Michigan State travels to Indiana this Saturday to take on the Hoosiers in a Big Ten matchup.
This will be the Spartans' sixth game of the year and their second conference game this season. So far, the Spartans carry a 3-2 record overall and lost their only conference game to Ohio State.
The season so far has been a disappointing one for the Spartans, and the downward-spiral is continuing.
There was a report of a series of fights and poor behavior exhibited between Michigan State and Ohio State during their game last Saturday. The reports only highlight a continued disappointment of what was considered a promising season.
Thankfully, this is not lost on everyone. Head coach Mark Dantonio notes that the team only has themselves to blame for poor performance, and he's right.
As the Spartans look forward to traveling to Memorial Field this Saturday, they must remember the words of their coach. They only have themselves to blame for the disappointing season so far.
Likewise, if they are to improve, they can only look to themselves to do so.
Here are my five keys to winning the game against Indiana.
Indiana has no No. 1 quarterback.
They know it. You know it. We all know it.
Still, the Hoosiers remain adamant, at least publicly, that it is not a cause for concern.
Since start Tre Roberson went down with a leg injury, head coach Kevin Wilson has been cycling backups Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld as starters. Unfortunately for him, neither has stepped up enough to warrant being given the title of No. 1 quarterback.
While Coach Wilson continually refers to it as a "competition," the fact of the matter is that they really don't know who they want starting.
This works incredibly to the advantage of the Spartans, who will look to continue to make Wilson's decision difficult.
If the defense can rattle either quarterback and force Wilson into making the wrong decision, then it bodes very well for Michigan State's chances of winning the game.
Speaking of defense, Michigan State's has been one of the bright spots of their disappointing start.
Last year, the Spartans ranked sixth overall in total defense, and this year, they have picked up where they left off on the defensive side of the ball.
Through their five games played, the Spartan defense continues to impress, with correlating rankings amongst the other teams in the country.
On the other side, Indiana does have a formidable offense, ranked in the Top 20 overall in the nation.
A lot lies on the defense, and they must rise up to the occasion and continue their great defensive display against the Hoosiers.
Another bright spot has the been the play of junior quarterback Andrew Maxwell.
You may not see his name among the tops in the league in offensive categories, but that has more to do with the overall quality of the team's offense than it does with Maxwell's individual play.
He has come out and proven he wants to lead this team to wins, and has also committed himself to fixing the team's offensive woes.
How much influence he truly can make on that remains to be seen, but it's a step in the right direction for this team. In fact, it has already started to show in his camaraderie among his receivers. Having trust between a quarterback and his receivers is crucial to success.
It also says great things about a quarterback if your coach talks about your best game coming in a loss, as Dave Warner said about the 17-16 loss to Ohio State.
Look for Maxwell to continue his improvement with a strong showing against Indiana's poor passing defense.
For a good and balanced offense to operate, there needs to be effectiveness in both the passing and the rushing game.
Much like how the emergence of Andrew Maxwell's passing game has come in spite of the rest of the offense, the same can be said for Le'Veon Bell.
Le'Veon Bell was not a heavily recruited player coming out of high school, but Michigan State saw the talent.
They took a flier on him—and it paid off.
Bell has turned into a physical presence and has carried the load as the guy for the Spartan running game.
Unfortunately, it's damn near impossible for one man to keep up that type of game every week. He was frozen out and stymied in the game against Ohio State last Saturday.
Look for him to bounce back and take over this weekend against Indiana.
I've referenced that most people consider Michigan State's start to the season a disappointment.
Whether the team believes it has been or not, they must face the reality that everyone else does. If anything, though, that's a burden off their backs.
The Spartans must now focus on their own expectations for the team and worry less about what everyone else says. Mark Dantonio tries his best to stay positive when talking about the team's trials and tribulations this season.
Luckily for them, it's still early.
They played Notre Dame and lost by 17, but they were in that game till the end. And it may have been a conference game, but they only lost to Ohio State by one point.
It can all still be changed. Look for them to shake off the disappointing losses to Notre Dame and Ohio State, and take the positives out of those games.
With a win, all of a sudden Michigan State is back in contention for the conference title.
If they can shake off the disappointment, they'll easily handle Indiana on Saturday afternoon.