Scouting Report and Prediction: #17 Michigan State 2-1 vs. Indiana 2-1

A look at this week’s opponent…

Every year before the season I pick one trap game each year for the Spartans. A game they should win, but are in danger of an upset. Before the year I said this about the Spartan and Hoosiers and still feel that way.

In my opinion last week was the worst overall team defeat in the Dantonio era. In every phase on the field, every coach and considering the expectations all led to that assessment.

Head Coach Mark Dantonio addressed overcoming a beat down like that. “We’ve always taken the road that we’re going to get better and learn from our mistakes and carry on. There was no lack of effort in that football game. None. From the first play to the last play there was no lack of effort, no lack of toughness. When you have those two aspects going for your team usually people can rise up and they can bounce back.”

Dantonio went on to add, “If there was a lack of toughness, lack of effort, lack of leadership, then I would being concerned, but that didn’t take place. Hey, you’re playing a good football team. I tried to say that all week long, sometimes you start reading things and just expect things to happen, but that game was a different type game and the dynamics of the game changed in the third quarter because of a fumble. Had opportunities in the first half; didn’t happen.”

The Hoosiers are a good football team. They are improved on defense and want to make a statement in a rivalry game. They won’t come in offering any sympathy to the Spartans, so MSU cannot afford any residual pity party.

When MSU has the ball…

While MSU failed to attack in their overall game plan last week, one thing that would astound many people is that the Spartans threw the ball in 42 of their 69 plays. A big reason for that was because they were behind so far and had to throw as the game progressed.

The coaches failed however in putting the offensive line and QB Tyler O’Connor in obvious throwing situations with poor play calling on first and second down compounded by abysmal third down play.

OC Dave Warner addressed the play of the running backs in the passing game and he wasn’t pleased. “This last week, we were poor at best. The pass protection was poor to be quite honest with you. Not sure quite exactly what we were doing back there, but probably should have recognized that sooner and made some adjustments. My eyes weren’t in the defensive backfield from the press box, so I didn’t recognize how poor we were in pass protection. Not good.”

Wake Forest beat Indiana last week, but mixing in a mobile QB to keep the Hoosiers guessing. While the Hoosier D is not as good as MSU, they are not the abysmal excuse that IU has offered in the past.

Wake Forest would spread out the Hoosiers and even when as play was a designed pass their QB would take off and get yards on early downs keeping the Hoosiers guessing. The Spartans need to throw on first down to not allow Indiana to load the box and pin their ears back in passing situations on third and long.

Wake Forest was not as talented as Indiana, but beat them with great playing calling last week. MSU is better than IU and they can lose with poor play calling. MSU must attack, but they can’t let Indiana dictate their offense like they allowed Wisconsin to do this past Saturday. Just like last week MSU passed more than ran because they got so far behind, they can run a lot more than pass if they attack early.

Dantonio addressed the Hoosiers on defense. Defensively, their three linebackers probably are their three guys that lead the team in tackles with 44 each. Then in the back end, they have one safety that sort of anchors their group. They are a football team that’s got to respond as well after losing this past week, so it will be a great match-up at 8 o’clock Saturday night.

 

When MSU is on defense…

Dantonio addressed the Hoosiers attack, “They run a hurry-up offense, their wide receivers all have pretty much caught the same number of passes. Their three wide-outs, (Mitchell) Paige and Ricky Jones and (Nick) Westbrook are the three guys that are featured sort of guys. (Richard) Lagow, their quarterbacks, is a junior college transfer guy, sort of came on the scene and did a nice job this last game. (Devine) Redding is their running back; (Dan) Feeney probably anchors their offensive line.”

DL Coach Ron Burton addressed the Spartans need to get more pressure on the QB. “How we generate pressure is continue to beat your 1-on-1s. That’s what the key is to the game and that opportunity presents itself to all of our defensive line, as well as our linebackers and that opportunity will come. That is part of the game on a weekly basis, is you winning your 1-on-1s. That is how you generate pressure and you have to take that as an individual.”

Let’s look back at the Indiana game last week to take a long look at the Hoosiers. They love to pass on any down and in the past have had success when executing the play action pass using the Spartans mindset of stop the run against them.

Another key element of the Indiana offense is that this may be the best downfield blocking from their WR’s and TE’s that they have had since Coach Kevin Wilson arrived. They are deadly and dangerous.

Another scary element of this game is that the Spartan DB’s struggled with tackling last week. Multiple players went up for big hits, but didn’t tackle and guys got away from the. These Hoosier wide outs and tight ends are super at keeping their balance. If the Spartans are not tackling well in the defensive backfield, MSU will lose.

In the first quarter of the Wake Forest game the Hoosiers were up 7-0 (Bomb on the first play of the game went for a touchdown) with a first and ten at their won 42 with 11:11 on the clock. In the gun with an offset running back to the right and two receivers on both sides they threw a seven route (Bomb) and although it wasn’t caught they got a pass interference.

The Hoosiers will always attack. MSU can’t take one play off because IU runs and throws when they want and not when they are dictated too. In my opinion the Hoosiers have the most dangerous offense in the Big Ten.

Intangibles…

Remember the rule of five. If MSU wins that, this game is over. For those who don’t remember it, it has to do with sacks and turnovers. If the Spartans have three sacks and give up two that means they are plus one. If they then get four turnovers and give up only one that means they are plus three. That would give them a plus four for the day. They want to get to a plus five ratio at least every game. For an understanding Wisconsin was +4 in that category last week versus Michigan State.

Dave Warner addressed third down playing calling and its shortcoming last week versus Wisconsin, “Our third down package, obviously, wasn’t very good. Whether it be 3rd-and-short, we got stopped on 3rd-and-2 and certainly go with something different there. And just overall our third down package. Just looking back, the game plan we had going into that third down situation. Part of it was game plan, part of it was maybe the preparation. The blitzes were a little bit of the game plan, but also the blitzes got us and there was no reason for that to happen. Obviously, we did not prepare our guys as well as we needed to.”

Extra Point…

Dantonio addressed his team overcoming injuries and playing a fast paced team, “We’ll possibly have some freshmen move up and take some reps as well, too, more in a back-up position type thing, but we’ll play a lot people in this game. We always have. It’s very important in this game to maintain freshness; they come fast. You don’t know whether they’re snapping the ball in 12 seconds or 30, but they’re going to be prepared to snap it in 12. Substitutions, playing fresh, staying focused, that’s the name of the game. We’ve really trained for that throughout, because that’s the way so many teams play nowadays anyway.”

MSU can’t suffer another loss if their goals are going to remain tangible. This team has its back against the wall. There is no room for error and the weight of expectation rests on their shoulders.

I stress to you that we will find out what this team is made of. They are not the 2013, 2014 or 2015 Spartans. We will find out who they are starting tomorrow.

Prediction…

I am no longer convinced that they Spartans have learned their lesson on play calling despite what they say. I think IU is better than others think and while tested the Spartans will fight and find a way. I say 31-21