This week sends the boys on the road to face the amorphous Indiana Hoosiers. Yes, our neighbors to the south have been mired in a less than ideal situation when it comes to their football program for lo these many years. New coaches, new systems, of course new players, all generally adding up to the same result. Not very good football. They have had one, lone, single, solitary winning season in the past 17 years(in 2007 they were 7-6 overall, but 3-5 in B1G play). The daunting task facing second year head coach Kevin Wilson is to change this history of apparent apathy when it comes to football at Indiana and establish a solid, winning program. He seems to be an energetic, upbeat coach and gives honest assessments of his program as it sits today. One of the many things you will discover in this week’s Q&A is that his task was made yet more difficult by the loss of quarterback Tre Roberson to injury. Yes, the football gods are seldom magnanimous. Coming from the Oklahoma program and being accustomed to winning more often than not, he knows exactly what he is looking for and what he must do to make Indiana a contender. I always have admiration for any guy who will take on a project of this magnitude.
Being an offensive minded coach, Wilson is still searching for his trigger man. IU has used two quarterbacks this season since the loss of Roberson and as yet has not settled on a true starter in his stead. Cameron Coffman(13-23, 109 yds., 1 int)started last week’s game against Northwestern despite having a nagging hip pointer injury and was eventually replaced by Nate Sudfeld(9-16, 157 yds., 1 td)who provided some spark for the Hoosier offense. Kofi Hughes led all receivers last week, grabbing five receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown. Out of the backfield, look out for Stephon Houston who gained 91 yards on 11 carries, scoring once. Again, Wilson is only in his second year so the Hoosiers are still trying to establish an identity as a team and continue to struggle at times.
Andrew Maxwell(Season stats:103-185, 1138 yds., 4 tds., 3 ints.)has been given a new target this week in the form of Aaron Burbridge in the hopes of alleviating some of the woes in the passing game. The odd man out for now is Bennie Fowler, but if Burbridge displays hands of stone the merry-go-round at the wide receiver position will continue to spin. He is touted as being sure handed, and there is no doubting his speed and open field play making ability. It will be fun to see what develops here.
The injuries along MSU’s offensive line are too numerous to list in this post(and too tragic). MLive had a good story on this a couple of days ago so check that out if you like tales of horror and such. Suffice to say that one injury to this unit is problematic enough for any team so the large number of wounded for Michigan State is nearing the level of catastrophe. Mixing and matching with spare parts, the Spartans will still try to focus on the ground game in addition to their search for a consistent air attack. Le’Veon Bell is the most potent weapon on the field for both teams this week and even with the patchwork offensive line we may be treated to more acrobatic runs.
So this all sounds like a quick and easy game for the Spartans, doesn’t it? Let’s hope so. The last time I felt this confident before a game, MSU was playing Eastern Michigan and well, we all know that wasn’t any too pretty. Still, the defense has remained very strong this season and the offense did show some signs of life last week. This should be a game in which the Spartans can work out some of their remaining flaws while they gear up for stiffer competition down the road. If it becomes anything remotely resembling a struggle we should all feel free to push the panic button and throw things at the television.