Know Thy Enemy: Battle-tested Hoosiers visit East Lansing
Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes, from the eyes of the Spartans to the eyes of MSU football’s next foe. The State News asks the opposing team's student newspaper a few questions and see football through a different lens.
It’s been a tough start to the Big Ten season for the Indiana Hoosiers. They’ve stumbled to an 0-3 record to begin conference play.
However, the three games have come against the cream of the crop of the Big Ten East — Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, in that order.
And now, the Hoosiers visit East Lansing facing off against another ranked opponent in the Spartans. The Old Brass Spittoon is on the line as the rivalry is once again renewed.
Much like in past years, Indiana has done a successful job in keeping up with the big boys in the Big Ten, only to falter down the stretch. The Hoosiers gave the Wolverines a scare in their last game, taking U-M to overtime before eventually falling 27-20.
To better understand Indiana football, The State News interviewed Cameron Drummond, football beat reporter and sports editor for The Indiana Daily Student, and asked him four questions about the Hoosiers.
Q: Indiana has struggled thus far, looking at its Big Ten record. However, the Hoosiers have played three ranked conference opponents in Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan. How have they looked in those marquee matchups?
A: The game against Michigan was by far the most heartbreaking of the three Big Ten games they’ve played so far. Just looking at it on paper, IU is good in certain areas, but they just don’t have the athletes across the board to compete with a team like Ohio State or Penn State. But the Michigan game really stung because this was the closest in terms of athletes across the board that IU had been beating Michigan in quite a long time. IU really felt like they matched up well on defense on what was probably a weak Michigan offense. ... IU had multiple opportunities to win the game. Michigan committed a bunch of penalties, they were ill-disciplined. But they just couldn’t take advantage of it. But overall, this would be the first of three Big Ten games I think IU graded out pretty well because you wouldn’t expect an IU team of years past to come close to winning one of those three games. So to take Michigan to overtime probably says a lot about the way the program is trending.
Q: It’s been kind of Indiana’s M.O. to hang around with the top, ranked opponents, much like Michigan and Ohio State this year, only to falter at the end. What’s the driving factor to that, depth? Maybe talent? How can the Hoosiers fix that issue to finish games stronger?
A: It’s kind of crazy for the guys who have been covering IU football the past six or seven years, they’ve had to write kind of the same exact story for six or seven years about IU getting really close for that upset win, the breakthrough win, and not being able to pull it off. Legitimately, people thought that last year’s win over Michigan State was that breakthrough moment where Indiana completely turned the tables on being able to pull an upset over a top-25 opponent. ... It’s just something when it’s the fourth quarter, this team just doesn’t have the confidence. There’s just never been the confidence about this team to close out a game in the fourth quarter. I don’t know if they haven’t done it before, or if it’s because they’ve struggled so much in recent years. Until IU is able to complete the game and complete an upset, I don’t think that they’re going to do it.
Q: For both the offense and the defense, who is one player that will be an X-factor to this game against MSU? Where how they play will largely determine Indiana’s fate?
A: On offense, I’ll go with junior wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. Surprisingly, he wasn’t featured a whole lot in the game against Michigan this past weekend. Cobbs is IU’s biggest threat, he’s their biggest playmaker. And the thing with Ramsey is that he can’t throw the ball very far. He’s very limited in terms of his accuracy, with his arm strength and far he can launch it down the field. If IU wants that sort of big-play potential, then it’s going to be Cobbs. Jr. on a crossing route or on a screen play. Especially because he’s shifty in the open field. Of all the IU wide receivers, he’s the one guy who can probably dominate and take control of the game by himself.
When it comes to defense, I’m actually going to say Chase Dutra. IU uses this weird formation where they have four defensive linemen, two linebackers and then their secondary has a position called the the “husky,” which is like a hybrid linebacker-safety. Dutra, who’s a fifth-year senior, is kind of the guy who has been stepping up in the secondary. He did a great job last weekend, he does special teams and punt coverage as well, had 13 total tackles. Dutra is a veteran in that system, in that position in the secondary who can kind of organize IU and make sure they don’t get burned for any long pass plays.
Q: What is your score prediction and why?
A: I don’t think it’ll be as close as this Michigan game this past week. I think IU can easily go down, multiple possessions in the first quarter of this game. Something just tells me that while IU will be completely rested and injuries won’t be a huge factor, it’s going to be so hard for them to be hyped up for this game. ... I just don’t see them coming out with enough energy to match a really good Michigan State team. I can see them going down, 14-0, 17-0, in the first quarter. If they get into that big a hole, I think it’s going to be so difficult for Ramsey and this offense, which has really hit or miss, to get back into it. I can see IU’s defense getting short-winded really early if IU had those three-and-outs those first few possessions.
Prediction: 37-20 MSU