in the passing game, which would certainly help him along on his Heisman campaign as well as at the next level.
The bye week comes at a perfect time
The great news for Michigan State after its performance in Bloomington is there’s time to iron out the wrinkles before the huge matchup against rival Michigan at the end of the month. There’s plenty of work to be done on both sides of the ball, and the coaches can use the film from the Indiana game as teaching points, and has plenty of time to do it. Also, after seven physical games, the rest is much needed for the team. We’ll see how it pays off against the Wolverines.
The matchup against Michigan is set for a noon kickoff on FOX. It will be the fourth straight year the game is televised on Fox’s Big Noon Kickoff.