Michigan State tacks on three garbage time touchdowns in three minutes to stretch out a final score not indicative of the game's competitiveness. Here's three things to takeaway from this one:
1. Indiana could beat anyone in the country. -- if they could finish a game.
For the third straight time against a top ten opponent (Ohio State 2014, Ohio State 2015, today), Kevin Wilson's team had a big dog on the ropes. The Hoosiers were driving inside 10 minutes to play with an opportunity to take the lead -- but just couldn't keep the offensive momentum rolling. Michigan State returned fire with a clock-eating touchdown drive to take the clock inside 4 1/2 minutes, and that was effectively all she wrote. I am broken inside. I cannot feel anything. I love Indiana football and I bought the excitement and hope once again. It ended the same way as they all have previously. This Indiana is starting to show the demons of Greg Norman at Augusta in the early 90's. In three of four losses, they've had a shot to win the game in the fourth quarter. In two of those, the wheels completely came off late. If college football games were three quarters long, Indiana might very well be a one-loss, top-20 team with two top ten wins.
They aren't -- so the Hoosiers are 4-4 and need a two-game split to head to the postseason.
2. Indiana's secondary just simply can't get stops on third down.
For the vast majority of the game, Michigan State struggled to run the football mightily. They ended up with 142 yards on the game -- but many of those coming from those aforementioned garbage time touchdowns.They were able to put a good deal of pressure on Connor Cook, and were able to prevent the big run plays that killed the Hoosiers against Ohio State.
But the secondary? Yikes. Indiana's secondary is atrocious -- and there's no other way to put that at the moment. They're young -- and Cook was able to expose those gaps to the tune of a career high 398 yards and four touchdowns. Rashard Fant and Andre Brown and Jonathan Crawford will improve. But as of right now, the secondary is a massive liability for an Indiana team that might be a very, very good team with even a slightly-below average group of corners and safeties
3. Remember Indiana team that was top-ten in turnover margin? That's no more.
Indiana was able to get stops in the first five games of the season due to an ability to be opportunistic. When they're not, opponents will hang fifty. Indiana has given up 107 points in the last two games. They've caused exactly one turnover in that time frame. These things are not unrelated. If Indiana's not causing turnovers, it's beginning to look like they won't have much of a chance to win the football game in the fourth quarter.
4. Jordan Howard isn't fully healthy -- but he's still very good.
Even though he was still clearly gimpy (as Ed Cunningham kept noting over and over on the broadcast), Howard still ripped off 70+ yards on only 11 carries. The former national leader in rushing yards before his injury makes a world of difference for the Hoosiers -- but it's still clear he isn't himself. He looked downright slow on his breakaway run in the second quarter, one the UAB transfer would have normally taken to the house on a healthy ankle. If Indiana can get Howard healthy over the bye week, it could put them in a fantastic position coming into the Iowa matchup in two weeks.
5. Nate Sudfeld should be an early-round quarterback in the NFL Draft.
If Cook was the star on Saturday, Sudfeld was right there with him. Both quarterbacks put on a show in windy, poor conditions at times in East Lansing. The Modesto, California native put up 308 yards on 23-of-37 passing -- with three touchdowns. His only interception came on the first play of the game and lies completely in the hands of Ricky Jones -- who dropped a pass that hit him square in the numbers on a slant route. Mike Patrick mentioned that Sudfeld "should have a crack to make a roster." That's hardly the case -- most sites are projecting him as a middle-round pick and the accuracy he showed with a young receiving corps should push him into the conversation with Cook, Paxton Lynch, and Jared Goff to be a top pick come May 2016.
6. What the hell happened to Griffen Oakes?
Coming into Saturday, Oakes was possibly heading onto the All-Big Ten team at the end of the season. The big-legged former walk-on had only missed a single kick on the season heading into the game. Whether it was the wind, or a mechanics issue, or the turf -- that all went to hell. Oakes missed two extra points and a 42-yard field goal normally well within his range. Had he converted on all three kicks as normal, Indiana would have only trailed by a touchdown after Michigan State's first score inside 4:30 to go. Instead, the game was completely different and forced Kevin Wilson to go for it on fourth down when he could have likely punted and pinned the Spartans deep within their own territory with 3:17. Ughhhhhhh.
7. Indiana's likely going to have two more shots at Top 10 teams the next two games.
Upset over this one? Still want that big signature win for the Kevin Wilson era? Rest assured, there's still plenty of time left on the schedule to get it. #12 Iowa and #15 Michigan come to Bloomington on back-to-back weekends after the bye -- and with just a little attrition in the current Top 10 -- the Hoosiers will have a shot to be giant-killers once again. However, Indiana's high-octane offense won't be catching teams off guard anymore and they'll need much better work in the secondary to have a chance.
What happens if you lose both of those? It'll be a two-game season at Maryland and Purdue to get to 6-6 and a bowl game.