Bloomington, IN (SportsNetwork.com) – The Big Ten Conference’s highest scoring
team takes on one of its worst defensive squads, as the eighth-ranked Michigan
State Spartans pay a visit to the Indiana Hoosiers.
Save for a second-half collapse at Oregon in week two, Michigan State would be
undefeated as it attempts to repeat as Big Ten champions. The Spartans have
bounced back from the 46-27 setback to the Ducks by winning four straight,
including a 45-31 triumph at Purdue last weekend. MSU also has a 27-22 win
over Nebraska on its resume’, meaning coach Mark Dantonio’s club is sitting at
2-0 in conference. After this clash, the Spartans will play three of their
next four at home, including back-to-back bouts against Michigan and Ohio
Indiana stunned nationally-ranked Missouri on Sept. 20, 31-27, but has since
dropped two of three to fall to an even 3-3 on the season. The Hoosiers lost
at Iowa last weekend, 45-29, and also fell at home to league newcomer
Maryland, 37-15, in what was their conference opener. Coach Kevin Wilson’s
club has a tough road to traverse the rest of the way, as it will battle the
likes of Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, Ohio State and intrastate rival Purdue
following this bout.
Michigan State owns a 43-15-2 advantage in the all-time series with Indiana,
and in games where the Old Brass Spittoon went to the winner, its inception
being in 1950, the Spartans are 43-12-1. MSU has won the last five meetings.
Michigan State is putting up a league-best 45.5 ppg, doing so behind a
balanced attack that boasts averages of 248.3 ypg rushing and 254 ypg passing.
Quarterback Connor Cook is hitting 58.3 percent of his passes for 218.2 ypg,
and he has thrown for 13 touchdowns while being intercepted only four times.
Tony Lippett is clearly his go-to guy, as the senior wideout has caught 32
balls for 663 yards and eight scores. No other receiver has more than a dozen
receptions. As for the MSU rushing attack, it features the talents of Jeremy
Langford, and the senior has amassed 555 yards and five TDs, while Nick Hill
has crossed the goal line five times, and Delton Williams has four scores on
only 28 totes.
The Spartans defense has been on point for the most part this season, holding
four of their six opponents to 22 points or fewer. In all, Michigan State is
permitting 22.3 ppg, and has done an exceptional job cutting off running lanes
by yielding just 81.5 ypg on the ground (No. 2 in the Big Ten). Sacks have
been an important part of the team’s success on both sides of the ball, as the
Spartans rank first in the conference in allowing only three, while they are
second in taking down opposing quarterbacks a total of 22 times. Kurtis
Drummond paces the unit with 31 tackles, and he also has a pair of INTs and
five passes defended. Ed Davis has been credited with five sacks, while
Shilique Calhoun has four and Marcus Rush has 3.5.
The final score of last week’s win at Purdue is somewhat deceiving in that the
Spartans held a 38-17 lead well into the fourth quarter. A pair of late TDs
cut the Boilermakers’ deficit to 38-31. but MSU’s Darien Harris returned an
interception 15 yards for a score with 1:22 remaining to seal the deal. When
the dust had settled, Michigan State rolled up 532 yards to 340 for Purdue,
with Cook throwing for 238 yards and three TDs, Lippett catching seven balls
for 138 yards and a score, and Langford rushing for 104 yards on only 13
Drummond made all seven of his team-best seven tackles by himself, and the
unit as a whole was credited with only two sacks and two takeaways.
The nation’s leading rusher wears an Indiana uniform, as Tevin Coleman has
already gone over 1,000 yards for the season (1,060). Coleman is averaging
176.7 ypg and has scored 11 TDs, which is only two off the pace set by
Wisconsin scoring machine Melvin Gordon. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld (191 ypg,
six TDs, three INTs) hasn’t been overly impressive, and he is now out for the
rest of the season after suffering a shoulder injury in last week’s loss to
Iowa. Shane Wynn is the club’s top pass-catching threat as he has 27 grabs for
424 yards and two scores.
The Indiana defense ranks 13th in the 14-team conference in terms of average
points allowed (31.3), and the 416.2 ypg the enemy churns out places the squad
11th. The Hoosiers have had a particularly tough time defending the pass, as
they rank last in that category (274.3 ypg, 13 TDs). Indiana is also the most
penalized team in the Big Ten, being flagged for an average loss of 72.2 ypg,
and the Hoosiers are among the worst in the conference when it comes to
turnover margin (-3), while tying for last with regard to red zone defense
(20-of-20). T.J. Simmons has a club-best 34 tackles, while Bobby Richardson
has four of the team’s 13 sacks.
Coleman continued his stellar season in last week’s loss to Iowa, rushing for
219 yards and three TDs. It was the most he had run for in a Big Ten bout and
the second-highest total of his career. It also extended a couple of national-
bests he currently has for consecutive 100-yard efforts (eight), and games
with a TD (15). Sudfeld sustained his injury in the second quarter, and
freshman Chris Covington came on to complete only 3-of-12 passes for 31 yards
with no TDs and two INTs.
Moving forward, Covington, Zander Diamont and Nate Boudreau could all see time
under center, with the hope being that one of them steps up in Sudfeld’s
Meanwhile, the IU defense surrendered 426 total yards to the Hawkeyes, while
failing to register a takeaway and coming up with two sacks. Mark Murphy led
the with way nine tackles, while Nick Mangieri finished with eight.
Coach Wilson gave praise to Iowa, but also thought his team played pretty hard
“Iowa played very well today. They got after us and got a good win. We had a
couple opportunities early. They made more big plays than us. The game stats
were kind of close, but they had more big plays than us. We played uphill all
day. I thought our kids fought hard out there, but we have to do better.”