Indiana (4-3) vs. Michigan State (7-0) 3:30pm
Since 2010, Michigan State is 4-0 against the Hoosiers winning by an average margin of victory of 27.2 points per game. Last year, the Spartans won the game in Bloomington by a score of 56-17. Indiana has lost three straight games to Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers by a total of 33 points (11 points per game average).
Quarterback Nate Sudfeld returned last week in the 55-52 loss at home to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Sudfeld completed 32 of 42 passes for 464 with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. On the season, the Hosiers are averaging 34.1 points per game with a balanced attack that is rushing for 194 yards per game and passing for 284 yards through the air. Sudfeld is a confident leader and has a big arm to stretch defenses vertically. He has completed 63% of his passes for 1,741 yards with 11 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Indiana has the weapons to create some problems for the Spartans defense in this game. Michigan State has struggled against teams that have vertical passing attacks (Western Michigan and Rutgers) and Indiana must test the Spartans secondary on Saturday afternoon. Starting running back Justin Howard is questionable for this game and look for backup Devine Redding to step in if Howard is not able to play this week. Redding has 413 rushing yards averaging 3.3 yards per carry with 7 touchdowns on the season and will be counted on to keep the Michigan State front seven honest in the game. Indiana likes to set up the run by passing first and this mentality can be the recipe for the upset in East Lansing. Wide receivers Ricky Jones and Simmie Cobbs Jr. are underrated players that are very productive along with having the speed to challenge the Spartans secondary deep. Jones leads the team with 32 receptions for 624yards with 4 touchdowns while Cobbs Jr. has recorded 29 receptions for 424 yards with 2 touchdowns on the year.
Indiana will need to slow down Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook and the Spartans aerial attack on Saturday to pull off the upset. Indiana has surrendered 35.1 points per game and is allowing 334 passing yards a game to their opponents this season. Indiana will need to force the Spartans into third down and long situations to make the Michigan State offense one dimensional. The Hoosiers have done a good job at creating pressure this season and have registered 17 sacks through the first seven games. Defensive end Nick Mangieri leads the team with 7 sacks and can be a factor this coming weekend. Indiana has been very opportunistic this year and is +7 in turnover margin. The Hoosiers must force long methodical drives against Michigan State and not allow the big play which will put pressure on their offense to respond. It will be very important for Indiana to jump out to a lead early and which can put pressure on Michigan State and force them out of their game plan. If the Hoosiers are to get the upset, the defense must be aggressive early on in the game and take chances by blitzing on first and second down. This can put pressure on the Spartans offensive line and force the Spartans to run the football instead of challenging Indiana over the top.
The Spartans are coming off an emotional and monumental victory over arch rival Michigan in the Big House 27-21 this past Saturday. The main question is how will the team respond this week at home against a hungry Indiana team? Quarterback Connor Cook made some big plays last week and will look to continue his success this weekend at home in front of a sold out stadium in East Lansing. Michigan State is averaging 30.7 points per game and is rushing for 156 yards on the ground. Cook is completing 57.4% of his passes for 1,672 yards with 13 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Last week Cook showed poise in the pocket and stood tall against the #1 scoring defense in the country completing 18 of 39 for 328 yards with one touchdown. He was under pressure all afternoon, but was still able to locate receivers down the field and make big plays when his team needed him to. Running back LJ Scott will be counted on Saturday to pound the Hoosiers defensive front. On the year, Scott leads the team with 434 rushing yards averaging 5.5 yards per carry with 8 touchdowns. Wide receiver Aaron Burbridge leads the team with 44 receptions for 702 yards with 4 touchdowns. The game plan for Michigan State entering this contest has to revolve around the passing attack and look for the Spartans to challenge the Hoosiers secondary all afternoon. The Spartans offensive line has done a solid job in protecting Cook and has allowed 7 sacks on the season. If Cook has the time to survey the field and locate his wide receivers it can force Indiana to play more zone coverage which would open up the running lanes for Scott.
The Spartans played a solid defensive game last week on the road. Entering this game, Michigan State is yielding 21.6 points per game and has a very active defensive front seven that has recorded 24 sacks on the season. Michigan State is allowing 120 rushing yards per game and is giving up 231 passing yards a game to their opponents. Linebacker Riley Bullough (team leading 62 total tackles) and defensive end Shilique Calhoun (team leading 7 sacks) are the emotional leaders of the defense. Michigan State will look to shut down the deep ball early on which will force short to intermediate throws by Sudfeld and allow the front seven to get pressure on the pocket. Look for head coach Mark Dantonio to blitz Sudfeld off of the edge which can disrupt the timing of his throws to his receivers. That was the game plan implemented against Oregon early in the season and had great success against Ducks quarterback Vernon Adams. The Spartans have done an excellent job in creating turnovers and are entering this game with +9 in turnover margin. If the Spartans are not able to get pressure early on in the game, it could put pressure on the secondary to cover Jones and Cobbs longer than they want to-which can create big plays offensively for the Hoosiers.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor atwww.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
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