MSU WR Matt Trannon vs. IU CB Tracy Porter - Michigan State has its own football/basketball player who towers over opposing cornerbacks in 6-6, 227-pound Matt Trannnon. While Trannon's numbers (25 catches, 367 yards, 4 TDs) pale in comparison to those of James Hardy, he'll be a primary target of quarterback Drew Stanton.
Not only does Trannon's size make him an enticing target, he also has a track record of giving the Hoosiers fits. In fact, entering the season the two best statistical games of his career both had come against Indiana. As a freshman in 2003 Trannon caught six passes for 82 yards, and in 2004 he followed that up with a six-catch, 94-yard performance in Bloomington.
What makes Trannon's contributions even more important is the expected absence of the team's leading receiver, Kyle Brown, who sprained an ankle last week against Northwestern. In his place could be a true freshman, 6-3, 207-pound Ryan Allison. Expect the Hoosiers to put their top corner, Porter, on the Spartans big man in an effort to slow him down.
After getting out of the gates quickly, Trannon has struggled in recent weeks. He had a five-catch, 136-yard, two-touchdown effort in MSU's 44-41 win over Notre Dame, and followed that up with a five-catch, 75-yard performance in the Big Ten opener against Illinois. But in his last three games, Trannon has been held to just nine catches, 66 yards, and zero touchdowns. He's been nursing a quadriceps injury, but should be able to play Saturday.
IU DE Victor Adeyanju vs. MSU OT Mike Gyetvai/MSU TE Ryan Woods - The only way to slow down the Michigan State offense is to try to pressure, hurry and ultimately contain Spartan quarterback Drew Stanton, and a big game from Adeyanju would go a long towards doing just that.
Adeyanju has been playing some of his best football as of late, totaling 10 tackles and 2 ½ sacks in the last two weeks. When he isn't productive it's generally a result of teams double teaming him in passing situations and running away from his side of the field on running plays (he had only one total tackle in IU's games against Illinois and Wisconsin), but he's been getting more of a chance to make plays as of late.
Gyetvai, meanwhile, is a big body at 6-7 and nearly 310 pounds, but Adeyanju's quickness could present him with some problems. Don't be surprised to see Woods teaming up with Gyetvai to try to keep Adeyanju from getting into the backfield and forcing Stanton out of the pocket. Woods only has three receptions in seven games, so he isn't a big part of the Spartan passing attack.
Adeyanju will also play a big part in the Hoosiers' run defense. Michigan State uses three different tailbacks, and projected starter Jason Teague and the team's leading rusher, freshman Javon Riger, are undersized tailbacks who like to get outside the tackles and use their speed to make plays. Penetration from Adeyanju and fellow IU defensive end Ben Ishola can force them back inside, while each also has the athleticism to chase down ball carriers from behind.
IU QB Blake Powers vs. MSU SS Eric Smith - Michigan State's senior strong safety will do all he can to try slow down Powers via the run or via the pass. The Spartans' leading tackler with 65 tackles in seven games, Smith has been a big part of the Spartans' pass defense as well. He has one interception to go along with a team-high three passes broken up. When IU's wide receivers come over the middle he'll be the one waiting to try to break up the play, and if IU looks to go deep, Smith will likely be back trying to provide safety over the top for the Spartan cornerbacks.
Powers, meanwhile, is trying to bounce back from his toughest start of the season a week ago against Ohio State. Don't be surprised to see him once again run the ball on occasion this weekend against the Spartans, and when he does he'll need to be aware of Smith coming up to make the stop.
Special Teams - This hasn't been a strong suit for either team, so a big play on a return or even a big field goal could go a long way in determining Saturday's outcome.
Indiana knows that the Spartans are going to be able to move the ball Saturday, but the Hoosiers are hoping they can tighten up once the Spartans approach the red zone. When that happens, the Spartans have struggled mightily with its placekicking. John Goss is only 4-of-11 this season on field goals, which prompted Spartan coach John L. Smith to demote him last week and replace him with walk-on John Haughey in the fourth quarter.
Haughey is far from a proven commodity, with only a fourth-quarter extra point in the 49-14 loss to Northwestern to his credit. He didn't even participate with the Spartans during fall camp, instead joining the team after the first semester started and rosters are able to expand.
Michigan State is also probably going to be without Kyle Brown, who is not only the team's leading receiver, but the punt returner as well. In his place will be sophomore Terry Love, who is averaging 4.3 yards on three punt returns this season.
Indiana, meanwhile, hasn't been much better with its kicking game, as Joe Kleinsmith is only 3-of-6 this season. All of Kleinsmith's attempts have been from 39 yards and in, as Indiana has opted to go on fourth down each time this season instead of attempting a 40-yard plus field goal.
What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Key Matchups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do to Win
riday – One Bold Prediction
On Saturday – Hoosier Gameday
Four Days and Counting...
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