Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Know Thy Enemy: Bowl eligibility looms in Saturday afternoon’s clash with the Hoosiers

November 18, 2022
<p>Redshirt senior tight end Tyler Hunt catches a throw from redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne, scoring the Spartans&#x27; lone offensive touchdown. The Spartans found a way to hold on against the Hoosiers with a 20-15 win, scraping to their first 7-0 start since 2015 on Oct. 16, 2021.</p>

Redshirt senior tight end Tyler Hunt catches a throw from redshirt sophomore quarterback Payton Thorne, scoring the Spartans' lone offensive touchdown. The Spartans found a way to hold on against the Hoosiers with a 20-15 win, scraping to their first 7-0 start since 2015 on Oct. 16, 2021.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

Know Thy Enemy is a Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State's opponent. This week, The State News' football beat writer Alex Faber spoke with football beat reporter Jacob Spudich of The Indiana Daily Student ahead of Saturday's Indiana-MSU game.

Michigan State returns to Spartan Stadium for one last time this Saturday, hosting Indiana for a noon matinee.

However, the two teams enter this weekend’s clash in very different positions.

Winning three of their last four, the Spartans seem to be getting hot as the temperatures drop. A win against the Hoosiers would secure bowl eligibility for MSU — quite the turnaround, considering where the team was just a month ago. 

Indiana, on the other hand, has not won a game since September. Last Saturday’s 56-14 drubbing at the hands of Ohio State eliminated the Hoosiers from bowl eligibility. 

Q: After a couple of good seasons under Tom Allen, it seems like the last couple of years things have fallen apart a bit. Can you identify a reason for those struggles?

A: "It’s unfortunately many things. He’s (Tom Allen) not recruiting very well compared to the rest of the Big Ten, his transfers are not panning out the way he anticipated them to. The two running backs, Shaun Shivers out of Auburn and Josh Henderson out of North Carolina, were supposed to lead this running game for Indiana. So far, they have basically zero output with the exception being a couple good games.

Coaching, recruiting, transfers haven’t panned out the way Tom Allen wanted them to. That being said, Indiana is not really a football school. What he’s doing is still very good, I think it’s just been some tough seasons after that big season he had in 2020."

Q: What are the main weapons for this offense in terms of receiving?

A: "A.J. Barner at tight end has been really good. They’ve kind of struggled to get him in the offense, but he’s a really good tight end following up Payton Hendershot, who just left last year. Cam Camper is probably one of the best receivers in the Big Ten. Unfortunately, he went out a couple weeks ago with a torn ACL so he’s done. They’ve seen guys like Andison Coby and Javon Swinton start to take over. Those are a couple of transfers as well."

Q: Connor Bazalek has gotten a lion’s share of the snaps this year, but last week Dexter Williams stepped in. What did you see from him?

A: "He brings mobility to the offense. Bazalek is a really good quarterback, but he doesn’t have as good of mobility as Williams does. Williams made some really good throws, but he also missed a lot of throws. He was 6 for 19. Only completing six passes is the least amount of passing attempts they’ve had all year. Mobility is the big one, especially when the pocket consistently collapses."

Q: Are there any players Michigan State going to have circled on the defense?

A: "Dasan McCullough is probably one of the best freshman in the Big Ten. He plays linebacker for Indiana. He’s going to be a guy circled, particularly with Cam Jones out with a foot injury he’s still nursing. Probably one of the best defensive players on the team. But McCullough is athletic, he almost went to Ohio State before he got recruited here. He’s a true freshman, he’s a great tackler, he’s great at reading offenses. This is a guy who we’re going to see playing in the NFL in a few years, that’s how good he is. In terms of the secondary, Tiawan Mullen is a well known name, especially in Indiana football and the Big Ten. He’s a good corner, had a couple of lapses in the secondary, but for the most part he’s there, he’s hanging tough."

Q: Score prediction?

A: "24-23"

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