When: Saturday, September 28th, 2019, 3:30 PM EST
Where: East Lansing, MI
How to watch: Big Ten Network
The Hoosiers took care of business against an inferior opponent last week, dominating UConn to the tune of a 38-3 victory.
There’s no doubt the victory was encouraging, but things are about to get significantly tougher for Indiana as they head into a stretch that will see the Hoosiers play three of their next four contests on the road. This weekend’s match-up with the Spartans in East Lansing will reveal a lot about this Indiana team and what we should expect moving forward.
The Spartans are back inside the top 25 this week, coming in at 25th after a convincing 31-10 victory over the Wildcats in Evanston. Yet despite the dominant victory, the Spartans have been plagued by inconsistency and injuries, especially on the offensive side of the football.
Just last week the Spartans offense looked abysmal in a 10-7 home defeat to the Arizona State Sun Devils, a team which went on to give up 33 points to Colorado the following week.
Michigan State’s traditionally vaunted rushing attack has been subpar for most of this season, being limited to just 3.9 yards per carry, good for 9th in the Big Ten. Much of this can be attributed to an unstable offensive line that has already been ravaged by injuries, with the Spartans already on their 4th left tackle of the season.
Despite the Spartans struggles on the ground, the passing attack led by senior quarterback Brian Lewerke has been much more effective on the year, racking up 261 yards per game along with a 7-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio.
Containing junior wide receiver Darrell Stewart Jr. will be one of the major keys for Indiana if they hope to pull off the upset as he has quickly developed into one of Lewerke’s favorite targets. Stewart recorded 48 receptions for 413 yards all of last season for the Spartans, through just four games this season, he has already totaled 439 yards and a touchdown.
The real strength of the Spartans team, which should come as a surprise to no one, will lie with their defense. Michigan State ranks 3rd in the Big Ten in total defense, 2nd in rushing defense, and 6th in passing defense. The front seven in particular has the ability to wreak havoc on a questionable Indiana offensive line, and if the Hoosiers can’t find a way to contain the Spartans upfront it could be a long afternoon.
The season ending injury to senior offensive tackle Coy Cronk could make things even more problematic for the Indiana offensive line, and the pair of Matthew Bedford and DaVondre Love will be called upon to fill the void.
The status of freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will also be worth monitoring as the week develops. Penix is listed as a game time decision for Saturday’s contest and officially returned to practice earlier this week.
Tom Allen has been searching for a breakthrough win since he’s arrived at Indiana, and the Spartans represent a golden opportunity for Indiana to capture one. Whether they will be able to take advantage remains to be seen.