Know Thy Enemy is a weekly Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State football's opponent.
Michigan State will be facing their toughest opponent so far in the No. 10 Indiana Hoosiers who just came off of their first win over Michigan since 1987.
The Spartans are fresh off a nightmare game against Iowa last week, losing 49-7.
Ahead of the battle for the Old Brass Spittoon, The State News spoke with Evan Gerike of the Indiana Daily Student to see what has made the Hoosiers so successful in 2020.
Q: Indiana is 3-0 with wins over Big Ten East powerhouses Michigan and Penn State. What has been the source of this hot start for the Hoosiers?
A: If you're really going to break it down, you have to talk about the defense. What the defense has done this year has basically shut everyone down. Michigan had 13 yards rushing yards the entire game, which is very impressive to hold a team like Michigan that low. Against Penn State, the only reason they were in the game long enough to come back, the IU defense kept Penn State from scoring enough and really breaking it open. Until Penn State went up 21-20 and then they went up 28-20 when the defense let them score, it was a very close game. The offense wasn't really producing at all until Michael Penix took over those last couple drives.
Q: Quarterback Penix showed flashes last year but had trouble with injuries. Where has Penix taken the biggest strides in his game from year one to year two outside of staying healthy?
A: You can tell that he's become more of a leader in the locker room, which has really helped this program kind of come together, but on the field he seems way more confident in everything he does. He's confident when with any receiver he wants to go to between Whop Philyor, who already has a couple one hundred yard receiving games this year. Ty Fryfogle had about 142 yards against Michigan last week, and he was targeting him all day. Miles Marshall just came back from an injury last week and the first drive he scored the opening touchdown. Penix isn't afraid to go to any receivers, even running backs. Stevie Scott, he’ll turn to throw it off to him if he needs to, his decision making is very good. He's not afraid to stay in the pocket and take some hits. He's not afraid to try and throw it through tight windows, and that's helped him make big throws that maybe some other quarterbacks wouldn't be able to make.
Q: Penix has a wide variety of skilled players to distribute the ball to. Who are the ones Michigan State needs to look out for?
A: The receivers have done a fantastic job of getting open for him, catching passes, making moves and moving the ball forward. Philyor has been, you know, Penix’s go to target for both when he played last year and so far this year. Now you have Ty Fryfogle and Miles Marshall who are coming into their own. Tom Allen said in the press conference today, ‘you can't double team three receivers’, which says a lot about this receiving core and what they've done so far this season. If you try to double team Philyor, he can just look at Fryfogle or Marshall and he's got you know another option, or he can just dish it off to Stevie Scott in the backfield.
Q: Who are the playmakers for Indiana on the defensive side of the ball Michigan State will need to look out for?
A: Last year, Tiawan Mullen had his breakout game as a freshman in this game against Michigan State last year. He played fantastic, really keeping Michigan state's receivers from being able to do anything really. He has really come into his own. Now he's just a sophomore, and he's one of the best defensive players on the team. He will make fits for any receiver he goes up against. He's had a few breakdowns that have led to touchdowns this season, but that’s pretty much the only mistakes he's made all year. Guys at the safeties like Jamar Johnson and Jaylin Williams who have been knocking down passes, they've been ballhawks. Everything that seems to go up, they seem to be right where they need to be. Johnson, when IU lost him last week after he was ejected for punching a Michigan receiver, immediately you could feel the difference with him not there. The next play, Michigan threw a touchdown pass about where he would be. Linebackers like Micah McFadden, who seemed to stop every run play anyone tried as soon as they broke the line of scrimmage. It seems like someone's there to make a big tackle.
Q: What is your final prediction?
A: 31-17 Indiana. I think last season, it was a very close game and Indiana has come so much farther since that game. Michigan State has had a lot of trouble against opponents this season like Iowa or the first game against Rutgers when they turn the ball over. If Indiana’s defense does what they do and forces turnovers against Michigan State, they will have a lot of chances to score. It'll be very hard for them to be able to overcome that, especially with the way Penix had been playing last week and the way this offense continues to take steps up every week.
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