MSU PREVIEW: Two Days and Counting

Does Indiana have a recipe to keep Javon Ringer from having another career day? Can the Hoosiers overcome the loss of three-quarters of its starting secondary? Today, HoosierNation.com continues its day-by-day preview of the IU-Michigan State match-up with "Two Big Concerns" for Coach Bill Lynch's team in Saturday's game...

Does Indiana have any chance at slowing down Javon Ringer? – Coach Mark Dantonio isn't going to be to make the same mistakes that former Minnesota Coach Glen Mason did four years ago. In 2004, Mason had a top-25 team that featured future NFL starting tailbacks Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber, and on a tremendously windy day the Gophers lost to IU 30-21 at Memorial Stadium. Despite jumping to a 14-0 first quarter lead and boasting one of the nation's top-5 rushing attacks, Mason opted to throw the ball 30 times that afternoon, and the result was an 11-of-30 effort from Bryan Cupito and an upset win for an IU team that didn't win any other Big Ten games all season.

Don't expect Dantonio to make the same mistakes. No matter how many players IU puts in the box, the Spartans will run tailback Javon Ringer ad nausea unless the Hoosiers can show they're capable of slowing him down. That's what they did in last year's 52-27 Spartan win in East Lansing, when 21 of MSU's 27 first-quarter plays were runs and they quickly jumped to a 17-7 lead.

Ringer ran for 203 yards against IU last season, his biggest day during a season where he amassed 1,447 rushing yards overall. As good as he was a year ago, Michigan State is utilizing him even more this year. He's averaging more than 36 carries per game, he's second in the nation in rushing (699 yards) and leads the country with 11 touchdowns. He'll run behind a huge offensive line and fullback Andrew Hawken. If Indiana can't keep him under 30 carries and under 150 yards, it's going to be a long day for the Hoosiers.

What shape is the IU secondary in, and how will that impact Saturday's game? – The first part of that question has a pretty straight forward answer – the IU secondary is in very bad shape. Cornerback Chris Phillips is out for the season with a torn ACL, while safeties Nick Polk and Austin Thomas are also going to miss this match-up. That leaves cornerback Chris Adkins as the only opening-day starter healthy enough to play, and he'll most likely be joined by cornerback Richard Council and safeties Joe Kleinsmith and Brandon Mosley in the starting lineup.

That's plenty of relatively unproven players for an IU defense that has to get a good effort from the secondary if it's going to spring the upset. With MSU's ability to run the ball, IU's cornerbacks will likely find themselves in more man coverage schemes than they've been in the first three games. The safeties, meanwhile, will have to be reading their keys so they know whether or not to step up and support the run – something they'll have to do if IU is going to slow down Ringer – or drop back into coverage and prevent MSU quarterback Brian Hoyer from burning them with play-action passes.

Evidenced by the thumping IU took in last year's game in East Lansing, Indiana's defense was going to be severely tested by MSU even if everyone was healthy. It's now up to a handful of relatively inexperienced players to seize the opportunity and give the Hoosiers a chance against a very potent MSU offense.

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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