Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The Indiana Hoosiers have not laid claim to the Old Brass Spittoon since 2006. That has to change if Kevin Wilson is going to continue to turn around this football program. Not only will IU gain another trophy to hoist up, but they will have a marquee win at home, in primetime, against a top-20 team. That's a lot of boxes that can be checked off for IU. So what do the Hoosiers need to do in order to come away with the trophy? Let's find out.
1. Get off to a Fast Start and Keep The Crowd Engaged
Indiana could not have gotten off to a much faster start last week as they scored on their first play from scrimmage, but another fast start is vital for the Hoosiers this week. The crowd should be good with a rare primetime conference game at home, so give them something to get hyped about. The sooner Indiana puts points on the board, or keeps Michigan State off of it, the better. An early MSU score or an IU turnover could cause moans and groans to be heard throughout Bloomington.
2. Don't Shoot Yourself in the Foot
The Hoosiers did this last week. In fact it may have been equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot with a bazooka. The good news is that even with that IU was within five points, the bad news this is Michigan State and not Wake Forest. Cutting down turnovers and penalties were a focus at practice this week and you have to think that the players have taken it personally to not let that happen again. Richard Lagow has to make better decisions with how much touch to throw the ball with, and his receivers have to make the plays that they can make, while the defense must be cognizant of how they tackle and where their hands are while making a play. The special teams unit is not excused either, as they need to clean up their blocking schemes and avoid critical errors like blocked kicks.
3. Offensive Balance
In last week's loss the Hoosiers threw for 496 yards, but struggled to run the ball as they netted 116 yards. That will need to change this week. Beating a team is already difficult enough even when IU has both attacks going, it is near impossible if the Hoosiers are one-dimensional as they were last week.
Hopefully, the Hoosiers can rectify their run game struggles with the return of All-American Dan Feeney and starting tackle Dimitric Camiel. Wilson can say it a million times, but the rushing attack was affected by their absences. Another way the Hoosiers to spark the ground game is to get Mike Majette, Devonte Williams, and Cole Gest the ball more often on the edges. Devine Redding has run very hard, but he does lack the burst that these three have. IU will need all hands on deck in the backfield to win this one.
4. The Defense Needs Their Takeaways
Over the first two contests the Hoosier defense took the ball away six times from their opponent, before not recording a takeaway last week. Getting the ball back to the offense in this manor energizes the crowd and gets the defense off the field. The Spartans have not taken care of the ball that well as they have turned it over seven times, five interceptions and two fumbles in three games.
5. Don't Leave Points on the Field
Yes, this can be a sub-category of item two, but it is something that is that important. So many times this season the Hoosiers have left points on the field whether it be via missed field goals, failed fourth downs, or penalties. Cutting out penalties inside the 10-yard line, executing field goals, and taking three when you can will come up big. Indiana needs as many points as possible to win Saturday and every point counts.