BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Bye weeks are nice, but when the next game finally rolls around, it seems like an eternity in between action. So everyone involved — players and fans alike — are chomping at the bit for Indiana to get back on the field Saturday against No. 10-ranked Michigan State.
The Hoosiers' last game was on Saturday night Oct. 2, a 24-0 loss to Penn State in Happy Valley where injuries mounted quickly for the Hoosiers. They lost quarterback Michael Penix Jr., to a shoulder separation, cornerback Tiawan Mullen didn't play at all and fellow corner and return man Reese Taylor went down, too.
Indiana doesn't like to talk about injuries, so what we know on all of them is that they are ''week-to-week'' and will be ''game-time decisions.'' It's probably more likely that we'll see Mullen and Taylor on the field than it is Penix, but we'll have to wait to see at Noon ET when the game kicks off between 6-0 Michigan State and 2-3 Indiana.
Michigan State is favored in the game, but the point spread is all over the place. It's 4 points on our SISportsbook.com site, but it's as low as 3.5 points on Draftkings, and it's 5 points on the Fanduel.com site.
I am going to presume that Jack Tuttle gets the start at quarterback today, only because I know first-hand what AC joint separations are like. And with that being the case, here are three things I want to see this weekend.
Please watch the video attached with myself and Haley Jordan, our new HoosiersNow.com video director, where we break down our three topics in greater detail.
Watch the entire "3 Things'' video here
Here are the three things I want to see:
1. Get a solid game from Jack Tuttle if he starts at quarterback
Throughout the first five weeks of the season, Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has struggled through long stretches, and has seven interceptions already. Some fans have been clamoring for Jack Tuttle to get a shot at quarterback, and it's likely that's going to happen on Saturday if Penix can't go because of that shoulder injury.
If it happens, the Hoosiers are going to need Tuttle to play well, and right from the very first series. That can happen, because players and coaches alike are confident that Tuttle can move this Indiana offense. No one knows the offense better, and he has the arm — and legs — to make some plays. Everyone is comfortable, so even on a big stage against an unbeaten opponent, the expectation is that he will play well.
He'll need help, of course, which hasn't always been the case for Penix this season, either. Indiana's offensive line has to play better and even Indiana running back Stephen Carr, the transfer from USC, has to be fired up as well. A 100-yard game out of him will help a lot, too.
2. Limit explosive plays for Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III
We've been hearing about Kenneth Walker all week, and rightly so. He's rushed for 913 yards already this season, leading the nation. We've also need him rip off long runs this year — 75 yards against Northwestern, 94 yards against Rutgers — and that simply cannot happen on Saturday.
"It's definitely going to take a lot from our front seven to fill the gaps and set edges, and force them to throw the ball,'' Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden said during Tuesday night's Mike & Micah podcast on HoosiersNow.com. "They have a great running back and a great scheme, and it's on us to stop it.
"We'd done pretty well overall stopping the run, and we need to continue that this week. It's definitely going to take all of us to fit up this running back and make sure they don't get any explosive (plays).''
He's averaging 152 yards per game, and for Indiana to have success on Saturday, keeping him under 100 and forcing the Spartans to throw will have to be a priority
3. Make the most of homefield advantage
Indiana has only played two home games so far, but in both, the atmosphere has been electric. In the game against No. 3-ranked Cincinnati, the crowd noise helped contribute to six false-start penalties. The Hoosiers would love to see more of that impact on Saturday.
It's an early start, and Noon ET, so it very important that fans are in their seats early and prepared to make some noise. The parking lots and stadium. gates are opening early, which should help, and a loud crowd will definitely help
It's Homecoming in Bloomington, and the town was bursting with energy on Friday night, so more of the same Saturday would be huge.
Related stories on Indiana football
- MATTHEWS STILL 'MONSTER': Indiana safety Devon Matthews is back from a scary nerve injury, and it hasn't slowed him down on the field one bit. He's still coming at you, and ready to hit people. Tom Brew's story. CLICK HERE
- POWER RANKINGS: Our Week 7 power rankings are in, and No. 1 Iowa holds down the fort still after the big win over Penn State, but now it's Ohio State that's knocking on the door. CLICK HERE
- BIG TEN ROUNDTABLE: It's Episode 2 of our "Big Ten Roundtable'' podcast, as we check in on Penn State and Michigan during great interviews with FanNation publishers Mark Wogenrich and Brandon Brown. Very entertaining. CLICK HERE
- MICAH McFADDEN PODCAST: Indiana linebacker talks about the benefits of having a bye week and a home game back-to-back, and the challenges that lie ahead Saturday when unbeaten Michigan State comes to Bloomington. Watch the full podcast here. CLICK HERE
- DEPTH AT RUNNING BACK: Indiana has lost two running backs to the transfer portal and now David Ellis is out for the season. Several young backs are now going to have to step up behind Stephen Carr. CLICK HERE
- CONFIDENCE IN TUTTLE: If Jack Tuttle has to start at quarterback on Saturday for Indiana with Michael Penix Jr. still nursing a shoulder injury, everyone in the Hoosiers' locker room is confidence that Tuttle will play well. CLICK HERE