Happy Thursday Spartan Nation. We are down to just two games left in our football season, and this Saturday we have the all important game for last place in the East Division. MSU travels to Bloomington, Indiana, to take on the Hoosiers. We are joined by L.C. Norton from The Crimson Quarry to get some insider information on this opponent. Let’s get to it.
TOC: Indiana started the season with Tayven Jackson named as the starting quarterback. But he did not even complete game 1, and in 4 of Indiana’s first 6 games, he was pulled at some point. In game 7, Brendan Sorsby was named the starter. Do you agree with the switch? Has there been any sort of noticeable improvement in the team’s offensive performance in the second half of the season? Both of them are redshirt freshmen. What do you think the future of the Hoosier QB position looks like?
LCN: I think Jackson would be a fine starter right now but you really can’t argue with the way Sorsby has played. He’s kept them in games and/or nearly won the ones they’ve lost. His mobility and overall toughness at the position have shined when needed most.
There’s been an improvement I’d say, but I’d attribute that more to Rod Carey at offensive coordinator, which I’ll get into below. Jackson is in a weird spot. He was brought in out of the portal as the brother of one of the most legendary campus figures in recent memory only to lose his job when he also wasn’t the problem.
The NCAA hasn’t been kind to two-time transfers so his future is in a bit of doubt. When Allen has a solid starter, like he did with Penix, he usually names them immediately. Sorsby is on that road right now.
TOC: Speaking of switches, Head Coach Tom Allen promoted the offensive line coach Rod Carey to offensive coordinator going into game 6 against the wolverines. What did you think of the firing of the previous OC? Was the timing correct, going into a game against a top 5 opponent? Allen is in his seventh full season as head coach and has a record of 33-47, including 18-41 in Big Ten play. The team has gone to two bowl games under his leadership, the most recent being in the 2020 Covid season. Did that move feel like a desperation play by Allen to keep his job? Is this his last year leading Indiana?
LCN: That firing had to happen. Bell wasn’t exactly an inspiring hire when he was first brought in and really only disappointed in the past two years. His preferred scheme just didn’t work here no matter how hard he tried to run it.
A loss to Michigan was a foregone conclusion, Bell or not. I wouldn’t call it a desperation move because Allen can feel some degree of comfort given the size of his buyout. Allen’s buyout at the end of the season would be the second largest paid out in the history of the sport thanks to Texas A&M. Gus Malzahn’s Auburn buyout of around $21 million used to have the top spot. Allen’s would be around $23 million.
The really curious move was handing Carey the full-time gig right away. No interim tag. Indiana made him its highest paid coordinator in program history. There will be no national search after the season.
TOC: Your last two games are conveniently against the other two teams at the bottom of the B1G standings, MSU at home and Purdue on the road. Could this be an opportunity for some players who have to this point not met expectations to show something more? If so, give us some names on either side of the ball who could have a breakout performance at the end of the year.
Allen got some snaps for his younger players last year with a similar approach. If healthy, WR Omar Cooper could be one to keep an eye on. They’d also probably want to see more from RB Jaylin Lucas, who hasn’t had the season some expected from him.
Kaiden Turner could get some run at linebacker. There’s not a ton of true freshmen who haven’t already made plays, like DB Jordan Shaw, that could suddenly show up to be honest.
TOC: Can you tell us about the Indiana defense? What is your base formation? What level of the defense is the most talented? Who is the one player that opposing offensive coordinators need to be careful for when scheming plays?
LCN: Tom Allen has run the 4-2-5 defense throughout his career, similar to Ohio State’s Jim Knowles. He even got a former Knowles protege, Matt Guerrieri, to call the defense this year.
Indiana has had extremely solid play at linebacker every year and sent multiple players to the NFL. Tegray Scales, Micah McFadden and Cam Jones are all names that stick out, with the latest being Aaron Casey.
Casey can blow up just about any play from the second level and sacked Wisconsin’s quarterback on the Badgers’ final drive in Bloomington to help secure the victory. He can stuff the stat sheet and just about any running back short of the sticks.
TOC: What is the most important thing Indiana needs to do on Saturday to get the win and avoid the B1G cellar?
LCN: Fix whatever on Earth happened to the defense against Illinois. For the first time in years, Indiana was carried by its offense rather than its defense, which surrendered a historic amount of passing yards to Illinois’ backup quarterback, a Ball State transfer.
That was rough. If it happens again this weekend, they’re in trouble.
TOC: Bonus question: Predict the final score.
LCN: Oh man, tough one. Going to go with something like 24-21 Indiana but I don’t feel great about it at all. Michigan State could win this one in the end.
TOC: Unrelated bonus question: What does Hoosier nation think about Michael Penix’s performance now that he is at Washington? Are you guys pulling for Washington to get to the playoffs (and even win the championship) and for Penix to win the Heisman Trophy? Or is there more of a feeling of “what could have been” and you don’t want to see him have the ultimate success elsewhere?
LCN: Indiana, by and large, vocally and proudly supports Michael Penix Jr at Washington. He gave us some of the best memories we have as Hoosier football fans, and we’re all grateful for the time he spent here.
He had his reasons for leaving, we can’t fault him for it. Having spoken to him as a player here, he absolutely deserves the world and then some. Those who don’t vocally support him are indifferent, focused on the current team. Nobody holds ill will toward him at all.
If he wins that Heisman or gets to the playoff this year, Hoosier fans will join the Huskies in celebrating one of the best quarterbacks we’ve ever seen.
TOC wishes to thank L.C. Norton for his answers to these questions. Good luck on Saturday.