The Michigan State Spartans host the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday at noon Eastern Time on the Big Ten Network. MSU comes into the home schedule finale with back-to-back wins while Indiana is on a seven game skid.
Following the victory over Rutgers last week, Michigan State seeks to become bowl eligible by picking up a sixth win on the season — something MSU hopes to do on Saturday versus Indiana. Next week, MSU faces a much tougher challenge at Penn State, so it is imperative the Spartans punch their ticket to the postseason this weekend.
Once again, the Spartans are shorthanded as the eight players suspended following the Michigan loss have not yet been reinstated and the team is dealign with multiple injuries as well.
Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker will not provide the public with a depth chart, therefore after viewing the previous game and reading reports about the roster, here are my predictions for the MSU starters and reserves against Indiana.
Starter: Payton Thorne
Backup: Noah Kim
Thorne missed some key throws and was inconsistent against Rutgers, however, last weekend he was second among all Big Ten quarterbacks in total passing yardage. The weather simply isn’t conducive to superb passing performances, something to keep in mind as the Spartans will play in a cold and snowy setting in East Lansing. Avoid turnovers and make enough plays to carry the day.
Starter: Jalen Berger
Backup: Jarek Broussard, Elijah Collins
Berger and Broussard each carried the ball for over 80 yards, going for a combined 165 yards on 27 carries in the last outing against Rutgers. Collins wasn’t part of the plan on the ground, but did have a couple receptions out of the backfield. One can only hope for continued success running the ball, as Indiana’s defense is less than formidable presenting opportunity for success.
Starters: Jayden Reed, Keon Coleman, Tre Mosley
Backups: Germie Bernard, Montorie Foster, Cade McDonald, Christian Fitzpatrick
The wide receiver rotation is set in stone at this point: Reed, Coleman and Mosley are the primary players with Bernard being the first reserve. Hopefully the conditions don’t deteriorate to the point passing becomes a labor, obviously through the air lies Michigan State’s best path to success.
Starter: Daniel Barker, Tyler Hunt
Backup: Maliq Carr
The tight ends have been exclusively the trio of Barker, Hunt and Carr, but the targets have been inconsistent for the position group. I can see the Spartans using a fair amount of two-tight end personnel for increased blocking purposes this week.
Starter: Brandon Baldwin
Backup: Jarrett Horst (status uncertain)
Baldwin has manned the left tackle position well in Horst’s absence over the past two games, which is a promising sign for the present and the future. It seems Brian Greene will again be given duties at right guard if Matt Carrick remains banged up. Outside of the those spots it should be familiar faces in familiar places. Hopefully Horst and Carrick have the opportunity to appear in what could be the last home game at Michigan State for each of them.
Starter: J.D. Duplain
Backup: Geno VanDeMark
Starter: Nick Samac
Backup: Dallas Fincher
Starter: Brian Greene
Backup: Matt Carrick (status uncertain)
Starter: Spencer Brown
Backup: Ethan Boyd
Starters: Jacob Slade, Simeon Barrow
Backup: Derrick Harmon, Maverick Hansen
It looks like the top duo of defenders and the two-deep as a whole is a full go once again and shall anchor the defense. Rutgers was able to gouge MSU all too often in the running game, so it’s important that isn’t the case again against Indiana.
Starters: Jalen Hunt, Avery Dunn
Backup: Michael Fletcher, Dashaun Mallory (status uncertain), Jeff Pietrowski (status uncertain), Khris Bogle (status uncertain)
Again, due to suspensions and injuries this unit is an unconventional conglomeration at the edge. Hunt slides out to the defensive end spot from his common placement as a defensive tackle reserve and has been steady. Dunn is showing some nice flashes. He is a long and lean weak-side defensive end with some pass rushing capabilities — a subtle surprise this season who has made a lot of his opportunities.
Starters: Cal Haladay, Ben VanSumeren
Backups: Aaron Brule, Ma’a Gaoteote, Carson Casteel
The Spartans’ primary package will be the 4-2-5 defense, though, they have mixed in multiple formations, including a new dime package with three safeties. It will be Haladay and VanSumeren again, with Brule first to provide relief. Haladay earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for a second week in a row after accumulating a staggering 19 tackles versus Rutgers.
Starters: Charles Brantley, Ronald Williams Jr.
Backups: Ameer Speed, Marqui Lowery
Brantley and Willams will be the first set of cornerbacks on the field. Speed shall see action as the third corner, and, hopefully, we’ll see more Marqui Lowery snaps as he gets healthy.
Starter: Chester Kimbrough
Backup: Dillon Tatum
Kimbrough gets the call again at nickel, but as mentioned, Michigan State is experiencing with a three-safety look with Henderson in the slot and Jaden Mangham high. Tatum continues to get spot duty in his true freshman season and is progressing.
Starters: Xavier Henderson, Kendell Brooks
Backups: Jaden Mangham
Henderson and Brooks steady the back end of the defense, while Mangham has been utilized often and shows promise for the future as a primary safety.
Starter: Ben Patton
Backup: Jack Stone, Stephen Rusnak
MSU has found a kicker. Woo hoo! Patton hit two field goals last week, including one from 48 yards out. It’s taken a substantial amount of the season for the placekicking to settle in, but perhaps it has been achieved.
Starter: Bryce Baringer
Backup: Ryan Eckley, Evan Morris
My favorite punt of the season came last week when Baringer bombed a 64-yard kick inside the 5-yard-line despite Rutger being flagged for running into the punter. He’ll need trophy space at the end of the season.
Starter: Jayden Reed
Backup: Jarek Broussard/Germie Bernard/Cade McDonald
The fair catch is common. Reed will attack when given opportunity.
Starter: Michael Donovan
Backup: Hank Pepper (status uncertain)
Another clean and quiet day for Donovan, that’s all you can ask for. Perhaps Pepper will get healthy soon.