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INDIANA vs. MICHIGAN STATE: Game preview, odds, how-to-watch, and more

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NCAA Football: Michigan State at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Game Info / How to Watch

Who? Indiana Hoosiers (3-0 [0-0], #23 S&P+) vs. Michigan State (1-1 [0-0], #20 S&P+)

When? Saturday, 9/22 7:30 PM, Bloomington, IN

Channel? BTN

Vegas? Michigan State -4.5

S&P+ Projection? Indiana -1.5


Two years ago, I attended the Michigan State-Indiana game, sat through the rain and watched Indiana pull off what I thought was a program-changing upset. I was suckered in. I was the bird diving to my inevitable death. Indiana slid backwards that year at an almost catastrophic level and barely made a bowl game. Nothing changed.

Here we are two years later, unranked Indiana is hosting a ranked, but beatable, Spartan side in what could be a program-changing win. And I’m diving right back in.

I can tell you about how different this team is. I can tell you how different it feels this time around. We all know how little that matters when Indiana faces a ranked team.

Instead, we’ll let the numbers do the talking.

MSU 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 (#52 offense) 0.95 (122nd) 51.6% (19th) 29.4 (71st) 4.15 (96th) 1 (46th)
MICHIGAN ST. (#28 defense) 1.00 (26th) 43.2% (95th) 26.2 (34th) 4.00 (45th) 0 (62nd)
- - - - - -
MICHIGAN ST. (#34 offense) 1.14 (76th) 44.7% (54th) 27.0 (106th) 4.55 (69th) 0 (62nd)
INDIANA (#16 defense) 0.95 (17th) 36.8% (46th) 24.0 (8th) 4.33 (66th) 1 (46th)

A couple things about Indiana are becoming increasingly clear as the sample size grows. First, Indiana’s offensive line is playing out of its mind. The opportunity rate continues to hover around the current number of 52.6 percent and the sack rate ROSE to 1.1 percent this week. In return, the offense is remaining on track and efficient, even if not explosive. It’s amazing how drastically better an offense plays when the quarterback isn’t constantly being sacked the running backs aren’t being hit behind the line.

The second aspect revolves around Peyton Ramsey. I wasn’t much of a believer in Ramsey coming into the season and continued to cape in our Slack for Mike Penix into week two. But to Ramsey’s credit, he’s doing nothing to warrant being replaced. He’s been an elite game-manager this season, completing 73.7 percent of his passes and helping Indiana to a top-50 passing offense. And with a rushing offense remaining top-40 and a defense that is TOP TWENTY OVERALL, Ramsey is doing exactly what is being asked of him. I have my reservations about him in big games but so long as he continues to play at or something close to this level, he should be the starter going forward.

The Opponent

Michigan State has been wholly unimpressive through its two games. Against Utah State (#56 S&P), they survived a bit of a nail-biter in a game they should have won by more (S&P lists the adjusted margin at 10.6 points). One week later, they put forth a generally unimpressive performance against Arizona State (#55 S&P) and lost.

While coming off a bye week, Indiana is significantly better than any other opponent Michigan State has played and there’s plenty of reason to believe in an upset.

The Offense

Neither Utah State (#70 def. S&P) nor Arizona State (#47 def. S&P) are at the level of Indiana’s defense and yet Michigan State has had its struggles offensively.

Most notably, they have been putrid at running the ball. They haven’t been explosive (98th) nor efficient (91st) and most of that is chalked up to a low opportunity rate (79th). Somehow, LJ Scott is still around and is off to a rough start. While he hasn’t had many opportunities, even when he reaches the second level, he hasn’t taken advantage of it.

The Spartans are getting by right now by not turning the ball over and and maintaining a solid passing game. Like Indiana, Brian Lewerke is high on efficiency (69.4 percent completion percentage) and low on explosiveness (64th).

One week after facing a breakneck pace from Ball State, Michigan State is going to SLLLOOOWWWW it down. The Spartans are 129th in pace. The team has opted to pass versus rushing even despite having Scott which tells you how bad the offensive line has been. The sack rate of 6.5 percent is 78th in the country. Indiana’s defensive line should be able to feast on Saturday.

Overall, the offense has been mediocre for Michigan State through two games but has relied on some big plays (28th in big play rate) and avoiding third-and-longs (7th best in country). If Indiana can continue to keep the rushing game off track while limiting big plays through the air, it could be a long day for Michigan State.

The Defense

Fans of defensive showdowns should love Saturday’s game. Indiana’s top-20 defense will meet Michigan State’s top-30 defense.

Michigan State has been elite at stopping the run this season, sporting the fourth-best rushing S&P through it’s first two games. Granted, Utah State (96th rushing off.) and ASU (106th rushing off.) neither presented much of a challenge but the stats remain as such. The only area in rushing defense the Spartans don’t have an elite ranking is in explosiveness.

Through the air, though, is a different story. In the exact opposite manner, the Spartans limit explosive plays (11th) but don’t stop much else. Overall, the passing defense is 118th in S&P and 103rd in defensive passing completion rate. In passing downs, they are a below-average 74th in S&P.

The Spartans have been good at forcing long third downs for opponents with the average third down against them through two games being 3rd-and-8. They also limit big plays of 20 yards or more but haven’t had much success in forcing fourth downs (101st).

Overall, Michigan State is a vulnerable defense with plenty of holes to attack. The Spartans don’t create much havoc so the Hoosiers shouldn’t face much pressure on the night.

Things to Watch

  • Peyton Ramsey - I realize I praised Ramsey to start this article, but this is his biggest test to-date of his career. In the other games he took the field against ranked teams, Indiana was the underdog. This week, it’s as close to a 50/50 game as Indiana will have. The Spartan passing defense has holes and if Ramsey is The Guy moving forward, it’s time to make a statement.
  • Big plays from the defense - It still feels weird to write about a great Indiana defense but here we are. In front of what should be a packed house, the defense is going to be amped up. The Spartans aren’t explosive and the Michigan State offensive line is going to let Indiana into the backfield on the night. Expect the Hoosiers to rack up some sacks and force three-and-outs to keep Michigan State off schedule. A turnover or two could really turn the tide.
  • Statement game - The thing that has separated this Indiana team from its predecessors is how much this team plays like they’re a good team. Good teams win road games against non-Power 5s and good teams handle MAC programs. Now, Indiana must prove that good teams win home games. This is a golden opportunity for a multitude of reasons. Win this game and you’re well on your way to an nine-win season. This is the statement game.

Prediction

It took me three weeks but I’m sipping the kool-aid. I’m all in. I’m head over heels optimistic about this team. My soul is ready to be crushed. Indiana 28, Michigan State 17.