Michigan State Spartans
2012 record: 3-2 (0-1)
2011 record: 11-3 (7-1), beat Georgia in Outback Bowl
2011 Sagarin: 18 (IU was 139)
2012 Sagarin: 31 (IU is 89)
Coach: Mark Dantonio (6th season, 47-25)
Series: Michigan State leads 41-15-2
Last MSU win: 11/19/2011 (55-3 in East Lansing)
Last Indiana win: 10/28/2006 (46-21 in Bloomington)
Gametime: noon Saturday
TV: BTN (Kevin Kugler, Chris Martin, John Jansen)
Radio: IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Buck Suhr, Joe Smith)
Line: MSU by 15.5
Blog: The Only Colors
Game notes: Indiana, Michigan State
It's not entirely obvious why the Spittoon series started, and other than IU's games against Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State, IU's .276 winning percentage against the Spartans is IU's worst against a Big Ten opponent. The two teams haven't played a one-possession game since 1998 (IU is 2-7 in the last nine games against MSU). Even the most memorable game in series history, the 1987 game, which essentially was a play-in game for the Rose Bowl bid, was a 27-3 yawner (no thanks to the late Dave Schnell's bout with appendicitis). If there is a glimmer of hope, however, it's that the last three games in Bloomington have been interesting or better for IU.
- 2008: Michigan State 42, Indiana 29: The 2008 Hoosiers were bad, bad, but a nice game against a respectable Spartan team was a one of IU's better showings. IU hung around nearly the entire game, and perhaps the most Hoosierish moment of the day was what would have been a go-ahead, 97-yard touchdown nullified by holding in the end zone, which is a safety.
- 2006: Indiana 46, Michigan State 21: This was the most thorough beatdown of a Big Ten team I have seen the Hoosiers administer since the early 1990s. IU outgained MSU 446-215, and led 44-7 before the Spartans added a couple of garbage time touchdowns. Kellen Lewis threw five touchdown passes, including four to James Hardy. This game is a bittersweet memory. It was great fun to watch, but it also makes me wonder what might have been if Terry Hoeppner hadn't gotten sick.
- 2004: Michigan State 30, Indiana 20. This game was one of many frustrating losses in Gerry Dinardo's third and final season in Bloomington. It was one of five Big Ten games that IU led in the second half, yet IU finished 1-7 in the league. IU led 20-7 at halftime, keyed by a Lance Bennett punt return for a touchdown, but the Hoosiers couldn't do anything in the second half.
So, while the series is and always has been lopsidedly in favor of MSU, the Hoosiers have been competitive with the Spartans in Bloomington in the last decade. Does that tell us anything about 2012? Probably not. The Michigan State program has come a long way since then. Still, the Spartans, a trendy BCS title game pick before the season, have struggled to score points and are 3-2, with home losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State. The Spartans aren't quite as fearsome as they looked before the season, but their defense seems to be as expected, so this will be an important test for IU's offense. While MSU has played a much tougher schedule than IU, this will be a strength against strength, weakness against weakness matchup. MSU is #79 in FBS in total offense and #9 in total defense. IU is #17 in total offense and #93 in total defense.
More as the week continues.