Good start to Big Ten play next on IU’s checklist

Sweep the non-conference schedule? Check.

Establish a running attack? Check.

Develop experience for a young defense? Check.

So far, Indiana’s season has unfolded through a series of best-case scenarios, as preseason questions have been answered in approving fashion. Now, Tom Allen knows what has to happen next.

“Win Big Ten games, period,” the second-year Indiana coach said Monday. “That’s what’s next.”

IU’s first chance to do so comes when No. 24 Michigan State visits Memorial Stadium for a prime time game on Saturday night.

Here’s where things get interesting for the Hoosiers. Really, here’s where the season truly begins.

With a schedule crafted to increase the likelihood of non-conference victories, the next step in IU’s evolution is proving its ability to earn valuable wins inside the Big Ten. Claiming the toss-up games, such as this week’s contest against the Spartans, is an important first step.

According to SB Nation’s advanced statistics catalog, IU has a win probability of 53 percent on Saturday against a Michigan State team that has looked unconvincing through its first two games. That suggests a close contest is on tap, one that will allow IU to live up to its season-long mantra of finishing the kinds of games that it has failed to regularly win in the recent past.

Like last year’s Michigan State game.

Eleven months ago, IU authored three and a half quarters of decent football at Spartan Stadium, despite not scoring a single touchdown. The Hoosiers took a 9-3 lead early in the final quarter before watching Michigan State close the game with 14 unanswered points across the final six minutes en route to a 17-9 victory.

“This week would be a huge next step,” quarterback Peyton Ramsey said. “It’s an opportunity not only to play a good Michigan State team, but an opportunity to play a good Michigan State team at home. And to gain even more confidence as this thing gets rolling. So it’s a huge week in terms of preparation and focus for us, that way.”

Indiana has begun the season 4-0 only seven times in program history, and not since 1990 has that mark included a Big Ten victory.

The last time the Hoosiers won their conference opener was 2016, when they outlasted a ranked Michigan State team in an overtime thriller in Bloomington. That game illustrated what an IU team was capable of accomplishing when it converted big plays in moments that matter.

Remember, for example, that Indiana’s first touchdown that night came on a third-and-goal throw-back pass from receiver Mitchell Paige to quarterback Richard Lagow at the end of the third quarter. Beating the Spartans this time will require a similar level of all-around effort. It will also require the maturity to finish the jobs that previous IU teams have struggled with.

Through three games, Indiana is a team that plays hard and is eager to finish. Doing so this week would allow the Hoosiers to take their next step toward what has the potential to be an exciting run through the conference.

“We are going to be absolutely focused on Michigan State and everything we have to do to win this game,” Allen said. “To me that’s the next step.”

12 comments

  1. This game is a good measure of where IUFB is at right now. It is clear IU can win against good teams not in B1G and the lower teams in the conference. Can IU beat the top four teams in B1G when the teams aren’t down. IU has a good chance of beating MSU and start off the confrence games with a win. IU’s team is improving evey game and as young as they are should continue to improve with more experience. The OL had done a good job this year but now have to step up against a better DL. If the OL can create holes for the running game the MSU defense will be in trouble as they haven’t been good against the pass.

    I expect a lot of short passes to the edge early in the game to help tire out the DL. Add in jet sweeps and the DL will have to run a lot to stop IU’s offense. I hope IU uses the short pass, swing passes and screen passes, to set up deep passes to our WR. As the defense wears out the running game will become more important and should be able to have some longer runs.

    I hope the offense will open up even more for this game as there are too many game changers that haven’t had the ball enough in the three games so far.

  2. Ramsey can expect much greater pressure from MSU’s defense, and he can expect coverage on his receivers running the short routes to be much tighter. MSU’s defensive backs will play more physical when covering our wide receivers and give them much less space. MSU does not believe IU can run the ball on them, and they’ve yet to see Ramsey throw deep, so they’re going to dare Ramsey to do so. Our wide receivers need to be ready to be treated rudely and with much greater physicality. The first time Ramsey gets the ball near mid-field, he needs to throw deep. Even if the pass is not completed, he needs to show MSU that he has that weapon in his arsenal. MSU is the best coached team we will have faced in a long time, and we can not afford to be predictable from the outset. Let’s hope DeBord has been saving some of his offense for the Big Ten opponents.

  3. Doom and gloom to’s; fumbles, interceptions, offensive bog down, defense unable stop anybody. IU will be on the field as well. Let’s just see how the game plays out.

  4. Odds makers seem to think IU will have trouble scoring. Good news for IU is they think Michigan State will score less than a touchdown more than IU.

    1. I have no doubts about Ramsey’s performance and management decisions in this game. He can execute any play called that the OL can block. v13 said it all as to the surgical passing attack IU will deploy against questionable DB’s of MSU defending the pass. Likewise IU pass D must toe the line and be physical defending.
      Read in the last couple of days a fan stated this game will be IU’s barometer to define the ascension of the IUFB program. That encapsulates it exactly.

  5. I believe the team is in a good position to do well Saturday against MSU. The only concern is MSU coming off a bye week with two weeks to prepare. Seen some very good teams go down to defeat to an opponent coming off a bye week versus their own week to prepare. The extra week to prepare does make a difference. Fortunately it is a home game for IU which will hopefully offset some of the extra MSU preparation time.

  6. I hope coach DeBord has been holding back plays knowing MSU had two weeks to prepare for IU. I know there are plays we expect IU to have we haven’t seen yet IE reverse pass by Taylor. I am sure IU will give MSU some new issues to deal with and the fact the MSU has struggled against offense this year gives me confidence IU’s offense will do reasonably well against MSU.

    MSU has been struggling on the OL and hopefully IU’s DL can have a season best against them. We also have like our receivers against their DBs based on how MSU has done so far this year.

  7. A loss would certainly burst a very big bubble of hype….This game is very critical for Tom Allen. MSU coming off a loss against Arizona State makes the IU game a must-win for the Spartans.
    The game has a lot of implications: Allen needs a truly legit win (although MSU does seem a bit out-of-sorts compared to earlier expectations).
    MSU can’t afford another loss. A couple losses against the likes of Arizona State and Indiana likely takes them out of a BigTen race early.

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