Look, we've got three months of no IU athletics, so let's take this time to preview the Hoosiers' opponents for this upcoming football season. Each week until the season, we'll be going through the opponents one by one and looking at whatever we find interesting and/or hilarious about them. And as always, the kick was good. This week: SPARTY, NO!
GAME 4: MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
Last year's record: 12-2
2015 Final F/+ Ranking: 9
Head Coach: Mark Dantonio
Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
When: October 1, 8:00 pm, BTN
1. All of the lights
Last year, Michigan State made the College Football Playoff. They promptly put up a bagel against Alabama in their CFP semifinal, but overall, it was a successful season for an experienced Michigan State team, led by QB Connor Cook. Now, Cook and many other veterans are gone, and this is a rebuilding year for a team that has a total record 36-5 in its past three seasons.
This year, Indiana has a great chance to take advantage of an MSU team that could take a step back.
The Hoosiers host Michigan State in their Big Ten opener on October 1, and the game will be under the lights at Memorial Stadium, so expect a fired-up crowd for this one. The game will come after Michigan State plays two very tough contests - a renewal of their rivalry at Notre Dame, as well as their own B1G opener against Wisconsin - so the possibility of a letdown might also be in play for Michigan State. Yes, Indiana has to replace their two biggest weapons on offense this season as well. But if you're looking for a potential upset special on the Indiana calendar, the circumstances around this one make it a possibility.
2. The most disgusting rivalry trophy is up for grabs
Everyone knows about the Old Oaken Bucket, but let's learn about the IU-MSU rivalry trophy, called the Old Brass Spittoon.
A spittoon is literally a pot for people to spit in. That's right. And it's made of brass, which I doubt is easy to clean after all these years. In a conference that also has an axe, a pig, a top hat, a turtle, a little brown jug, and $5 bits of broken chair, the spittoon earns is place as the most disgusting of its B1G rivalry trophy brethren.
A good story actually exists, from the Allentown Morning Call a few years ago, of how this rivalry trophy became A Thing:
In 1950, McDermott was the junior class president at Michigan State College and a favorite of Spartans football coach Clarence "Biggy" Munn.
The team had just scored a 36-33 win over Notre Dame to improve to 5-1 and rise to No. 13 in the national rankings.
"We expected a big letdown. Indiana was better at the time than they are now," McDermott recalled. "As president of the junior class, I had a little leverage. So our secretary, Virginia O'Brien, and I walked into this antique shop in Lansing looking for some sort of trophy to give to the winner. She wasn't wild about my choice, but I said the guys will love it."
Trophy in tow, McDermott contacted the student council at Indiana and received a telegram that read, "We, the students of Indiana University, hereby accept your challenge."
Anyway my point is, the more things change, the more Indiana football is still the same the letdown game that top B1G schools fear. But with all the built up saliva in this trophy throughout the years, it may be a blessing in disguise for Indiana that MSU holds a 45-15-2 all-time advantage in this trophy. Last year, Indiana had MSU on the ropes in East Lansing before the Spartans scored 24 straight fourth-quarter points en route to a 52-26 blowout.
3. Can we take a moment to appreciate last year’s B1G title game?
The low-scoring, ground-game-heavy, old-school B1G title game between Michigan State and Iowa was one of my favorite games of last year. The undefeated Hawkeyes had taken the lead thanks to what was probably the only long pass thrown in the game - a 70-yard touchdown bomb to start the fourth quarter. With just over nine minutes to go, Sparty got the ball back deep in their own territory. They then ran 22 plays for 82 yards over 9:04 of game clock, ending with LJ Scott's lunge across the goal line with 27 seconds to go, to give Michigan State the 16-13 victory.
So while I usually prefer high-scoring affairs like the 45-40 national title game (or most IU games) any day of the week, I'll admit that the drama and the chess match that unfolded in that B1G title game was captivating.
4. With Harbaugh and Meyer in a B1G East arms race, is Mark Dantonio's wildly successful tenure in East Lansing sustainable?
Under Dantonio, Michigan State has won at least 11 games in five of the past six seasons. They've also won three B1G titles, a division title, a Rose Bowl, and have a CFP berth during this time frame. In this decade, he has brought Michigan State back to level of success of their glory days of the 1950s and 1960s - something that not even Nick Saban was able to do.
However, Dantonio accomplished this while his team's in-state rival went through the RichRod and Brady Hoke eras (he's won 7 of the past 8 against the Wolverines), and also while Ohio State dealt with the effects of Tattoogate. But Urban Meyer already has a national title in Columbus, and with Jim Harbaugh winning the hearts of recruits in unconventional ways, the challenge for MSU is if they can keep up the success without taking the arms race approach that their Big Ten East rivals are. Last year, it worked - the Spartans beat both teams on the road in the closing seconds and even beat OSU without Connor Cook. But those annual 11-win seasons might be harder to attain from now on.
5. Let's hear from our readers
We asked you guys what you thought of Sparty. You obliged:
@crimsonquarry The MSU internet community has a non-ironic crush on Zander Diamont.— Breslin Birds (@BreslinBirds) June 26, 2016
Take MSU out of that tweet and you're still correct.
@crimsonquarry 38-0— Tyler Conaway (@TyConaway) June 26, 2016
SEC OWNS THE BIG TEN PAWWWWLLLL ROLL TIDE
@crimsonquarry it's bad— Bauncey Chillups (@_ac616) June 26, 2016
Unlike the kick, which was good.
@crimsonquarry check this out: Stichigan Mate— harambe respecter (@Brohan_Cruyff) June 26, 2016
The CQ Summer Preview Series will run every week, focusing on a different 2016 Indiana Football opponent each time. Next up: THE Ohio State University