MSU PREVIEW: Three Days and Counting

Michigan State running back Javon Ringer and Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis are the headline names in this weekend's Big Ten opener, and both figure prominently in some of this week's most important head-to-head battles. Today, we continue our day-by-day preview of the IU-Michigan State match-up with "Three Key Match-Ups" in Saturday's game...

IU QB Kellen Lewis vs. MSU D-Line – The Spartans had a great deal of success a week ago blitzing Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen from all angles, sacking him three times and limiting the Irish to just one fourth-quarter touchdown. As effective as that might have been, the Spartans might be hesitant to employ a similar strategy against Lewis. The Hoosiers' quarterback is adept at making the first pass rusher miss, and he is a headache for opposing defensive coordinators when he's getting outside of the pocket and has a chance to improvise. With that in mind, Michigan State will likely rely on its four down linemen to create most of the pressure Saturday, and Coach Mark Dantonio's staff will insist on players staying in their lanes and not losing containment on Lewis. Lewis has shown the ability to stay in the pocket and beat teams with his arm as well as his legs in years past (such as his 15-of-26, 261-yard, five-touchdown effort against Michigan State two years ago), but he doesn't have the luxury of having a James Hardy to throw it to this season. Look for the Spartans to try to get after him with their front four, and it will be up to Lewis to deal with that pressure and still find ways to make plays.

IU DTs Greg Brown, Deonte Mack and Keith Burrus vs. MSU O-Line – Michigan State loves to run the ball and tailback Javon Ringer has the nation's most productive runner during the season's opening month. Indiana, meanwhile, surrendered 368 yards on the ground to MSU a year ago, and it proved once again last week that it's still not very adept at stopping the run. With those two facts in mind, it's not hard to figure out what Michigan State will try to do against IU Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. As it's done in each of the first four games, it will run Ringer until Indiana shows it's capable of stopping him. For that to happen, the Hoosiers are going to need big efforts from the interior of their defensive line. At times, Greg Brown, Deonte Mack and Keith Burrus are going to have to get some penetration to disrupt Ringer before he gets going. During plenty of other snaps, they'll need to occupy the Spartan offensive linemen and keep them from getting to the second level where linebackers Will Patterson, Matt Mayberry, Tyler Replogle and Geno Johnson will be looking to make plays.

IU CBs Chris Adkins and Richard Council vs. MSU WRs Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham - Preventing Javon Ringer from running for 200 yards is priority No. 1 for IU's defense, but that's not Indiana's only issue. To slow down the Spartan running attack, Indiana figures to commit another man to the box – possibly safety Jerimy Finch – and that will create some opportunities for the Spartan passing attack. IU lost senior starting cornerback Chris Phillips for the season last week to a knee injury, and now it will have to rely on first-year players Adkins and Council to play more man coverage this weekend against Dell and Cunningham. Dell has been the biggest playmaker in the Spartan passing game, catching 17 ball for 400 yards. Half that production came in a week one loss to Cal (nine catches, 202 yards), so Dell hasn't been quite as productive as of late. Cunningham, meanwhile, is a redshirt freshman with good size (6-2, 205), but he's had a few more drops than the MSU staff would like. They'll be on the receiving end of the throws of quarterback Brian Hoyer, who is completing only 44.5 percent of his throws this season. But he's more than capable of being on target, evidenced by his 20-of-23 perfornance against IU last season.

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

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