For the first time in conference play, the Michigan State Spartans hit the road, set to oppose the Indiana Hoosiers. Fresh off Saturday’s gigantic egg against Ohio State, the Spartans will try to round their offense and defense back into form against a traditionally weaker opponent.
But this is still the Big Ten, where anyone can be beaten at any time. This is still the battle for the brass spittoon. When you’re playing for a spittoon, you can throw the records out. How does Michigan State get back on the right track? How might the Hoosiers keep them humble and steal back the brass expectoration device? Here’s our keys to this week’s game.
Michigan State’s Key To Victory: Get back some swagger.
Perhaps it was due to their high preseason ranking or the fact that many people had predicted they’d be a dark horse national title contender. Either way, outside the Boise State game, Michigan State hasn’t shown up to play football this year. They’ve been listless, frustrated and often times, look like the sky is falling when a handful of bad things happen. For them to win on the road, they need to get an edge back. Last week’s loss could either serve as a great motivator or a crushing blow. If the Spartans want to make something of this season, it has to start this week with attitude. That means celebrating a bit, picking up teammates and refusing to get down no matter the score. When the dog days of October and November hit, often times, a positive and focused mind is the only thing that carries you through the Big Ten schedule.
Indiana’s Key To Victory: Hope for a big letdown.
Traditionally, Indiana isn’t the best on the road or at home, so they usually need to depend on playing a perfect game while their opponent’s thoughts are focused elsewhere. The Hoosiers need to hope that the Spartans are still feeling sorry for themselves after last week. Michigan State’s offense has been pathetic, but the Hoosiers defense allowed 44 points to Northwestern and 41 to Ball State. If they can stay out of their own way (and keep focused) the Spartans should be able to dominate this match up. The plan will be the same for the Hoosier defense—pack it in up front and try to stop Le’Veon Bell, then hassle Andrew Maxwell in the pocket. Being that nearly this same team lost 55-3 in East Lansing a year ago, they might not have all the horses to pull the shocker off.
Michigan State And Indiana Players To Watch: Keith Mumphery and Stephen Houston.
Last week, Mumphery’s development took a major step forward, as he hauled in five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. The score was impressive, as Mumphery broke several tackles and rumbled into the end zone with a fantastic individual effort. Spartan fans can only hope that’s the kind of effort they get consistently out of Mumphery. Michigan State badly needs someone to step up at wide receiver for Maxwell, so watch and see if Mumphery can turn in a second excellent performance. The good news? There should be plenty of green grass for Mumphrey against an Indiana pass defense which ranks 71st in the nation.
Houston had a productive opener against Northwestern, rushing for 91 yards on 11 carries and finding the end zone. He’ll need to turn in a similar performance against a better defensive front this weekend if the Hoosiers are going to move the ball and score enough points to win. Houston has scored four touchdowns on the ground this year already, so the Spartans can’t take anything for granted with their run defense, especially on the road. Michigan State can’t afford to let Indiana feel good running the ball at all.
Intangibles: Likely a sleepy Memorial Stadium.
The environment in Bloomington can either be described as a morgue or a study lounge. For a noon game, there won’t be much additional buzz, either. This could either serve as an asset for the mentally shattered Spartans or a critical liability. Michigan State needs something to get energized about, especially after last weekend’s dismal performance. If they are in the wrong mindset entering a quiet environment against a team they should beat, the atmosphere could literally lull them to sleep, which could make for some big problems by late Saturday afternoon. They’ll need to control the play to eliminate this from happening.
Prediction: The Spartans haven’t been setting the world on fire lately with their play, but this week, they’ve got the best possible anecdote after a tough performance against Ohio State. Last year, Michigan State whooped the Hoosiers by a 55-3 score. This season, there isn’t enough evidence that Indiana is good enough to prevent a similar thing from happening at home, regardless of how the Spartans have regressed. Of course they’ll struggle at times, but Michigan State moves the ball well and rolls Indiana into the ground. They’ll get out of their own way long enough to ensure a win this week.
Michigan State 33, Indiana 13