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Indiana at Michigan State: game preview, stats, odds, kickoff time, tv, and more

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The Hoosiers take the Brass Spittoon up to East Lansing and the Spartans are hoping to make them leave it there.

Michigan State v Minnesota Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Game Info / How to Watch

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (3-3 [0-3], #44 S&P+) at Michigan State Spartans (5-1 [3-0], #20 S&P+)

When? Saturday, 10/21 3:30 PM, East Lansing, Michigan

Channel? ABC

Vegas? MICHIGAN STATE -6.5

S&P+ Projection? MICHIGAN STATE 26.8 - 18.9


There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Indiana’s start to the conference season has been about as brutal as one can manufacture, and after this weekend’s road trip, things are going to lighten up CONSIDERABLY.

AVERAGE S&P+ RATING:

  • Indiana’s first four B1G opponents: 10.0
  • Indiana’s last five B1G opponents: 68.2

That’s a stark difference, and even that second figure is buoyed quite a bit by the presence of Wisconsin (6th S&P+). Strip out the Badgers and the average S&P+ rating of 80% of the Hoosiers’ schedule after this week is 83.8! That’s essentially playing an average G5 conference schedule.

I say all that to build to this point: things are going to get easier ... next week.

FIVE FACTORS

- Explosiveness (86%) Efficiency (83%) Field Position (75%) Finishing Drives (72%) Turnover Margin (73%)
- Explosiveness (86%) Efficiency (83%) Field Position (75%) Finishing Drives (72%) Turnover Margin (73%)
INDIANA (#90 offense) 1.06 (104th) 38.4% (104th) 29.4 (72nd) 4.46 (67th) -9 (123rd)
MICHIGAN STATE (#9 defense) .095 (3rd) 34.0% (14th) 27.5 (29th) 4.05 (45th) 0 (59th)
- - - - - -
MICHIGAN STATE (#78 offense) 1.12 (92nd) 40.9% (78th) 30.5 (54th) 4.19 (87th) 0 (59th)
INDIANA (#22 defense) 0.99 (9th) 38.2% (39th) 29.1 (67th) 4.67 (88th) -9 (123rd)

Do you love big plays? Do you love exciting offenses scoring a WHOLE BUNCH OF POINTS?!

Then do not watch this game.

I have to type this out just to help me believe it myself, but your INDIANA HOOSIERS are currently sporting a top-25 defense and an increasingly terrible offense (ranked 90th and dropping) which is almost impossible to fathom given how the last few seasons have gone in Bloomington. Michigan State is dealing with the same absurd splits, but their defense is in the top-10.

PASSING

SURPRISE! The Spartans passing offense isn’t terrible. Their 10th overall, with high marks for efficiency and sack rate (35th and 39th, respectively) but miserable at hitting big plays through the air (116th). The outsider question of the moment for the Spartans is whether it would help their offense to throw the ball more (currently top-30 in amount of running plays called in both passing and standard down situations) or if the passing offense is efficient because they don’t lean on it.

Sophomore Brian Lewerke is running the show, currently completing 60.1% of his passes for 1,177 yards, and 9 touchdowns against 3 interceptions, all fine numbers but his 6.4 yards per attempt is dragging his overall production down. The ball isn’t getting distributed all that evenly, with junior Felton Davis III (24 / 300 / 4) and sophomore Darrell Stewart Jr. (21 / 237 / 1) receiving nearly half of the team’s targets to date. It’s a similar distribution to Indiana, who also have a similar amount of targets gobbled up by Simmie Cobbs Jr. and Luke Timian. Both Davis and Stewart have great size for the position and could create issues for an Indiana secondary that is likely to be missing Marcelino Ball and A’Shon Riggins for yet another game.

The Spartans do an excellent job of keeping their QB upright, and if Indiana can’t get pressure on Lewerke, the secondary might not be able to hold up as well as it has in the past and give Michigan State the opportunity to hit on big plays downfield. But it remains to be seen if that’s something State would even look to exploit given their offensive footprint in the first half of the season.

