Battle For The Old Brass Spittoon: #12 Sparty (8-2, 5-1 Big 10/12 Legends) vs. Indiana (1-9, 0-6 Big 10/12 Leaders)

John Masters (54) and Jehuu Caulcrick (30) with the Old Brass Spittoon after a 2007 win over Indiana.

MSU/Iowa recap:

Sparty certainly took out 21 years of frustration by finally beating Iowa at home last Saturday, 37-21. Having been eliminated from BCS bowl contention last year by Iowa on the road, Dantonio’s troops made sure that the Hawkeyes wouldn’t be able to duplicate their success from last year.

Sparty QB Kirk Cousins reversed his fortunes on the road, finishing 18-31 for 260 yards and 3 TDs. RB Le’Veon Bell carried the ball 20 times for 118 yards and a score, and WR B.J. Cunningham also chipped in with 2 TD catches.

The defense did a great job against Iowa RB Marcus Coker, holding him to 57 yards on 21 carries a week after he ran 29 times for 132 yards in an upset win over Michigan. Hawkeye WR Marvin McNutt had a big day, with 8 catches for 130 yards and a score, but he didn’t haul in a TD pass until the score was 34-7, in favor of Sparty.

With a 5-1 record in the Legends division, Sparty sits fairly comfortable in first place. Michigan and Nebraska, tied for second-place in the division, square off today in Ann Arbor. A Sparty and Michigan win would lock up the division for Sparty, while a Sparty loss and Nebraska win would keep the Huskers in the division title hunt. It is highly unlikely that MSU would lose at home to Indiana, but the players and coaching staff must view today’s game as a must-win.

Today.

The Indiana Hoosiers have lost 7 straight, including last Saturday’s 14-point loss on the road to Ohio St. The Hoosiers and Buckeyes were actually tied at 20 before a late 3rd quarter TD run by Buckeye QB Braxton Miller put them ahead. In their last 7 contests, the average margin of defeat has been 14 points, “highlighted” by a 59-7 beating at the hands of Wisconsin on the road and 59-38 shootout loss at home against Northwestern two weeks later. Indiana is playing for nothing, basically. It may be safe to say that their season finale at home against Purdue next Saturday will be their BCS title game.

Key Spartans:

QB Kirk Cousins: 2,249 YDS, 16 TD, 5 INT, 63.5 CMP%, 141.8 RAT

RB Le’Veon Bell: 122 CAR, 640 YDS, 9 TD

WR B.J. Cunningham: 55 CAT, 873 YDS, 5 TD

Key Hoosiers:

QB Tre Roberson: 698 YDS, 3 TD, 3 INT, 58.1 CMP%, 125.3 RAT/82 CAR, 337 YDS, 2 TD

RB Stephen Houston: 131 CAR, 633 YDS, 7 TD

WR Kofi Hughes: 28 CAT, 445 YDS, 3 TD

A little objectivity tells me that despite its statistical ranking, MSU doesn’t have the third-best total defense in the entire country. Their numbers surely took a hit after Iowa put up 339 yards of total offense in last Saturday’s game in Kinnick, anyway. Still, it is arguably the Big 10’s best defense and one of the nation’s elite units. A definite positive one could take from the Iowa game is that the offense piled up 443 yards of total offense against a respectable defense. More importantly, this was done on the road. Cousins look pretty sharp, and the offensive line did a good job of creating holes for its runners and giving Cousins ample time to deliver the ball downfield.

Hoosier QB Roberson is a freshman and should face plenty of problems against MSU’s, D, especially on the road. While Sparty’s D may not be nearly as good as Alabama’s and LSU’s, the entire unit will cause problems for the Hoosier offense, from start to finish. On the offensive side of the ball, look for both Bell and apparent backup RB Edwin Baker to get plenty of touches and also rack up plenty of yards on the ground against a Hoosier run D that is the third-worst in the entire country. The Cousins-to-Cunningham connection should get going very early today so there are no worries about an Indiana team hanging on for dear life. This could be a trap game…if Indiana had at least a semblance of talent on either side of the football. It’s Senior Day, and the final-year Spartans will go out in easy fashion.

Sparty blows Indiana out, 49-14.

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