Five Keys to the Game: Michigan State

Indiana will have a small margin of error Saturday when it faces Michigan State in Homecoming at Memorial Stadium. Here are five keys to the game for IU to have a chance to hang around against the No. 8 ranked Spartans.

For every Indiana game this season we will have a Five Keys to the Game feature. Here is the one for Saturday’s game with Michigan State.

FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

1. GET THE PASSING GAME GOING EARLY:IU’s biggest fear Saturday will be that with a new quarterback the Hoosiers could get one dimensional in a hurry. If Tevin Coleman is to have any success on the ground against a good Michigan State defense, Zander Diamont or whoever the quarterback will be has to establish himself early. Perhaps that’s with throwing some shorter routes to get Shane Wynn or Nick Stoner involved or maybe the IU quarterback even tries to get over the top and complete something down field. But the most important thing is to not have too many early three-and-outs where the Michigan State offense is then able to take control.

2. GET TURNOVERS:Indiana has recovered one fumble and coe up with four interceptions total in six games. That’s five turnovers in the first six games of the season. Those statistics spell the words ‘unacceptable.’ If IU has any chance to keep up with a team like the No. 8 Spartans Indiana has to find a way to create a turnover or two. In two Big Ten games this season, IU has created zero turnovers. That simply cannot be the case on Saturday.

3. DEFENSE MUST ALLOW 28 POINTS OR LESS:When you have the unknown of a new quarterback like Indiana will have on Saturday, the defense has to do its job more than ever in terms of keeping the game close enough so that the Hoosiers can hang around. Coleman is always one play away from a big play which is good but the defense must keep IU close. On the season, opponents have scored 37 points or more three times. IU is 0-3 in those games. In IU’s three wins, opponents have scored 27 points or less. And that was with Nate Sudfeld at quarterback. With a new QB, even if IU’s defense can rise to the occasion it may not be good enough.

4. SPECIAL TEAMS MUST FLIP THE FIELD:The basic idea here is that you can’t let an offense like Michigan State have short fields to work with. So Griffin Oakes needs to kick the ball out of the end zone and Erich Toth has to pin Michigan State inside the 20 when he punts. If they can do that, it gives the IU defense a better chance to be successful.

5. IU NEEDS TO SCORE IN A UNCONVENTIONAL WAY:This could be a defensive score, a kickoff or punt return or some kind of a trick play on offense, but in a game like this with a very small margin for error, IU simply has to find a way to manufacture points in a different manner. Don’t leave it all on Coleman’s shoulders or that of a true freshman quarterback. Find a unique way to score.

Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch

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