RUSHING

Given State’s commitment to running the ball, one would deduce that they’re rather good at it, however the numbers paint a different story. They’re 73rd overall, dragged down by a horrendous success rate (38.6%, 98th) and while they’re doing well in the explosiveness department (22nd), a lack of opportunities to even reach the second level (104th in opportunity rate) tampers the benefit considerably. In fact, only three teams in the country are getting stuffed for no gain or less more often than the Spartans.

LJ Scott, now in what seems to be his eleventh year at Michigan State (and holy hell he’s still only a junior how is this even possible), leads the backfield with 83 carries, turning in 408 yards and a score. He’s a typical Spartan running back, he’s going to get the ball a lot and power through for a handful of yards, but isn’t a dynamic threat in the second level. He’s had a fumbling issue this season, putting the ball on the dirt three times.

Fellow junior Madre London has 57 carries, 229 yards and a score as well, with even worse explosiveness numbers than LJ Scott. When Michigan State does get big plays out of their run game, their typically coming from either their quarterback (Lewerke has 52 rushes for 350 yards and 3 scores, averaging 7.2 yards once he reaches the second level) and wide receiver Darrell Stewart Jr. has 15 rushes for 114 yards, picking up a mind-boggling 12.9 yards once he’s passed the first level. This is where the back-breakers are likely to come from. If Indiana can’t contain the QB or get to the boundary on jet sweeps / reverses, the Spartans can make you pay dearly.

DEFENSE

Michigan State is lead on defense by a host of (mostly) young, budding stars, starting up front with two highly-talented linebackers, sophomore Joe Bachie (36.5 tackles, 7 sacks/TFL and 8 run stuffs) and senior Chris Frey (17 tackles, 7.5 sacks/TFL and 9 run stuffs). Sophomore defensive end Kenny Willekes has been unblockable for stretches, compiling 10 TFL/sacks and 9 run stuffs so far while (yet another) sophomore, safety David Dowell has two interceptions and three passes defensed on the back end.

Through the first half of the season, opponents have just avoided trying to run the ball on the Spartans (104th in Standard Downs Run Rate, 86th in Passing Downs), and for good reason. Michigan state is 6th against the run, doing a wonderful job of keeping teams off schedule and limiting big plays. In fact, only four teams in the country are better at limiting big plays on the ground.

But it’s not as if passing is much easier, even if it is the preferred approach for teams so far. They’re 11th overall and 18th in sack rate, for a team that struggles to move the ball and, in particular, struggles to hold up in protection, there’s not a lot of obvious optimism to be found for Hoosier fans in Michigan State’s statistical profile.

THREE THINGS

  • Turnovers turnovers turnovers: The Hoosier defense simply has to find a way to get their hands on the ball. They’re a tremendously sound unit and they’re doing it all without the benefit of turnovers (one pick, two forced fumbles). In games like last week and this week, where the offense is likely to be overmatched by a stout defense, Indiana’s best unit has to take matters into their own hands and provide short fields, or even scores of their own, to keep them in it.
  • Passing down prowess: Indiana’s defense is #1 in the country on passing downs. You read that correctly, when opponents are in passing situations, there has been no one better than Indiana at defending them. 1st in success rate, 3rd in explosiveness, 30th in yards per carry and 22nd in sack rate. The key for Indiana is getting State into passing down situations, which is far easier said than done. The Spartans use their running game to stay on schedule, but if the Hoosiers can hold up at the point of attack and force 2nd / 3rd and long, it should be a comfortable situation for Hoosier fans, if such a thing exists.
  • Be prepared on third down: State’s offense is 8th in the country on 3rd down, largely a by-product of their commitment to staying on schedule on first and second down, frequently leaving them out of 3rd and long situations and giving them a wide open playbook to move the chains. Just like in the last bullet point, 1st and 2nd down play will be critical for the Hoosiers in getting the Spartans off the field.

PREDICTION

I would expect a hard fought, low-scoring affair on the road for the Hoosiers. It’s difficult to predict a victory over a talented opponent playing in their own stadium, and I’m not about to do that. SPARTANS: 19, Hoosiers: 10