Michigan State football: 5 things to know about Indiana matchup

Michigan State football hosts Indiana on Saturday afternoon and here are five things to know about the matchup.

It’s senior day in East Lansing as Michigan State football closes out its 2022 home schedule against Indiana.

Here are five things to know that go beyond your typical preview.

1. There is only one team in the NCAA with worse time of possession metrics than MSU and Indiana (Old Dominion)

That’s right, Michigan State ranks 129th and Indiana ranks 130th in the nation in time of possession. Michigan State holds the ball just over 25 minutes a game while Indiana clocks in at about 24.5 minutes per game.

This metric is a double-edged sword. It can be telling of an offense that struggles to sustain drives like Nebraska (124th) and New Mexico State (119th). It can also show that an offense scores quickly. For instance, Ole Miss (128th) and Tennessee (123rd) are all in the same neighborhood as the Hoosiers and Spartans.

For these two Big Ten teams, it tells the story of two teams that want to run up-tempo offense, but can’t do it consistently. Both teams convert third downs below 40 percent, and allow opponents to convert greater than 42 percent of their third downs. Both teams grade more favorably on offense in terms of offensive plays gaining more than 20 yards.

Combine two inconsistent offenses with defenses that struggle to get off the field, and the time of possession metric makes a lot of sense. So, if you’re braving the elements to attend the game, or watching on television, be prepared for a long game with lots of possessions and clock stoppages.

2. Indiana is on its fourth quarterback of the season

Spartan fans clamoring to see other quarterbacks on their roster may want to look at the Hoosiers’ situation before shouting too loudly.

Missouri transfer Connor Bazalek has played the majority of snaps for Indiana this season. He was injured against Rutgers and missed the Penn State game. Backup Seth Tuttle initially announced his intent to transfer earlier in the season. However, after the injury to Bazalek, Tuttle saw the opportunity to play out the season and preserve his redshirt over the final four games. An injury forced Tuttle to leave the Penn State game, bringing in true freshman Brendan Sorsby. The youngster had a very short leash, and was pulled after one interception on six pass attempts.

This brings us to Dexter Williams II.

The redshirt sophomore has appeared twice in relief duty and is expected to get his first start on Saturday. He did not play as a true freshman in 2020, then missed all of 2021 with a torn ACL. Buried on the depth chart this season, he finally gets his shot to prove himself on Saturday.

The QB carousel has been detrimental to the Hoosiers’ offense as of late, as they have scored 14 points in each in their last two games after averaging over 24 in their first eight games.

3. These are the two worst pass defenses in the Big Ten

It remains to be seen how much the weather will impact the offensive game plan for each team. But both offensive coordinators have to be itching to attack the opponent’s secondary. Michigan State and Indiana own the bottom two rankings in the Big Ten in passing yards per game, total passing yards, completion percentage, passing touchdowns allowed, and opposing quarterback rating.

Name a passing defense statistic, and these two teams are among the worst in the conference.

Each team is allowing a staggering 8.0 yards per pass attempt while allowing over 64 percent of attempts to be completed. The two teams have combined to allow 47 touchdown passes while only intercepting the opponent eight times.

Michigan State should see a large advantage by playing with a healthy group of wide receivers and its starting quarterback. The Hoosiers have a more difficult task with Williams II making his first start. Although it’s hard to imagine a better matchup for your first start.

4. The Spartans are averaging 4.8 yards per rush in November

It’s a small sample size, but a vast improvement from earlier this season. Excluding the first two games of the season against Western Michigan and Akron, Michigan State had averaged over 3.0 yards per carry just once. They ran for exactly 100 yards in a loss against Maryland while averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Other games against Washington (1.45 yards per carry), Ohio State (0.35 yards per carry), and Michigan (1.61 yards per carry) are just plain ugly.

The past two weeks have been a different story. Michigan State has run for over 100 yards and found the end zone in each contest. This is important because Indiana will be the worst rushing defense that Michigan State has faced in the Big Ten.

Mel Tucker has made it known that he wants to run the football. It’s crucial in the red zone and short yardage situations. We all saw last year what an effective running game (and once in a generation player like Kenneth Walker III) can do to compliment your passing game. So, while these rushing numbers of late don’t jump off the screen, it should give offensive coordinator Jay Johnson more confidence in his offense to sustain drives and execute in the red zone.

5. Indiana has not won a Big Ten road game since December 5, 2020

Even by Indiana standards, this has been a brutal stretch of Hoosier football. Indiana did not win a conference game last season.

Their only Big Ten win this season came all the way back in Week 1 at home against Illinois. You gave to go all the way back to Dec. 5 of 2020 to find the last time Indiana won a Big Ten game away from Bloomington. They beat Wisconsin 14-0 in an empty Camp Randall Stadium.

This will also be Indiana’s last chance to get a road victory in 2022. The Hoosiers host Purdue to close out the regular season.

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