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Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan State Spartans Preview and Prediction


Who will show up for this contest, the "same old Spartans" from the past or the recent "new and improved Spartans" of the previous eight seasons? From 1970 through 2006, after Michigan State defeated Michigan, the Spartans struggled to win the next game, going 4-4 in those following matches. During head coach Mark Dantonio's tenure, his teams have won five out of six times after having defeated their archrivals in the previous game.

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In September, Indiana was rolling toward a bowl game. Once the Hoosiers started the Big Ten portion of their schedule started, they hit some obstacles. They followed up a gutsy loss at home against Ohio State by being dominated at Penn State. Last week, they built up a 52-33 lead on Rutgers in the third quarter only to let the game slip away in the fourth.

Michigan State leads the overall series 45-13-2. In East Lansing, the Spartans dominate the series 24-5-1. Michigan State has won 15 of the 17 most recent matches against Indiana.

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Indiana at Michigan State

Kickoff:  3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ABC/ESPN2
Spread: Indiana +16.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Which Indiana offense arrives in East Lansing?

In six out of seven games, the Hoosiers gained at least 400 yards on offense. They averaged 38.7 points in those games. Can they repeat that against the Spartan defense who has given up an average of 397.3 yards?

However, the week after Indiana lost a nail-biting heartbreaker at home versus the top-ranked Buckeyes, they sputtered, only managing to gain 234 yards and score seven points at Penn State. Was that one clunker in Happy Valley just an outlier? Will they struggle in similar fashion after last week's gut-wrenching loss at home then traveling for the following game?

2. Repeated Spartan gaffes versus solid Hoosier efforts in the kicking game

Michael Geiger has missed four of nine field goals, all of those less than 40 yards in distance, in addition to shanking an extra point. The coverage teams have allowed an average of 20.7 yards per kickoff and 16.1 yards per punt. Opponents have returned a kickoff and a punt return for touchdowns.

Of the three Hoosier kick returners who have at least six returns, they have averaged more than 17 yards per return. The only Hoosier who has returned punts, Mitchell Paige, has averaged 12.1 yards per return in addition to scoring a touchdown. Griffin Oakes has been nearly perfect, connecting all 29 extra points and ten out of eleven field goals.

3. Responses to highly emotional finishes last week

The Spartans snatched an inexplicable victory from the collective maw of the Wolverines. Michigan State won in Ann Arbor in a manner that no football fan should ever expect to see in a lifetime full of watching thousands of games. How long will the players and coaches need to calm down from the exhilaration to focus on the rest of season?

Like Michigan, Indiana also allowed its opponent to score the winning points as time expired last week. The game-winning field goal capped a string of 22 unanswered points in the fourth quarter for Rutgers. Indiana allowed three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes though the Hoosiers did manage to thwart a two-point conversion and block an extra point. Can the Hoosiers put that blown opportunity behind them in order to focus on the trip to East Lansing?

Final Analysis

Both teams' goals are still within their control. Michigan State can still win the Big Ten Eastern Division to head to the conference championship game with hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff after winning that. Indiana only needs two victories in its five remaining games to go to a bowl game.

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Viewers should expect another uninspired and sloppy performance by the Spartans. The Hoosiers will play with a nothing-to-lose attitude. The guys in crimson will remain pesky far into the fourth quarter. The teams will trade scores. However, the Hoosiers settling for a few field goals will be their downfall.

Prediction: Michigan State 35, Indiana 31

— Written by John La Fleur, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network. A graduate of Michigan State and LSU, La Fleur also has been a Saints fan since he was old enough to understand football. Follow him on Twitter @FBConnoisseur.