(EAST LANSING) - Michigan State's upset win over the Iowa Hawkeyes was the biggest win the football program has had since Bobby Williams 37-31 upset of the Florida Gators at 'the Swamp' in 1999's Citrus Bowl.
First, the Spartans got a Big Ten win over one of the conference favorites. Second, it gave them their fourth win of the season with eight more games to play on the schedule (only six wins are needed to be bowl eligible). Third, it got the Spartans ranked, a must if you want to play with the big boys come holiday time.
Now the Spartans have lowly Indiana coming into Spartan Stadium for a homecoming game (12:00 noon EST). But Michigan State ought to know better than to take any opponent lightly. After all, they are just a few months removed from a 4-8 season that concluded with blowout after blowout.
So the Spartans must approach this one in a workman like fashion. Show up, put in a good day's work and pick up the paycheck at the end of the day. If not, Indiana is capable of making this contest uncomfortable for State even though they are not likely to pull an outright upset. That fact is not lost on senior safety Jason Harmon.
"I think we're going to take it one game at a time because we have to get our respect back," said Harmon. "We still have to let everybody know that Michigan State is going to come out and play hard again." The Spartans intend to show Indiana on Saturday.
The Hoosiers (1-4) have had at least 30 points scored on them in every loss including last week's pasting 31-17 at the hands of Michigan. Still, Jerry DiNardo's crew is young and eager to learn. They think these tough lessons will eventually help them grow into a Big Ten caliber defense.
Indiana forced four turnovers from Michigan including two first half interception and two fumble recoveries. That would spell doom to most teams, but IU was unable to capitalize on the turnovers, not even once. As a result Michigan was able to go into the halftime locker room with a 24-0 lead.
"I don't think we competed on offense," he said. "It was mental, not physical. We were just not tough enough. It's a mindset. The offense has to be more exacting, more physical. Maybe we have to coach more aggressively." DiNardo's group tries to run the West Coast Offense, but is having about as much success with it as Marty Mornhinweg did in two seasons in Detroit.
Senior corner Duane Stone, who may eventually play on Sunday's, leads the defense. Stone's beautiful break on a telegraphed John Navarre pass gave IU one of its four first half turnovers. Junior safety Joe Gonzalez led the Hoosiers with nine tackles on the afternoon.
Still with the Hoosiers giving up 28 points per game (rank 71st in Division I-A) , MSU high flying offense figures to do some damage early. This week coach DiNardo has stressed improving the team's pass defense. DiNardo is especially wary of MSU quarterback Jeff Smoker. "He's a very efficient quarterback," DiNardo said. "He's mobile enough. He's not a scrambler, he's not an option guy, but if you don't contain him, he can hurt you. That's who he is."
Expect Michigan State to come after Notre Dame transfer and Indiana starting quarterback Matt LoVecchio. Last week, MSU came up with five sacks and 11 tackles for loss against the #9 ranked Hawkeyes. They will be looking to continue their fine play of late.
Michigan State, though, is looking for a go-to guy to emerge in a threat to compliment Agim Shabaj. Recently senior wide receiver Ziehl Kavanaught, who caught his first TD of the season in last week's win over Iowa has seemed to come to the top of the pack, but the most talented of the Spartans wide outs could be sophomore Matt Trannon.
Trannon (nine catches in 2003), though, has been slow to pickup the nuances of college football after sitting out a year as a non-qualifier. "We need to find a way to get him a big play," said Spartans offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin. "When he makes a big catch, he'll take off." Sophomore Kyle Brown (12 catches) was expected to be one of Smoker's favorite targets, but also has not emerged.
MSU was happy to get back talented tight end Eric Knott after sitting two weeks nursing injuries. Knott poses a threat that the opposition has to account for because he is able to hurt defenses, especially in the red zone.
PICK: Michigan State isn't going to play around with the Hoosiers on homecoming. Expect Indiana to use some gimmick defenses, like nickel, dime, zone blitzes and anything else it can to throw off MSU. But if the Spartans show up and are ready to play, this is a mis-match. Last year's score was 56-21 but John L. Smith won't run up the score in his first Big Ten season.
Michigan State 41 - Indiana 27