The No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers will look to silence any lingering skepticism as they travel to East Lansing to visit the Michigan State Spartans this weekend. The Hoosiers are currently listed as seven-point favorites on the road with an over/under of 52 points.
Much like Minnesota last year, Indiana has become the “It” team in the Big Ten in 2020. It started with an unlikely upset win over still winless Penn State, but the Hoosiers have followed up that win with convincing wins over Rutgers and Michigan to get to 3-0, putting Indiana into the Top 10, which would have seemed like a dream scenario not too long ago.
As for Michigan State, Mel Tucker has experienced extreme highs and lows early in his tenure in East Lansing. The Spartans began the year with a puzzling and humiliating loss to Rutgers. Everything was made right with a win over Michigan. But the Spartans were embarrassed again last week, losing 49-7 to Iowa with a rather unforgiving schedule still ahead of them.
Needless to say, it’s been an uneven start to the season for MSU quarterback Rocky Lombardi. At times, he’s made some big-time throws, but he’s also been erratic with his accuracy and thrown five interceptions in three games. The Spartans haven’t exactly gotten their running game going this year, averaging just 2.2 yards per rush. But they need a little more consistency from their junior quarterback.
The silver lining is that Indiana hasn’t exactly been stout defensively this year. Obviously, the Hoosiers have done enough to win three games. They’ve been solid against the run, last least outside of mobile quarterbacks. The Hoosiers have also created eight takeaways in three games, which has been a strength of the Indiana defense. But opposing teams have moved the ball against the Hoosiers and created big plays, which should give Lombardi and the Spartans plenty of opportunities to score points.
For the Indiana offense, everything revolves around quarterback Michael Penix Jr. He didn’t have a great game statistically against Penn State, but he made big plays in key moments. On the season, his numbers aren’t overwhelming, but he’s avoided turnovers and used his legs to either avoid negative plays or create positive plays. Nevertheless, the Indiana offensive line is struggling to get a consistent push, which is why the Hoosiers are averaging just 2.6 yards per carry on the ground.
Of course, in past years, few teams have been better at stopping the run than Michigan State. That’s not been the case this season, especially last week against Iowa. In fairness, Iowa’s defense and special teams were responsible for 14 of the 49 points the Spartans gave up last week. Both Michigan and Iowa have run the ball effectively against the MSU defense.
Let it Ride
At this point, Indiana has done enough to be taken seriously. The Hoosiers probably aren’t the 10th best team in the country, but they look good enough to take care of Michigan State. The Spartans have turned it over ten times in three games, which is a weakness the Hoosiers can exploit. Also, if the MSU defense doesn’t get a handle on the running game, it could be a long game. Bet on the Hoosiers to win and cover against Michigan State.