Game Info / How to Watch
Who? Indiana Hoosiers (3-1, #36 SP+) at Michigan State (3-1, #14 SP+)
Where? Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, MI
When? Saturday, Sep. 28, 3:30 p.m.
Vegas? Michigan State -14
SP+ Projection? Michigan State by 7.3 (26-18, rounded), 66 percent chance of Michigan State victory
Stop me if you’ve heard this before but Indiana heads into the meat of the Big Ten season against a Michigan State team that has shown vulnerability. A win could be seen as a breakthrough for Indiana.
It’s a song and dance that has been played out multiple times in recent years for the Hoosiers and the situation is presenting itself once again on Saturday. If Indiana wins, the #9WINDIANA jokes suddenly become a real possibility and bowl hopes become very real.
Michigan State is a typical Spartan side this season with each side of the ball exaggerated versions of themselves.
On offense, Brian Lewerke is in year 70 as Michigan State quarterback and is largely the player he’s been for many years now. He’s a strong-armed quarterback who struggles in a lot of other places. When it’s going well, he can throw for 314 yards against Western Michigan with three touchdowns. When it’s going poorly, he can throw for 192 yards on 37 attempts against Tulsa.
Darrell Stewart, Jr., has not only been Lewerke’s favorite target, he’s basically been his only target. Of his 86 completions, 30 have gone to Stewart, Jr.. Of his 1025 yards, 439 have gone to Stewart, Jr. Cody White is second in both receptions (16) and yards (190). No other receiver has double-digit catches or triple-digit yards.
The difference this season for Michigan State is that L.J. Scott and his many talented predecessors in the backfield are no longer around and the run game has struggled. The Western Michigan game aside, the Spartans have rushed for 108, 113 and 112 yards in their other three games this fall.
Elijah Collins has 357 yards on 61 carries through the opening four games with just two scores. No other player has more than 79 yards and that belongs to Connor Heyward, last season’s leading rusher.
The offense is a work in progress at best and should allow Indiana to stay in the game.
Defensively, though, the Spartans are elite. They’re the elite of the elite. According to S&P+, Michigan State has the best defense in the nation. Better than Alabama, better than Clemson, better than the Ohio State team that gave Indiana fits two weeks ago.
In three of the four games this season, Michigan State has held opponents under 270 yards. Aside from the Arizona State game in which they had zero turnovers, the defense has forced three turnovers each game. Notably, the secondary has picked off six passes through four games.
What To Watch
- Penix or Ramsey? - One quarterback gives Indiana a really good chance to win this game. The other doesn’t. If Penix is able to start, Indiana is going to have a puncher’s chance. Penix’s arm will always be important but his mobility behind a jumbled offensive line will be more important on Saturday
- Peyton Hendershot - Two weeks ago, Western Michigan tight end Giovanni Ricci finished with six catches for 53 yards and a score and exploited a potential weakness in the Michigan State defense. Hendershot has burst onto the scene this season and regardless of the quarterback, expect him to be targeted heavily.
- Offensive line - It goes without saying that the offensive line will be under a microscope this week. Even under ideal circumstances, they’ll be going against a Spartan defense that has 14.5 sacks through four games. With Coy Cronk out for the season, ideal circumstances have flown out of the window. A poor showing could spell disaster for Indiana.
My heart really wants to believe in #9WINDIANA. My head knows how this ends for Indiana. I expect a rock fight with a bizarre scoreline. Michigan State 19, Indiana 17.