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Initial thoughts on Sparty.

Michigan State Spartans
2007 record: 4-2 (0-2)
2007 Sagarin: 50 (IU is #49)
2006 record: 4-8
2006 Sagarin: 80
Series: Michigan State leads, 38-15-2
Last IU win: 2006, 46-21 in Bloomington
Last MSU win: 2005, 46-15 in East Lansing
Last IU win in East Lansing: 2001 (37-28)
There are a couple of conventional schools of thought about Michigan State. The first is that MSU will start strong and collapse after some particularly gut-wrenching loss. Last year, it was the collapse against Notre Dame. This year, the vultures are circling after last week's loss to Northwestern. The other school of thought, advanced by mgoblog (I'm paraphrasing, too busy to look it up right now) is that MSU is substantially certain to be within a game of .500, but the result of any individual game is utterly unpredictable, i.e., MSU could lose to Northwestern but stomp Ohio State. I suppose that both theories work in IU's favor. If the NU game was the beginning of the fall, then IU is in the right place at the right time. If one subscribes to the "any given game" theory, then IU's status as the Vegas underdog (5-7 points, depending on who you believe) actually works in the Hoosiers' favor. Frankly, I don't know what to expect. MSU is always talented, and this will be the first non-MAC road night game in a while. The 2001 NC State game was a Thursday night game. Other than some trips to the Metrodome in the 1990s, I can't recall IU playing a true Big Ten night game (I'm not counting 3:30 games in November that end after dark). If I'm forgetting something, let me know. In any event, even if Spartan fans are a bit subdued after last week, it should be the most challenging atmosphere that IU has seen in a while.
Aside from the intangibles, how do these Spartans look? Unlike most Big Ten schools (I think Purdue and Michigan are the only others), MSU has completed its nonconference schedule. To date, MSU has played four BCS/ND teams compared to IU's three. MSU's nonconference schedule included Pitt and Notre Dame, two of the worst big-time programs this season. MSU defeated Pitt by three in East Lansing. While comparative scores are always of limited value, Pitt has two unimpressive wins and was spanked by Connecticut and Virginia. In the Big Ten, MSU lost a competitive game to Wisconsin on the road and lost to NU last week, of course. So, like IU, MSU has lost to the only above average team it has played so far.
Unfortunately, no time for stats right now. More later.