Michigan State (3-2) at Indiana (2-2) Oct. 6, 12:00, BTN
Here’s The Deal: While Wisconsin takes the prize for being the most disappointing team in the most disappointing conference, Michigan State isn’t far off after failing two of its biggest tests. As it turns out, beating Boise State just isn’t that big a deal this season, and with the offense failing and flailing against Notre Dame and Ohio State, this hasn’t been the team many were hoping and thinking could be a sleeper for the BCS championship.
However, losing to Ohio State doesn’t necessarily matter. The Spartans will still play for the Big Ten title by beating out Nebraska and Michigan, but first they have to show that the offense can actually score after averaging just 15 points per game against everyone not named Central Michigan.
Indiana is in another transitional season with Kevin Wilson trying build up the talent base, and it’s taking a while. The Hoosiers have the offense moving with a Big Ten-leading passing attack, but the defense has allowed 85 points in the last two weeks and isn’t showing any signs of improving in a hurry. However, the team is looking better than it did last year – that might be small consolation at the moment, but things are moving forward.
Why Michigan State Might Win: The Michigan State running game was shut down cold by Ohio State last week. That won’t be an issue against a Hoosier defensive front that’s getting into the backfield, but is getting shoved around way too often. Northwestern didn’t exactly blast away for 394 rushing yards and five touchdowns as much as it found holes to dart through, but this week the Spartan offensive line that failed so miserably last week has to be ready for the challenge. If it plays up to its capability, MSU should be able to hang on to the ball and march as much as it wants to. The IU defense hasn’t had any answers over the last few weeks.
Why Indiana Might Win: Is it possible for the Spartans to come out really, really flat? It’s not above them to fail to get off the bus once in a while under Mark Dantonio, and after such a tough, emotional loss to the Buckeyes it could be easy to let up a bit thinking this game will be a walk in the park. MSU not only didn’t crank out points against OSU and Notre Dame; it failed to get moving until late against Eastern Michigan, too. The pass rush isn’t there, the passing game has been awful with way too many dropped passes, and things just aren’t clicking like they’re supposed to. Indiana will put up numbers on offense and should be able to keep up in a shootout.
What To Watch For: Where is the Michigan State pass rush? Not having tackle Tyler Hoover around over the last few games with a calf injury has been a problem, but that’s no excuse for William Gholston only having one sack so far. The defense as a whole has a mere four sacks on the season, and Gholston’s is the only one to come from a lineman. There hasn’t been nearly enough pressure, and while the overall defensive results have been terrific, and Ohio State’s Braxton Miller was thumped around a bit, MSU could stand to apply even more pressure. Considering IU is going to come out throwing, a pass rush is a must.
What Will Happen: Le’Veon Bell, Le’Veon Bell, Le’Veon Bell. Michigan State failed to get a first down running the ball against Ohio State, but that’s about to change in a big way as Bell will get the ball at least 30 times on his way to his third 200-yard rushing day of the season.
CFN Prediction: Michigan State 30 ... Indiana 14
ATS Consultants Line: Michigan State -14 O/U: 48
Must Watch Rating (5 – Master, 1 – Trouble with the Curve): 2.5