4 storylines for IU’s game vs. Michigan State

1. A hugely important game for both sides
Michigan State can’t afford back-to-back losses so early in the season. Meanwhile, Indiana could turn a win Saturday into a jolt that propels them into the teeth of its schedule. So much is riding on this game for the Hoosiers and Spartans. IU derailed Michigan State’s season with an overtime win at Memorial Stadium two years ago. This time, Indiana is trying to live up to its season-long mantra of finishing the close games that have eluded it in previous campaigns. Like last year’s loss at Spartan Stadium. Talent-wise, IU stacks up rather comparably against Michigan State. Can the Hoosiers spoil another Spartan trip to Bloomington, while making their first step into conference play a meaningful one?

2. Ramsey’s chance to shine
While Michigan State’s front seven has played well against the run, its defense has struggled mightily against the pass. The Spartans have yielded an average of 349.5 passing yards per game — the worst mark in the Big Ten. It’s not always been the deep balls that have burned Michigan State, but some of the underneath throws that Ramsey has been consistently accurate in completing. If IU has trouble on the ground, this game could be one where Ramsey is asked to make the winning plays. His receivers need to help him out, too, in winning the one-on-one battles Indiana needs going its way. Michigan State has also struggled, at times, with mobile quarterbacks in up-tempo offense.

3. Pressuring Lewerke
Utah State did it. Arizona State did, too. Now, it’s Indiana’s turn to try and pressure Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke. The Spartans’ offensive line has been wildly inconsistent so far this season, both in terms of protecting Lewerke and opening running lanes. Lewerke, another dual threat quarterback on IU’s early-season schedule, has been mostly good, though he’s had a couple costly turnovers in each of the Spartans’ first two games. When he’s able to comfortably throw from the pocket, he has battle-tested and reliable targets in Cody White, Felton Davis III and Darrell Stewart Jr. IU’s ability to cover those big-bodied receivers, too, will be pivotal to the Hoosiers’ defensive success.

4. Field position
The Spartans’ special teams unit is smarting with the loss of punter Jake Hartbarger. His injury means backup quarterback Rocky Lombardi will handle the punting duties in the interim. So far, the only punt from Lombardi traveled 32 yards. Can Lombardi avoid shanking punts out of bounds? Does Michigan State opt to go for it more on fourth down near midfield? This could be one key area to watch. In doing so, keep an eye on IU return specialist J-Shun Harris who returned his third career punt for a touchdown last week vs. Ball State.

11 comments

  1. There are many factors pointing to this game as the chance to establish IUFB a legitimate B1G team unless MSU proves they aren’t a very good team this year like they did in 2016. IU needs to win this game to make a step up building momentum for the season and next year.

    I look at a comparison of last year’s teams and how MSU has played this year. IU’s offense is much better than last year’s offense while MSU’s defense seems to be about the same. IU’s defense isn’t the 3 and out defense last year’s team was but still a formidable defense. Now looking at MSU’s games this year. IU’s offense is as good as Utah State’s that score 32 on MSU. MSU only scored 14 on ASU and IU’s defense is better than that defense especially after seeing San Diego State beat ASU.

    Based on this evaluation I see IU winning with a comfortable margin. MSU is struggling on offense due to numerous injuries on the OL. MSU is good against the run but hasn’t been challenged yet by a running team with a very good OL. One last factor is IU’s play against BSU that was seen as a threat for IU after their showing against ND. Many trends are pointing to IU taking care of business this game.

    1. One last factor is IU’s play against BSU that was seen as a threat for IU after their showing against ND.

      But all that BSU hype was rather deflated after the Irish only squeaked by Vanderbilt by five points the following weekend in South Bend.

      Always seeds of doubt in the mind of an IU Football fan….After Vanderbilt proved an equal ability to go toe-to-toe with the mighty Fighting Irish, I have given my plate of “breakthrough” and “legit” another helping of major doubt.

      What did Tom Crean say to Tom Izzo…?
      Answer: MSU very much.

  2. This is a very much bigger game for IU than MSU. No comparison. It is a stepping stone for IU legitimacy. If MSU loses they are still legitimate strong big ten program and even can still be ok for this season. If IU loses; 2018 summer, fall pre-season camp, and pre-conference wins, plus recruiting hype equal = past IU football history “continued HOPE for legitimacy.”

    1. Clearly a bigger game for MSU. IU is going for 6-8 wins. A loss to MSU does nothing to hinder that. MSU was picked as a pre-season conference favorite. Their season hinges on this game as a loss probably knocks them out of contention for the East. Reporters for the Detroit newspapers have written as much. IU can still beat Rutgers, Purdue, Maryland, Iowa and Minnesota, go 8-4 and have their best season in a generation. A MSU win would be big, but it is not a season defining game for IU. But MSU losing to IU would definitely change their season goals.

      1. I’m with you 123. You’ve assessed the big picture and stated it precisely. An MSU win by IU would triple program momentum from the 3-0 start. Tom Allen would be an even stronger whirlwind of motivation.

    1. I’m with you, t. Bigger game for Indiana. There must be proof in the pudding that this program is actually going to turn a corner…(instead of curdling into the usual lumpy slop of amateur pudding makers ?).

      Then again, I suppose you could argue no game is big for Indiana because, in terms of national attention, Indiana Football remains an irrelevant, unnoticed, and written off program. When you possess nothing of prowess, there ain’t much to lose. It will take more than one home game against a somewhat worthy opponent…or one better than average(slightly above .500) season to start building any true legitimacy outside our of a narrow/blind/strangely optimistic fan base.
      Whatever hype we create here is hype in a bubble. IU Football is never hyped beyond the radius of elderly lonely men on Scoop whose wives never get out to see a movie.

      Honestly…? The game is on BTN. It’s a night game. What will likely end up as a sparse Hoosier crowd will be subdued under gray skies and cool temps. Dumb to have this game at night. I think it spells loss for Indiana ….Anticipation and excitement juices for the team(and fans) deemed the underdog against their created “Goliath” tends to fade with the hours ticking by waiting for a kickoff. The hype drains out like inflation requirements out of a Tom Brady ball.
      We get shoved to the nighttime slot because the BTN wants as minimal overlap as possible between all their aired games. MSU will go about their business…IU’s coffee buzz will wear off. Hoosiers will likely suffer more as a consequence of the time slot. College football is a daytime/sunshine sport….(in my humble opinion).

      1. Traffic on 37 through Martinsville today and late yesterday heading south has been really heavy if that could be a sign.

  3. with a backup quarterback for a punter Indiana needs to be alert on punting situation!! Anyway you look at it, this is a very big game for Indiana…. A win here and you are looking at the possibility of starting the season 5-0, which is really unheard of in Indiana football history.

  4. IU is still going to have a hard time beating Purdue by the time they play unless IU is able to go down field passing the ball with effectiveness. It could be a good meaningful game for both teams this year.

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