Off to a decent start, Indiana will try again for its first Big Ten win of the season when the Hoosiers head to East Lansing to take on the Michigan State Spartans. After losing 51-10 at home to Ohio State on Sept. 14, IU bounced back with a decisive 38-3 victory over UConn last Saturday to improve to 3-1 on the season.
Unfortunately, the win came at a big cost to the Hoosiers. Coy Cronk, Indiana's senior starting left tackle, suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Indiana head coach Tom Allen said of the injury, "Not career-ending so he'll bounce back, but just tough break for him and love that guy, just everything he brings to our program and has brought to our program as one of our captains, one of our leaders."
On the other side, Michigan State also bounced back from a disappointing loss by taking care of business on the road. The Spartans fell 10-7 at home to Arizona State on Sept. 14 but rebounded in a big way with a convincing 31-10 victory over Northwestern in Evanston last Saturday. The win was head coach Mark Dantonio's 110th at the school, the most in program history. Dantonio quickly credited his supporting cast, stating, "Can't get there without players, guys. Can't get there without coaches. You can't get there without past players and current players. This is a very special group of players that we have, I really believe that... It's a special group of people, and I do think you win with chemistry. You always have a chance if you've got chemistry."
Indiana at Michigan State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 28 at 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Michigan State -14
When Indiana Has The Ball
Indiana is being coy with the identity of its starting quarterback. Michael Penix Jr. has missed the last two games due to an undisclosed injury, with Peyton Ramsey capably filling in during Penix's absence. Tom Allen has said it will be a game-time decision on who gets the start. "I've been on that side of it as well, when you're not sure who it's going to be," he said earlier this week. "And we truly, I truly stand right here in front of you and tell you I don't know who it's going to be. So they don't, either, so I guess that may give us a little bit of an advantage."
Michigan State defensive coordinator Mike Tressel chimed in on the mystery, saying "So there's obviously a debate in the room... 'OK, who would we rather see at quarterback? Who don't we want to see at quarterback?' And people go both ways, because both of them have the talent... Knowing Ramsey does help you prepare a little bit, but you also recognize that this guy is good and he knows where to go with the football. And if we're not really on top of our game, in terms of disguise and some of those things, he can pick you apart."
Whoever ends up at quarterback he will need to try and make some plays because the Spartans have given up little on the ground. Michigan State enters this game third in the nation against the run, allowing a scant 52.3 rushing yards per game and just 1.7 yards per carry.
When Michigan State Has the Ball
After struggling to develop any type of offensive consistency against Arizona State, the Spartans put up 31 points in the win over Northwestern as Brian Lewerke tossed three touchdown passes. Freshman Elijah Collins has given the running game some juice, as he leads the team and is third in the Big Ten with 357 rushing yards in four games. He also has shown himself to be durable with 61 carries already.
Indiana has done a serviceable job against the run, but the 127.3 rushing yards per game allowed actually places the Hoosiers ninth in the Big Ten in that department. IU has fared a little better against the pass (167.5 ypg, fourth in the conference), but must be wary of Lewerke trying to making something happen when he drops back. His favorite target in the early going has been senior wide receiver Darrell Stewart Jr., who is tops in the Big Ten in both receptions (30) and receiving yards (439).
Both teams come into this game at 3-1, but Michigan State's defense should be able to capitalize upon the absence of starting left tackle Coy Cronk. With a weakened Indiana offensive line facing a strong Spartan defensive front, Mark Dantonio's team should be able to move to 2-0 in Big Ten play.