The Other Sideline is a weekly segment where the Indiana Daily Student interviews a student reporter from Indiana football’s weekend opponent. The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
After two road games and a bye week, Indiana football returns to Bloomington on Saturday to welcome No. 10 Michigan State during the culmination of Homecoming week festivities.
The Spartans are 6-0 on the season and will represent the fourth top-10 team the Hoosiers have faced this year. Last year, Indiana beat Michigan State 24-0 to claim the Old Brass Spittoon.
Ahead of the game, the Indiana Daily Student talked to Eli McKown, the sports editor at the State News, to preview the matchup.
IDS: With Indiana coming off a bye week, how is Michigan State preparing for the game?
McKown: Indiana’s definitely had a very tough schedule from the get-go. Head coach Mel Tucker talked about it — this is a team that has had a lot of things not go their way, so they’re going to be hungry for a big win.
They’re making sure they're ready to match the intensity because Indiana's going to be ready to play. Indiana’s had a good environment, and I think the biggest thing for Michigan State is going to make sure they can be there and quiet the crowd, make sure they are ready for the atmosphere they’re going to walk into.
IDS: What are Michigan State’s team strengths?
McKown: This is something I would not have said at the beginning of the year, but it truly is the offense in general. What they have been able to do running the football is revolutionary. They have not been able to run the ball like this in my lifetime.
Junior running back Kenneth Walker III is putting up Heisman numbers, and it’s credited to the offensive line, who’s incredibly experienced. They’ve combined for close to 200 starts, if not well over that. Walker’s been able to use that, which then opens up everything for sophomore quarterback Peyton Thorne to be able to throw the ball to a talented wide receivers group. It really helps him to open things up and get comfortable.
IDS: What does Indiana need to do to beat Michigan State?
McKown: Keep Walker in check. It really is as simple as that on the offensive end. If you can keep Walker in check and force Thorne to make throws, he’ll make mistakes. That’s what teams haven’t done this season.
For Indiana offensively, they have to test the Michigan State secondary. That’s where they’re the thinnest, where they have the least amount of experience. Indiana is going to have to try to air it out as much as it can — Michigan State is really good at stopping the run.
IDS: Last year Indiana was ranked No. 10 and won 24-0. This year feels like the opposite with Michigan State ranked No. 10. How has Michigan State been able to turn it around?
McKown: For Michigan State, it’s really the transfers in general. You look across the board — Walker obviously, senior Jarrett Horst on the offensive line, junior Quavaris Crouch in the linebackers unit — guys like that. Tucker went through and made the roster his roster.
For Indiana, I really think it has just had some bad luck. You go down the line and look at the schedule, it’s been brutal. You get Penn State, you get Iowa. I don’t know they’ve necessarily been bad, and you have your starting quarterback in junior Michael Penix Jr. not playing at a great level, it’s not an indictment on the program. It’s just been one of those years.
IDS: Who wins the Old Brass Spittoon this year?
McKown: The Old Brass Spittoon, I love this trophy. This game is going to be a grind-it-out battle, and which offense is not going to make mistakes. At this point, I like Michigan State to do that, it’s going to be 24-17.