Big Ten football is here, and Indiana will kick things off on Saturday night with a prime time marquee match-up against one of the conference elites, Michigan State. The Spartans are 1-1 on the young season and are coming off a bye week.
Michigan State started the season with a too-close-for-comfort home win over Utah State (38-31), and then lost a heartbreaker on the road to Arizona State (13-16). As one of the more experienced teams in the country, the choppy start has been somewhat of a disappointment for MSU and their fans.
Today we take a look at what the Michigan State media is saying about Indiana and Saturday night’s big game.
STRENGTH AGAINST STRENGTH
The Detroit Free Press notes that Indiana has transformed itself into a running team — but that will be playing right into the strength of Michigan State. Interestingly, the Spartans’ weakness in its first two games has been another reliable option for Indiana — the short pass. Here is how the Free Press summed it up.
And it also means Indiana will have a decision to make when No. 23 MSU arrives Saturday night. Try to penetrate the strength of the Spartans — their run defense is ranked No. 1 in the nation — or attempt to pluck them apart via the pass like the Aggies and Sun Devils did during the first two weeks.
Indiana’s playcalling will be interesting to watch in this one. Do they abandon the run or do they go with what has worked thus far — balance? Indiana has run the ball 133 times and passed it 91 times this year, but much of that imbalance relates to protecting leads late in games. Look for the formula to shift on Saturday more towards the pass.
DINGED UP SPARTANS
While Michigan State is one of the more experienced teams in the country, and coming off a bye week, they are still dealing with an inordinately high number of injuries.
MLive has the latest injury report. What’s interesting here is that several of the injuries are in an area that the Spartans figure to exploit the Hoosiers. Michigan State excels at running the football, and thus far IU has struggled to put up much resistance in that area. MSU is dealing with injuries with its starting running back (preseason all-Big Ten L.J. Scott) and two starting offensive linemen.
Part of the Spartans’ early struggles have been against the pass, and to the extent that injuries are a contributing factor, those issues won’t be remedied by Saturday night. Senior cornerback Tyson Smith is out for the season after playing in all 13 games last year, and Josiah Scott, a freshman All-American last year, still has a couple weeks to go before he is ready to return.
Here is what MLive said about Scott:
Sophomore returning starting cornerback Josiah Scott, who missed the first two games of the season, has not returned to practice yet, Dantonio said Tuesday. He suffered an apparent leg injury and will miss about two months, Dantonio announced on Aug. 6. If the two-month timetable is accurate, Josiah Scott will miss about the first four games of the season.
MARK DANTONIO ON THE HOOSIERS
Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio gave his thoughts on the Hoosiers this week, including Tom Allen, Peyton Ramsey, Stevie Scott, Jonathan Crawford and more.
It is interesting to note that Dantonio and the Spartans are well aware of Reese Taylor and especially his passing ability — something they are likely looking for when he has the ball.
PREDICTING THE SCORE
On their “Spartan Speak” podcast, Lansing State Journal columnist Graham Couch and Detroit Free Press Michigan State beat writer Chris Solari joined producer Phil Friend — and each predicted the final score of Saturday night’s game. All three see the game being close, but all three ultimately predict a Spartan victory.
- Graham Couch:
Michigan State 27
- Chris Solari:
Michigan State 21
- Phil Friend:
Michigan State 20
This is likely just the kind of game that Indiana is looking for — where one big play late in the contest could shift things their way. We’ll have our full game primer and prediction tomorrow.
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