MSU PREVIEW: One Day and Counting

Indiana (2-1) faces a daunting challenge this weekend with Michigan State (3-1) comes to town, led by tailback Javon Ringer. Today, continues its day-by-day preview of the IU-Michigan State match-up with our prediction for the outcome of Saturday's game...

Bloomington – IU Coach Bill Lynch admits he likes what Michigan State does offensively, but that doesn't mean he relishes the idea of playing against it.

While so many college football teams have made the transition from the more traditional offense to different variations of the spread, Michigan State lines up like most teams did 15 years ago. Coach Mark Dantonio's offense will feature a fullback in front of tailback Javon Ringer and a tight end who will help create holes as well, and they'll try to wear down opposing defenses with their physical, ground-oriented attack.

"It's a great offense," Lynch said this week. "I think we all wish we could run it in a lot of ways because it's ball control, you keep the ball away from the opponent, and shorten the game."

The Spartans will be going up against an IU rush defense that exposed by Ball State a week ago, when Cardinal tailback MiQuale Lewis rushed for 166 yards and four touchdowns. Now, they'll have to figure out a way to slow down a much better ground game despite the absence of three starters in the secondary. Cornerback Chris Phillips (knee, out for the season), free safety Nick Polk (knee) and strong safety Austin Thomas (right leg) will all miss the Big Ten opener.

This is also a Michigan State team that had its way with IU a year ago in East Lansing, ripping the Hoosiers 52-27. Ringer went over 200 yards for the first time in his career and the Spartans ran for 368 yards as a team in arguably the only regular season game last season that IU wasn't competitive.

"This (Michigan State) staff has really gone to power running, and last year we got a full evening of it," Lynch said. "Those guys remember that, they know what they're in for. We're going to have to throw some bodies at them and keep people fresh, because they are going to came after us."

According to IU defensive tackle Greg Brown, it's also about having the right mindset going into the game.

"It's not a special offense that does different things – it's just straight, bang, smash-mouth football," Brown said. "We're making a major emphasis on intensity, bringing it every play, That's probably the biggest thing. We're putting an emphasis on being physical every play."

This is a critical game for an IU program that took a big hit a week ago with its 42-20 loss to Ball State. That setback put the program on its heels not only from an injury standpoint, but also from a public perception standpoint as well. After last year's squad went to a bowl game for the first time since 1993, last week's result has many questioning whether or not this year's team can in fact take another step forward or if it's instead going to take a step back.

So what should IU fans expect to see? Look for a few wrinkles from a formation standpoint on defense to try to slow down the MSU running attack, and don't be surprised if IU opens up its playbook significantly in an effort to create some big plays on offense.

Both should help IU hang around with the Spartans early, but unless the Hoosiers can jump out to a lead a force Michigan State to the air, MSU's ground attack should ultimately wear down the IU defense. Prediction: Michigan State 38, Indiana 24

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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