Michigan State football: 5 very specific predictions for Spartans vs. Indiana
Often times, if they’re done by the right people, prediction pieces are generally in the ballpark. But what fun is just being in the ballpark? Hitting forecasts on the nose with pinpoint accuracy is where the prediction crowd wants to be at the end of the day.
No. 10 Michigan State (6-0) at Indiana (2-3) … this one seems almost too easy. Michigan State has dominated this series since the days of single-bar helmets. Indiana snagged a nice 24-0 win last season in East Lansing, but that was just a rare burst by the Hoosiers, who trail the series 48-17-2.
As a rule, the Spartans spank the Hoosiers.
Since 2001, MSU has scored 50 points or more 5 times, and at least 30 points 14 times.
During that same span, IU has won 4 games and scored more than 30 points just 3 times. They won 37-28 in 2001, 46-21 in 2006, 24-21 OT in 2016 and 24-0 in 2020, which just so happened to be their only win in East Lansing this century. In one of their better efforts in the series, the Hoosiers lost 40-31 in 2019 at Spartan Stadium.
Currently, oddsmakers are giving the Hoosiers 4.5 points entering Saturday. The odds opened with MSU at -3.5 but that jumped by the time midweek rolled around. The total points, per The Lines, are set at 48.5 for the time being.
It could be a tight one, but recent history suggests that Michigan State will win by least 2 touchdowns and there will be more than 50 points scored. The Hoosiers will get theirs because of an erratic MSU pass defense.
Score prediction: MSU 38, IU 21 (59 total points).
Here are some other specific forecast notes for the Spartans’ road test in Bloomington. Recent numbers and trends, along with other factors, suggest that the following predictions are more than likely to come true.
Kenneth Walker III: 50-yard run and more
If you didn’t see the Third’s 94-yard TD run vs. Rutgers last week, you missed what will be one of the biggest plays of the entire college football season. Regardless of opponent, Walker has been able to break off an impressive run or two. His ability to balance, break tackles, and get to the next level of defenders is something at which to marvel.
He is the complete package at running back, averaging 7.1 yards per tote.
With 9 TDs, he’s tied for second-most in the Big Ten, behind Nebraska QB Adrian Martinez. Only one other RB in the Big Ten has as many rushing TDs as Walker, and that’s TreVeyon Henderson of Ohio State.
Walker will have a signature run vs. the Hoosiers, who have a decent rush defense that allows 126.8 yards per game — but Walker will likely be more than IU can handle and end up with a couple of TDs to go with his 50-yard-plus run.
Book it: 2 TDs and a 50-yard-plus run (bonus: 100-yard day)
Nailor: 2 TDs and 100 receiving yards
Jalen Nailor might not rack up 208 receiving yards in the first half, but he’s going to be a major component for the Spartans on Saturday. Indiana has the No. 9-ranked pass defense in the Big Ten, allowing 223 yards per game. It’s not as bad as MSU’s 301.7 yards per game — the worst in the B1G — but it does suggest that the Hoosiers have some weaknesses in the defensive backfield.
Heating up with 128 yards against WKU, Nailor turned in a career-high 221 and 3 TDs this past weekend vs. the Scarlet Knights — so he’s probably due for a third straight week of high production.
Calling for at least 100 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns is perfectly in order.
MSU shuts down Penix Jr.
Note: This assumes Penix (shoulder) is able to play, but will go double for Jack Tuttle if he starts.
In 2020, Penix emerged as one of the better QBs in the Big Ten. This season, he’s struggled mightily with accuracy, already throwing 7 picks — the second-most in the league. Couple that with the fact that he’s only thrown 4 TDs — the third-fewest among B1G starters — and it could easily spell doom for the Hoosiers.
Penix threw 8 picks in 12 starts prior to this season.
This year, 4 of his 7 balls to the other guys came against Big Ten teams: Iowa (3), Penn State (1).
He’s not connecting for 6 points, and he’s giving the ball to the other team too often. Penix is in a slump, and the Spartans, who are due for a dominant pass-coverage showing, will likely keep him down there this weekend.
Its also worth noting that when it comes to sacking QBs, MSU is No. 2 in the Big Ten, having rang up 22 through 6 games. Indiana has given up 9 sacks this season — so Penix might want to keep a look out for guys like MSU DE Jacub Panasiuk or S Xavier Henderson.
Penix has thrown for more than 200 yards twice this season: 373 vs. Western Kentucky and 224 vs. Cincinnati.
He won’t get his third 200-yard passing game Saturday. Two weeks ago, he threw for just 118 during a loss to Penn State. Despite 224 vs. the Bearcats, he’s yet to severely damage a top-level team with his arm this season.
No picks for Thorne
Considering that Indiana has only 2 INTs on the year, tied for the fewest in the Big Ten, and Thorne has only thrown a pair this season — well, do the math on this one.
Thorne, one of the most accurate decision-makers in the Big Ten, simply doesn’t cough up the ball. If the pass is incomplete, fine. A little overthrown? Fine.
Just as long as it doesn’t go to the other team, right? And it hasn’t.
He’s No. 2 in B1G efficiency (173.6) and has an incredible 77:1 attempt-to-INT ratio.
The Hoosiers won’t be intercepting his passes Saturday.
Other predictions to consider: Jayden Reed more than 75 return yards; IU WR Ty Fryogle fewer than 80 yards; 1 sack for Panasiuk.
Predictions aren’t always right, but if they’re close, they’re worth entertaining. However, these ones should be closer than close. One recent spike by the Hoosiers isn’t enough to negate decades of futility vs. Michigan State — so it’s easy to pick MSU to dominate this weekend in Bloomington.