For the first time since Sept. 18, 2016, Michigan State has cracked the AP Top-10, checking in this week at No. 10. The Spartans join four other Big Ten teams (Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan) in the top 10, setting up for what should be a highly competitive second-half of the season.
MSU’s next opponent is on the clock as the green and white continue the road trip to take on the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington.
The Spartans are coming off a 31-13 victory over Rutgers, where they got off to a slow start. Michigan State trailed 10-7 early in the second quarter, but a 63-yard passing touchdown from redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne to redshirt junior wide receiver Jalen Nailor, his second of three touchdowns over 60 yards on the day, gave MSU the lead and they never looked back.
A second-half shutout from the Michigan State defense kept the game out of reach for Rutgers, fueled by the return of starting redshirt freshman linebacker Cal Haladay who was forced to miss the first half as punishment from a targeting penalty.
Junior running back Kenneth Walker III had another fantastic game with 245 yards and a touchdown, highlighted with a 94-yard touchdown run in the third quarter for the longest offensive play from scrimmage in program history. He continues to lead the country in rushing yards with 913 and gained some more recognition nationally as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate for his performance.
Scouting the opponent
Last year, Indiana was one of the better teams in the Big Ten, finishing the regular season with a 6-2 record. That was good enough to qualify for the Outback Bowl, in which the Hoosiers lost 26-20 to Ole Miss.
With multiple stars returning for Indiana such as quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and wide receiver Ty Fryfogle, there were high hopes that Indiana could take the next step and possibly compete for a Big Ten Championship. However, things have not gone as planned.
Indiana brings into Saturday’s matchup a 2-3 record, having played one of the toughest schedules in the country. All three of the Hoosiers' losses have come against teams currently ranked inside the AP Top 10 with blowout losses to No. 2 Iowa and No. 7 Penn State and a competitive loss to No. 3 Cincinnati. Indiana’s two wins have come against Western Kentucky, which MSU knows is no cakewalk of an opponent and Idaho.
Injuries have been a reason for the Hoosiers’ slow start. Penix has had a history of injuries in his time at Indiana and came into this season coming off of a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury. The redshirt junior has started all five of Indiana’s games in 2021, but has not looked like the same dynamic player that took the Big Ten by storm. He is averaging just 187.8 passing yards per game while throwing four touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Again, Penix is injured and his availability is in question for Saturday. Two weeks ago, Pennix suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter versus Penn State, forcing him to leave the game. Indiana Head Coach Tom Allen ruled Penix out indefinitely following the game, but with a bye last week, he could return as soon as this Saturday as Allen announced on Monday that Penix will be a game-time decision.
Should Penix sit out Saturday’s contest, redshirt junior quarterback Jack Tuttle will be the next man up for the Hoosiers. Tuttle was a four-star recruit in high school, so he is quite capable. He started the final two games of 2020 when Penix went down with his knee injury throwing for 362 yards two touchdowns and one interception. Coming in relief for Penix against Penn State, Tuttle completed six of 12 pass attempts for 77 yards and an interception.
He has quality players to throw the ball to in Fryfogle and tight end Peyton Hendershot. Hendershot leads the Hoosiers in yards with 274 while Fryfogle terrorized Michigan State last year going for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
The winner of Saturday’s matchup not only gets the win, but also gets to take home the Old Brass Spittoon. Michigan State has dominated the series since the trophy’s introduction into the rivalry in 1950 with a 48-16-2 record. However, Indiana currently possesses the trophy following a 24-0 shattering defeat of the Spartans in East Lansing last year.
Kickoff is scheduled for noon and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
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