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Indiana Hoosiers vs. Michigan State Spartans: Previews, predictions and prognostications

When: Saturday, Oct. 24; 3:30p.m. ET
Where: East Lansing, MI; Spartan Stadium (75,005)
All-Time Series: Michigan State leads 44-15-2
Last Meeting: MSU Win 56-17 (2014)
Line: Michigan State -16.5

Could this really be the Big Ten’s best game of Week 8? Such is the slate of contests in front of us all, and we’re not kidding when we say this game has the potential to be the most competitive or the biggest blowout of the weekend.

Why do we say that? Let’s take a look in-depth at the Hoosiers vs. the Spartans.


1 Burning Question: Who Avoids the Trap? 

If you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you missed perhaps the craziest finish to a Big Ten football game in nearly a decade. Some would argue it is perhaps the most insane finish to a B1G game in history. Either way, Michigan State comes in to this game still undefeated on the season, but it can’t let the craziness of last weekend against rival Michigan overwhelm the thoughts, because Indiana’s offense is hella dangerous. If MSU is caught sleeping through this game it could be no more undefeated for the Spartans.

However, MSU isn’t the only team that has to avoid the trap game here. Unlike the Spartans though, Indiana could see last week’s collapse against Rutgers as a negative turning point. Giving up all the points in the world in the final 15 minutes could have a very sobering effect on the Hoosiers. Simply put, Indiana needs to move on and show a competitive spirit if it wants a chance at making a bowl game at the end of this season and saving its head coach’s job too.

2 Key Stats:

— 44-12-2: That is the record of Michigan State in this game since the introduction of the Old Brass Spittoon. Yes, this is one of those trophy games rarely talked about in Big Ten country, but it has existed since 1950 and unsurprisingly, the Spartans have dominated this series. The games as of late have been much closer, but Indiana hasn’t won in this series since a victory in 2006 at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Ind. The Hoosiers haven’t won at Spartan Stadium since 2001.

— 19-1: That is MSU senior quarterback Connor Cook’s record as a starter against Big Ten opponents. Message is pretty simple here — good luck beating this guy in Big Ten play. His lone loss as a starter against a Big Ten opponent came last season to No. 1 Ohio State. Indiana is not Ohio State, so could this be win No. 20 of Cook’s career?

3 Key Players:

— Connor Cook, Michigan State: As he goes, so goes Michigan State’s chances to win. While Cook hasn’t been as accurate as seasons past, he’s been highly effective and once again most of his lackluster stats have more to do with dropped passes than Cook’s abilities. With MSU’s defense not exactly what it once was, this game could be a shootout between the offenses, and MSU is going to need Cook and his receivers at their best.

— Jordan Howard, Indiana: Everyone in the country is talking about the Big Ten’s leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliott. However, there is one player in the conference better in per game stats — Jordan Howard. If it weren’t for an ankle injury, Howard would likely have the raw numbers lead, but his 141.8 yards per game average tops that of Elliott’s. Want a shot at beating Michigan State? Take advantage of the best player you have, and that’s Howard…if he’s healthy.

— Rashard Fant, Indiana: The Hoosiers starting cornerback came in very hyped on the season, and while the team numbers won’t suggest it, he’s been pretty good on an individual level. He leads the team with 13 passes defensed, a number that is nine more than the next on the list. Fant will be challenged unlike he’s been most of this season thanks to a quality stable of MSU wide receivers. If he can rise to the challenge of Connor Cook and the Spartans receiving group, Indiana could well have a chance in this matchup.

4 Bold Prognostications:

— Indiana out-rushes Michigan State: There isn’t a running game more disrespected on the national level than that of the Indiana Hoosiers. A lot of that is because Jordan Howard is really freaking good. However, all reports we’ve heard from Bloomington indicate Howard is likely out once again this week. Indiana hasn’t rushed for 200 yards as a team in Big Ten play, not coincidentally, that is when Howard hurt his ankle. Look for that to end, as Devine Reding surprises everyone and goes off in the run game. It all leads to the Hoosiers doing more damage on the ground than MSU.

— Connor Cook outduels Nate Sudfeld: In what could be the best quarterback matchup of the year in the Big Ten, whichever QB plays better could mean the difference between winning and losing. MSU is giving up nearly 230 yards per game and even game up 149 yards on six completions to Air Force. Imagine what a guy like Sudfeld could do against this defense? However, people forget that Connor Cook is just as likely to be able to air it out. With Sudfeld averaging 290 yards and Cook averaging 238 yards per game, it would stand that Sudfeld should win this battle. However, Indiana’s awful pass rush and pass defense gives Cook the edge this time around.

— Rashad Fant Gets a Pick-Six: How the heck has Rashad Fant not had an interception yet this season? He’s tied for second in the Big Ten with 13 passes defensed, but he’s the only one of the top 5 in that category that hasn’t had an INT as well. Look for that to finally end, as MSU’s wide receivers flub a ball right to Fant for an easy pick-six inside MSU territory. If it happens, remember…you heard it here first.

— Shilique Calhoun Won’t Get a Sack, But MSU’s D Will Get at least 3: No one has been hotter over the last three weeks on MSU’s defense than senior defensive end Shilique Calhoun. He’s got 4.0 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in road trips to both Rutgers and Michigan. Interestingly enough, he’s going up against arguably the best offensive line he’ll see until Ohio State this week and they’re going to shut him down. That’s fine for MSU, because they’ll still get theres, with the Spartans second in the Big Ten with 24.0 sacks as a team so far. Indiana is only giving up 1.14 sacks per game, which is second in the B1G as well. Something will give in this one, and it will be Indiana’s O-Line.

5 Staff Predictions: (overall record; record against the spread)

Andy: Michigan State 38-24 (61-14 overall; 33-41 ATS)
Dave: Michigan State 34-26 (61-14 overall; 40-33 ATS)
Greg: Michigan State 42-35 (55-20 overall; 43-30 ATS)
Matt: Michigan State 45-35 (59-16 overall; 45-28 ATS)
Phil: Michigan State 42-27 (16-6 overall; 8-11 ATS) *joined in Week 5

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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