Michigan State has dropped out of the top-25 poll for the first time this season, and the Spartans will try to climb back up the rankings this weekend in a Big Ten battle with Indiana.
The Spartans had the best record in the conference last season, while the Hoosiers had the worst. But in 2012, neither team has gotten off to an ideal start.
Indiana lost its first Big Ten matchup to Northwestern while the Spartans dropped their conference opener to Ohio State.
Here is everything you need to know leading up to these two teams’ attempts to get to 1-1 in the Big Ten.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
When: Saturday, October 6, 12 p.m. ET
Watch: Big Ten Network
Live Stream: BTN2Go.com
Betting Line: Michigan State -16 (according to Sports Book)
Michigan State Injury Report (via USA Today)
Tyler Hoover—senior defensive tackle is questionable with a calf injury.
Fou Fonoti—senior offensive tackle is out indefinitely with a broken foot.
Brandon Clemons—freshman defensive lineman is out indefinitely after undergoing foot surgery.
Indiana Injury Report (via USA Today)
Kofi Hughes—junior wide receiver is questionable with a leg injury.
Chase Hoobler—sophomore linebacker is questionable with back issues.
Charlie Chapman—junior offensive tackle is questionable with a concussion.
Michael Hunter—sophomore cornerback is out indefinitely with a sports hernia.
Jake Reed—sophomore offensive lineman is out indefinitely after contracting MRSA in his hand.
Tre Roberson—sophomore quarterback is out for the season with a broken leg.
BCS/Top-25 Poll Implications
Michigan State’s quest to work its way back up the rankings begins against Indiana. The lowly Hoosiers are unlikely to factor into any polls this season, and a win this weekend will not do much for the Spartans’ résumé.
But a loss would be catastrophic, and MSU needs to take care of business on Saturday to have a chance at getting back into the top-25 in 2012.
What They’re Saying
CBS Sports’ Mike Singer believes that the Spartans lack the balance to be one the nation’s elite teams and that their offense has been a glaring weakness this year.
After Saturday' 17-16 home loss to Ohio State, it's clear the Spartans never deserved to be included in the national championship picture at the beginning of the season. Evidently installing a first-year quarterback into an offense with few receiving threats is harder than we thought. The Spartans scoring attack ranks 114th in the country with just an average of 20 points per game.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett note that there are a few bright spots for Indiana this season, but overall, the picture is pretty bleak.
Indiana has some serious talent at wide receiver with Kofi Hughes and Cody Latimer, both of whom made circus catches Saturday. The Hoosiers also saw some good signs in their run game. But again, the defense continues to struggle mightily, surrendering more than 700 yards to the Wildcats. Until IU can defend like a Big Ten team, it won't win a Big Ten game.
Michigan State Player to Watch: Le’Veon Bell, Running Back
The struggling Spartans offense needs Bell to be productive to have any sort of success. He was stifled last week against Ohio State, gaining just 45 yards on 17 carries.
But the week before that, Bell picked up 253 yards and a touchdown against Eastern Michigan. Against the Hoosiers’ lackluster defense, Bell is likely to have another performance where he gains 200 yards or more.
Indiana Player to Watch: Cody Latimer, Wide Receiver
Latimer is 6'3" and 208 pounds, giving him prototypical size for a wide receiver. He has been the Hoosiers’ best receiver this year, catching 18 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
For Indiana to remain competitive in this game, its offense will need to make plays, and Latimer is the player most capable of doing this.
Key Matchup: Michigan State’s Conditioning vs. Indiana’s Up-Tempo Offense
According to ESPN’s Brian Bennett, Indiana was running a play every 21.4 seconds on average in the first three weeks of the season. This torrid pace offers the Hoosiers a chance against Michigan State.
If this offense is able to wear down the talented Michigan State defense over the course of the game with its tempo, Indiana stands a chance at victory. But the Hoosiers will have to be completely flawless in this game to pull off an upset.
Key Storyline: Michigan State Fighting the “Overrated” Label
By losing two of their last three games, the Spartans have not justified the No. 10 ranking they received in Week 3—the highest they have reached in the polls this season. Their performances suggest that they never deserved to be considered one of the top 10 teams in the country.
Who will win this Big Ten matchup?
Going forward, Michigan State must win every game convincingly to have a chance at proving that they were not overrated to early in the year.
Prediction: Michigan State 34, Indiana 7
Michigan State’s defense will clamp down on Indiana’s offense as Le’Veon Bell has another big day.