IU football game day: Indiana vs. Michigan State primer and predictions
Indiana returns from the bye with yet another top-10 challenge waiting for them.
Just 11 months removed from a shutout win at East Lansing, the Hoosiers enter Saturday’s game against Michigan State as a home underdog.
Second year coach Mel Tucker and the Spartans have flipped the script on their program with a combination of in-house development and more than 20 transfers. Meanwhile, Indiana entered the season in the top-20 but has struggled with turnovers early against a very difficult schedule. The Hoosiers will try to design their own turnaround against their fourth top-10 opponent of the season.
It’s IU and Michigan State with the Old Brass Spittoon on the line.
• Series: MSU leads 48-17-2. Indiana won the last meeting 24-0 in 2020.
Tom Allen is 26-25 (.510) in his fifth season as Indiana head football coach.
Mel Tucker is 8-5 (.615) in his second season at Michigan State. Tucker served as Colorado head coach in 2019 and carries an overall record of 13-12 (.520).
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WHEN MICHIGAN STATE HAS THE FOOTBALL
To this point MSU is a run to set up the pass offense, and it is working well.
Wake Forest transfer Kenneth Walker III is leading the nation with 912 yards (7.1 per carry) and nine touchdowns. According to PFF he has 132 more yards after contact than any other player in college football. Jordon Simmons has added 37 carries and 183 yards (4.9 per carry).
Quarterback Payton Thorne has been a revelation. He has 1,575 passing yards, the second-highest passer rating in the Big Ten, 14 touchdowns, and only two interceptions. Thorne has five touchdowns of 60-plus yards, and that is in large part due to a trio of talented receivers.
In the passing game the Spartans have three receivers with at least 20 catches. Jayden Reed (23 catches, 492 yards 5 TDs) and Jalen Nailor (23 catches, 490 yards, 6 TDs) have formed a formidable duo while Trey Mosely has added 20 catches for 310 yards.
Both the passing and running games rank in the top-40 nationally, meaning the Spartans have good balance. It won’t be easy to scheme against any specific player without Indiana leaving itself highly vulnerable elsewhere.
If there is a weakness it might be that MSU has been big play dependent. If Indiana can avoid those, they might be able to stall out the Spartans.
WHEN INDIANA HAS THE FOOTBALL
Michigan State is a bit more vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball. The Spartans’ first four FBS opponents had over 400 total yards and Rutgers got to 377 last weekend.
If IU is going to break through in this one, the passing game appears to be the path to get that done. While game flow is a contributing factor, MSU is allowing more than 300 passing yards per game.
IU has been anemic in the running game and MSU stout in that department, so it is difficult to imagine a major breakthrough there unless the Hoosiers roll out an entirely new look coming out of the bye. Nebraska managed 188 yards against he Spartans, but it took them 45 attempts to get there.
Michigan State’s weakness to this point has been its cornerbacks, who have given up big plays and haven’t tackled well on the edge. If either Ty Fryfogle or Miles Marshall were to have a breakout game after a disappointing start, this might be the day.
As has been the case each week, all eyes will be on Indiana’s quarterback. Backup Jack Tuttle is widely expected to fill in for Michael Penix, who is rehabbing a separated throwing shoulder.
If Tuttle and the Hoosiers can avoid the turnovers that have plagued them in big games they can stay in it. If IU can create multiple takeaways of their own, they can win it.
We think Tuttle will play and do just fine, and the defense will turn in a respectable effort. But an inability to consistently punch the ball into the end zone just might doom the Hoosiers in this one.
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