4 keys for Indiana’s homecoming game against Michigan State

1. Move on from mistakes. Indiana is in a tough spot this week with a true freshman quarterback expected to start against one of the top defenses in the country. Michigan State will have Zander Diamont under duress for much of the afternoon to fluster and force mistakes from the inexperienced quarterback. He must simply not dwell if and when something goes wrong. Diamont should play free and without worry, showing the kind of playmaking abilities and elusiveness that have earned him comparisons to Johnny Manziel’s dynamic mold of play.

2. Hang around late. For all that it does well, Michigan State hasn’t shown to be proficient at finishing games. The Spartans have allowed each of their last two contests to end with a smaller margin of victory than it should have been. They dominated Nebraska two weeks ago, leading the Cornhuskers 27-3 heading into the final quarter. But Michigan State nearly collapsed, requiring a late interception to seal the 27-22 win. Last week at Purdue, the Spartans led 38-17 at the start of the final quarter before watching the Boilermakers score a pair of touchdowns in a span of two minutes to make it a seven-point game. They once again required a late defensive play to earn the win. Michigan State has shown it’s willing to step off the gas late in games. If the Hoosiers can hang around, they might have a shot to make it interesting late.

3. Do enough to give Tevin Coleman a chance. Indiana’s next three games were already expected to be a challenge for Coleman against the three leading rush defenses in the Big Ten. The Spartans have given up nine touchdowns on the ground, but are holding teams to only 2.8 yards per carry and 81.5 yards per game. So the Hoosiers have to do enough to keep Michigan State honest. It starts with protecting the pocket and allowing Zander Diamont to go over the top. The Spartans will try to take away the short throws over the middle, so it’ll be up to Diamont to find ways to get the ball to receivers. Because if that doesn’t happen, it could be a long day for Coleman and the offense.

4. Limit Connor Cook: Indiana’s best chance for hanging around stems with its ability to keep Cook, one of the most efficient passers in the Big Ten, from having a big day. But Indiana’s secondary is the weak link on an improving defense, yielding a Big Ten-worst 274 passing yards per game. They’ve been burned for 13 touchdowns and opposing quarterbacks have completed 60 percent of their passes against the Hoosiers. Defending college football’s evolving offensive trends has become extremely difficult, no matter the level. While Indiana’s offense appears to be on pace for a difficult day, it would help if its defense — especially the secondary — can bail them out and keep them in it.