For the first time this year against a Power Five opponent, Indiana is favored to beat Michigan State on Saturday according to the oddsmakers. They like the Hoosiers by 3.5 points as of late Thursday morning.
Too little too late some would say, and technically they’d be right. At 3-7 with two games remaining, IU can no longer play in a postseason game barring a situation where the Hoosiers finish 5-7 and there aren’t enough 6-6 teams to play in the 41 bowl games.
While the Hoosiers are likely just 10 days away from ending a third-straight disappointing season, Michigan State, also 3-7, is a disaster.
The Spartans have suffered through a highly publicized midseason firing of head coach Mel Tucker, and they’re just 1-7 over their last eight contests. MSU has scored over 20 points just once in that miserable stretch, and in that game they blew a 24-6 fourth quarter lead in a loss to Rutgers.
So for those still paying attention, IU has a good chance to win this weekend, and unlike the Spartans, the Hoosiers have been very competitive the last three weeks.
Although Indiana is just 1-2 over that span, they took Penn State to the wire on the road, defeated Wisconsin at home, and then somehow managed to lose at Illinois despite scoring 42 points in regulation.
A highly disappointing effort by Indiana’s secondary against a backup Illinois quarterback will likely lead to changes in the lineup on Saturday (Noon ET, BTN) when the Hoosiers take the field at Memorial Stadium.
Still looking for answers late in the season, and hoping to hang on to the Old Brass Spittoon for a third time in four years and consecutive years for the first time since 1969, coach Tom Allen hinted change is coming in the defensive backfield this weekend.
“In the secondary we’ve made some adjustments this week, because we’re trying to get the best matchups we can get for this game, and if a guy had a rough outing we’re trying to find a way to get somebody else in there to give him a chance to get his confidence back and give somebody else an opportunity to do a better job,” Allen said on his radio show Wednesday evening. “At the end of the day you’ve gotta perform or we’re going to make adjustments.”
With Indiana playing a lot of zone defense, it isn’t always clear who is at fault when mistakes happen in the secondary. When was a receiver supposed to be passed off to the next level in the zone? Who had a lapse with eye discipline? We may have to wait to see who isn’t in the lineup Saturday to know for sure.
According to PFF, Nic Toomer and JoJo Johnson had the worst grades at corner against Illinois, but Jamari Sharpe’s average depth of target of 25 yards might be a clue as well in a game where the Hoosiers gave up several big plays.
No one outside of safety Louis Moore received above average pass coverage grades on the day vs. the Illini, so it will be interesting to see who the staff believes had a bad outing vs. the Illini. The starting lineups and rotation against MSU should tell the story.
Whoever plays, IU projects to have an easier afternoon against Michigan State’s freshman quarterback Katin Houser, who has completed just 57 percent of his throws, with just 5.8 yards per completion, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has just 18 rushing yards on the season including sacks. Houser has started the last five weeks for the Spartans.
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