Staff Predictions: Michigan State vs. Indiana

With three wins in their last four games, Michigan State (5-5 overall, 3-4 Big Ten) is one win away from securing a bowl berth.

A month ago, there were significant and justifiable doubts that the Spartans would meet the six-win requirement for bowl eligibility, but a disgruntled road win over Illinois restored hope in East Lansing. After MSU wrapped up the deal against Rutgers last week, the Spartans are again favored this week when they host Indiana (3-7, 1-6).

Michigan State, which will celebrate “Senior Day” for the last home game of the year, enters this contest as a 10.5-point favorite over the Hoosiers.

While the first football game between Michigan State and Indiana was in 1922, the two programs have competed for the Old Brass Spittoon rivalry trophy since 1950. The Hoosiers went 3-0-1 in the series prior to the introduction of the trophy. but the Spartans have dominated ever since, playing 49-14-1 with Spittoon to be won.

However, the trophy has changed hands a bit more often lately. Michigan State is 4-2 on the 2016 series. Indiana last won the Old Brass Spittoon during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, MSU head coach Mel Tucker’s first at East Lansing.

With the history lesson out of the way, Spartan Nation senior writer Matthew Lounsberry and contributor Aedan Mulcrone share their thoughts on the game below with 3 bold predictions, game previews and final score predictions.

Matt’s 3 bold predictions

1.) Michigan State’s offense goes 425 yards

I was going to put that number at 450 yards, but the cold temperatures in East Lansing have me lowering expectations for Michigan State’s offense.

The Hoosiers have the worst defense in the Big Ten and give up a league-high 447.6 yards per game on offense, including a league-worst 270.2 yards per game. Indiana’s run defense wasn’t much better, allowing for 177.4 rush yards per game (the third worst in the Big Ten).

In layman’s terms, the Spartans should be able to do what they want on offense IF the weather cooperates. Temperatures are expected to be in the low to mid-20s throughout the game, which could make it difficult for quarterback Payton Thorne to throw the football. If that’s the case, the Hoosiers can load the crate to stop the run. We’ll see how it plays out, but this is a defense Michigan State should have some success against.

2.) Jalen Berger blacked out 100 meters rushing

As mentioned above, I don’t know if the weather conditions will allow much production through the air. With that, I expect Michigan State to be a little more run-heavy than usual, and that will mean plenty of opportunities for Stau Jalen Berger.

Berger might have a hard time sledding when Indiana loads the box, but with enough total carries and a few chunk runs, he should surpass the 100-yard mark.

3.) Payton Thorne throws at least 2 touchdown passes

Though I expect Michigan State to grind things on the ground, the Spartans’ best offensive weapons remain their wide receivers.

In the red zone, MSU needs to use second wide receiver Keon Coleman as a big target that’s unsuitable for almost everyone. Senior wide receiver Jayden Reed has a knack for going over the top and overplaying defenders, too. Throw in a bunch of tight ends, and the Spartans have all the weapons they need to attack this underperforming Indiana secondary.

Aedan’s 3 bold predictions

1.) 3 different Spartan seniors score touchdowns

Indiana is yielding 34.6 points per game. More importantly, they give up a lot of passing yards. Looking back at last year’s Michigan State vs. Penn State game, when the Spartans played in the snow, they still threw 268 yards. Against a weaker opponent and on Senior Day I’m seeing similar numbers this week.

The three players I think will score are Jayden Reed, Daniel Barker and Elijah Collins. Since MSU’s game against Illinois, Reed has looked as good as last year. Barker had a great game against Rutgers and Collins has played well when given opportunities. The Spartans are using a running back by committee approach, but for Senior Day I expect Collins to get more touches.

2.) MSU defense keeps the Hoosiers under 13 points

Whichever way you choose to look at it, Indiana’s season is over. The Hoosiers are no longer eligible for the Bowl and will likely start playing some inexperienced players to begin preparations for next season. Indiana has nothing to lose, which sounds dangerous but has less talent than Michigan State and will play in unfamiliar weather.

Indiana has one of the worst rushing offenses in the country, and the Hoosiers can easily fly football through the air. Indiana quarterback Connor Bazelak has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 12 to 9 this year. As well as how well the Spartans’ defenders have been playing lately, I think they can handle anything the Hoosiers throw at them.

3.) Spartans get 4 sacks for defense

Bazelak has been sacked 23 times this season. I’m worried about his health as I think the Spartans will increase that number even further. Indiana will be forced to throw the ball as its attack is poor, and with a poor offensive line, Michigan State is capitalizing on an advantage.

Even though some of Michigan State’s pass rushers have been eliminated, I think they’ve had good production over the past few games. Even in the Michigan game the defense played well, it was the offense that didn’t keep their end of the bargain. Indiana allows more than three sacks per game, and MSU will get more than three.

Matt’s preview, outcome prediction

With perfect weather conditions, I would expect there to be quite a lot of goals in this game. But with the cold and windy, I expect both defenses to have a bit of an advantage.

One of my bold predictions was that Michigan State would go 425-yard offense, but I don’t necessarily think the Spartans will light the scoreboard. In these conditions, turnover and foot play can be a problem. That being said, I like MSU’s staff much better than Indiana’s, so I expect the Spartans to come out on top, although the score may be low. Result prediction: Michigan State 24, Indiana 10

Aedan’s preview, result prediction

I don’t know why I’m still optimistic going forward, but I am. In general, the Spartans haven’t had a four-touchdown game since the game against Washington. My prediction of three touchdowns seems correct, but I think that’s where the touchdowns end.

This feels very similar to the Rutgers game. Michigan State is the more talented team, but the Spartans can’t overlook the Hoosiers. I think Indiana’s coach Tom Allen could be in trouble. After a historic 2020 season, they’ve returned to old Indiana. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if Allen University didn’t pay nearly $5 million a year.

The bottom line is that Michigan State has momentum and Indiana hasn’t won a game since September. On MSU Seniors’ Day, the Spartans win and take home the old brass spittoon. Result prediction: Michigan State 24, Indiana 10