IU, MSU set to light up scoreboard
Who: Indiana vs. No. 7 Michigan State
When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Spartan Stadium, Michigan State
Spread: Michigan State -16.5
Matchup to watch: Shilique Calhoun vs. Jason Spriggs
Priority No. 1 for Indiana right now has to be protecting Nate Sudfeld. Without him, IU’s season is over, as is Kevin Wilson’s tenure in Bloomington. Spriggs has been as reliable as they come at the left tackle position and Calhoun has been as menacing as they come at the defensive end position. Calhoun is savvy against even the veterans like Spriggs. The fifth-year MSU senior is more than a pass-rusher, too. He can easily take over the game getting off blocks and blowing up Devine Redding/Jordan Howard in the backfield. The Spartans could move Calhoun around if Spriggs is isolating him, though we’ll likely see a combination of Hoosiers handling the MSU end.
Thing I’m excited to see: A shootout
All signs point to this one being a high-flying, high-scoring affair based on two simple factors. Connor Cook and Nate Sudfeld can sling it, and neither secondary is particularly stout. Sudfeld nearly set the IU record for passing yards in his first game back from injury last week. He made some mistakes down the stretch, but he still put forth an effort that should’ve been more than enough to win. Against Michigan State’s 73rd-ranked pass defense, he should be in for another big day. Cook could be in for an even bigger day. He’s facing an IU secondary that ranks second-to-last in FBS in passing yards and allowed nearly 400 yards to Chris Laviano. Nobody in IU’s defensive backfield can match up with Aaron Burbridge or Macgarrett Kings Jr. As long as Cook has time, there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to light up the scoreboard. Given how both of these secondaries have looked against better quarterbacks, the over/under of 62.5 is ridiculously low. Give me the over.
Number to remember: 456
That’s how many penalty yards IU surrendered this year. IU ranks 108th in FBS in penalties and has given nearly double the yardage away Michigan State has. The Hoosiers cannot afford to give the MSU offense any free opportunities. The pass interference calls, the pre-snap miscues, the holding penalties can’t happen if IU wants any shot at going into East Lansing and stunning the No. 7 Spartans. For IU to put Michigan State on its heels, it’s going to have to get a few big plays in the backfield from Nick Mangieri or Zack Shaw. Cook converts third downs in his sleep, and if IU doesn’t put the nation’s winningest quarterback in long yardage situations, he’ll string touchdown drives together all afternoon.
Prediction: Michigan State 45, Indiana 35
Call me crazy, but I don’t see MSU slowing down IU’s offense. Nor do I see the opposite happening. What will be interesting will be how much emphasis both teams put on establishing the ground game early. If Howard is back, you can expect IU run a whole lot more than it did last week. MSU, on the other hand, might just be content to air it out. The Spartans only rushed for 2.5 yards per carry in the last two weeks and if Madre London is still banged up, Dantonio could let Cook throw it 40 times. IU’s inability to stop the pass in the second half, ultimately, will be what allows Michigan State to distance itself down the stretch and head into the bye at 8-0.