So we march into homecoming week on the back of two losses. One in close fashion that probably shouldn't have been a loss and one in embarrassing fashion as Northwestern's non-traditional defense had its way with the Indiana defense. Such is life. I was truly at a loss for words when trying to come up with an expectation for the Northwestern game. I knew they had some interesting wrinkles and I still wasn't sure what to think of the defenses capabilities. Strangely that isn't the case for this week's game against a team that was thought to be a preseason national championship contender.
No it isn't because I believe Northwestern is better than Michigan State or that Michigan State will manhandle the Hoosiers. My opinion is that Indiana will actually keep this closer than what it should be. At -15.5 I think the Vegas line is about perfect. If you ask me, I'm going to take the points. Not because I think IU's defense is going to be improved enough to prove people wrong. Or that I think Michigan State's defense is going to struggle where IU can put up big points. I actually believe this will be a battle of teams that screw up the least.
Starting with the defense, Indiana has got to generate more push on the line. Without any sort of pass rush it is leaving the IU secondary hanging out to dry. A DB's job in football isn't to keep your man from getting open, it is to keep him from getting open for 5 seconds or so. Asking any more of that and the odds of success drop greatly. Purely for the fact that the WR/TE knows what he's doing. The DB is guessing. Unfortunately for IU's DBs they're having to lock down coverage for much longer than necessary and they just aren't capable of doing it.
Luckily, much like with the Northwestern game, the IU secondary has pretty strong hands. I'm looking for a repeat performance from the Hoosiers defense this week when it comes to turnovers. Though looking better last Saturday MSU QB Andrew Maxwell has looked quite off at times. His rhythm and timing with his receivers are a big reason the Spartans only average 237 passing yards a game. Even worse they don't counter very well with the run. Gaining only 147 on the ground per game. I expect the Hoosiers to come out and show a much better performance on D this week. Let's say, hold Michigan State under 30. With less than 450 yards of total offense. If IU can do that on defense then they give the offense a chance to pull the upset.
On offense, I'm a little less certain on what I want. I know it is probably too early to do this to a QB in his career. Especially since he is a first year guy, but I'd rather see Nate Sudfeld get a majority of the snaps over Cam Coffman. Coffman has looked OK in his play at QB, but Sudfeld seems more capable at this point of finding an offensive rhythm for the Hoosiers and sustaining it for long drives. Too often Coffman drives smother out before they get the chance to burn.
On the offensive line I expect the young Hoosiers to hold their own. Michigan State's strength is its defense but they have struggled applying pressure much like the Hoosiers. The hurry up offense should aid in keeping pressure off the QBs. I'll allow the line one sack but that is it. MSU has only recorded 4 on the season and I don't want to see that number double.
The Hoosiers should be able to move the ball OK but don't expect any chance of winning a shootout. MSU is still a very good defensive team that just lacks some cohesiveness. I really see a lot of IU in their own problems. Struggling to get pressure on the QB (albeit against much better competition), still trying to discover that QB to WR mojo on offense and finding holes for the RB in the offensive line are all issues MSU is dealing with. So far they've been able to handle it much better with a greater depth of talent. Hopefully, IU can do some of these things right to keep that talent gap from playing out on Saturday.