MICHIGAN STATE: Two Days and Counting

Bloomington, Ind. - While the big names in Saturday's game are Kellen Lewis, James Hardy (pictured), Javon Ringer and Devin Thomas, it's the Hoosier linebackers and the Spartan corners who will have a huge impact on the outcome of this game at Spartan Stadium...

MSU RB Javon Ringer vs. IU LBs Geno Johnson, Adam McClurg and Will Patterson - In case you've noticed a theme this week, it's pretty obvious who we the biggest concern is for the Indiana defense on Saturday – 5-9, 200-pound tailback Javon Ringer.

If Indiana has displayed a weakness this season, it's been in defending the run. Coach Bill Lynch's team is a very respectable sixth in the league standings in the category, surrendering just under 120 yards/game. But those numbers are a bit skewed by the fact Indiana has jumped to quick leads in four of their six games and have forced Indiana State, Western Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota to throw the ball most of the second half. In addition, those numbers have been aided by nearly 40 yards in losses/game due to sacks.

The 200-plus yard effort of Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall is further evidence that Indiana's run defense might be exposed against a top-flight running back like junior Javon Ringer, who has rushed for at least 140 yards in each of the past three weeks.

There is some good news for IU, though, and it's that Ringer isn't a 25 carry/game tailback. He's averaging 17 carries/game, and has had only three 20-carry games in his career (all this season). In the last two weeks, he's amassed 332 rushing yards, but that yardage has come on just 22 total carries (10 vs. Wisconsin, 12 vs. Northwestern).

But when he gets the ball in his hands, he's a threat to score wherever the Spartans are on the field. That's why it's going to be imperative that the Hoosier linebackers do a good job of wrapping him up in the open field and keep him from getting into the secondary. Once he gets there, he has the moves to elude defensive backs and the speed to run away from them as well. If Ringer is getting into the Hoosiers' last line of defense and has chances to make safeties Nick Polk and Austin Thomas miss, that's bad news.

MSU CBs Kendall Davis-Clark and Chris Rucker vs. IU WRs James Hardy, Ray Fisher and Andrew Means - Seven days after getting scorched by Northwestern's passing attack for 526 yards, Michigan State tries to regroup against an Indiana team that also runs a spread attack that will test the talent and depth of the Spartan cornerbacks.

Davis-Clark has bad memories of IU, as one of the three games he started a year ago was in Bloomington. In that contest Hoosier quarterback Kellen Lewis threw for five touchdowns – including four to James Hardy – in Indiana's 46-21 rout. This season he's elevated himself to the team's No. 1 corner with a team-high four passes broken up and 37 tackles, meaning he'll often find himself lined up opposite Hardy.

Rucker, meanwhile, is a familiar name to Hoosier fans. The Warren, Ohio, product gave IU very serious consideration before eventually pledging to the Spartans. He moved into the starting lineup in the third week of the season when Ross Weaver went down with a foot injury in the second game of the year, and has started three of the Spartans' four games since. He's totaled 20 tackles and one interception, but he's still a true freshman who will have a very tough assignment this weekend against IU's explosive offense.

While Davis-Clark and Rucker are slated to start, IU's three and four-wide receiver sets will also test the Spartans' depth. Michigan State is hoping Weaver can return from his four-game absence, and he was expected to test his foot this week to see if he'd be ready to go. If Weaver can't go Ashton Henderson (nine tackles, zero passes broken up) would likely be the team's No. 3 corner.

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What's coming up:

On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Players to Know
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Key Match-Ups
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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