Well, well, well...could this be a PROGRAM WIN on the horizon?
We all know what’s at stake for Michigan State football on Saturday versus Indiana— a trip to a bowl game that might be in Detroit, Charlotte or some other place without palm trees.
But who cares? If you told me this team gets to six wins after the Michigan game, I would’ve ended any and all serious conversation with you right there on the spot. Instead, you saw the vision.
In addition to bowl eligibility, the Old Brass Spittoon is on the line. It will also be senior day for Michigan State.
Let’s get to know this Hoosiers team that’s riding a gnarly seven-game losing streak as they come into a snowy East Lansing.
3 KEY STATS
That’s how many sacks Indiana has allowed this season — that’s 112th in the nation and second-worst in the Big Ten (Iowa has given up 33).
That’s an appealing stat for a Michigan State defensive front that is coming off of back-to-back games with three sacks with its new-ish defensive front.
Indiana’s quarterback situation is a bit up in the air. If the Hoosiers go with sophomore quarterback Dexter Williams II, who took over for Connor Bazelak at Ohio State last weekend, it will be interesting to see what he can provide. While Williams offers an electric game with his running ability, his throwing ability has been something to be desired as he’s throwing at a 33 percent completion clip so far.
If Williams starts, Michigan State will need to get him to throw off-base and get through Indiana’s struggling offensive line to provide pressure. If so, that could make for a drama-free Saturday.
That’s how many active players Indiana has that have more than 400 receiving yards. Wide receiver Cam Camper was the lead dog for the Hoosiers, but a torn ACL will have him sidelined the rest of the season.
This is the second week in a row Michigan State will face a team that doesn’t have a 400-plus yard receiver — Indiana and Rutgers are the only two teams in the Big Ten to have no active receivers over that benchmark. And, for a team that can struggle against the pass as much as MSU does, that’s a welcome sight.
We’ll see if Williams breaks in a new favorite target — perhaps fellow sophomore Donaven McCulley, who stands at 6-foot-5? But all signs point to this being a favorable matchup through the passing game for Michigan State’s defense, despite struggles from the Spartans’ secondary throughout the year.
13th and 14th
That’s where Indiana and Michigan State’s defense rank in the Big Ten on opponent third-down conversions, respectively. Indiana is second-worst in the Big Ten at allowing opponents to convert at a 42.7 percent clip, and MSU is dead-last at 44.3 percent.
This stat sticks out because Rutgers was allowed to hang around (barely) in striking range thanks to converting eight times on 16 third-down attempts (50 percent). The Scarlet Knights have the second-worst third-down conversion clip on offense in the conference, and MSU still rolled opened the red carpet on third downs.
Getting Indiana to long passing downs is going to be a key of the game, but that will only matter if MSU can get its defense off the field when they roll around.
2 Things We Want To See
The continuation of this run game boom
The run game has been booming in November compared to where it was before this blessed month came around.
In the first five Big Ten games, Michigan State only had one outing where it averaged over 3.0 yards per carry (in the loss against Maryland).
In the last two games, MSU’s offense has ran for 3.9 yards against a stout Illinois defense and 5.6 yards against Rutgers (another solid defense).
Jalen Berger has had his best two games as a Spartan this month, racking up 100 all-purpose yards in each game. Jarek Broussard, who I thought was essentially done seeing touches for the rest of the season, had his best game against Rutgers with 80 yards on 11 carries. And Brandon Baldwin at the left tackle position has been a bright spot for this team in the run game as well.
Just please keep that going against one of the Big Ten’s worst run defenses. Please.
Tight End Time
Last week MSU had a wonderful day of production from its tight ends as Maliq Carr and Daniel Barker combined for 86 yards and a touchdown. Carr nearly had a second and quarterback Payton Thorne missed an open Tyler Hunt early in the game that could’ve made it an even better day, but I digress.
Indiana’s defense has had a tough time matchup up with tight ends, giving up a touchdown to a tight end in four of its last five games.
Indiana’s secondary has had a tough go at it all season, giving up a Big Ten-worst 270 passing yards per game. With Jayden Reed and Keon Coleman drawing plenty of attention on the outside on Saturday, it might be time to work those tight ends one more time at Spartan Stadium.
1 Best Bet
MSU -10, over/under 47.5
Indiana is looking for a signature win this season. Head coach Tom Allen is a motivational mover of mountains. They have a new quarterback that gives Indiana a new look.
But man...it’s everything else about the Hoosiers that gives me pause. If MSU can go out there and break spirits early, you can have the Hoosiers sitting on the sideline in 26 degrees and 20 mile-per-hour winds just waiting to get back on the bus.
Pick: MSU -10