Michigan State has held the Old Brass Spittoon since 2007 with four straight wins over Indiana (the teams didn't play in 2009 and 2010), including last season's 31-27 comeback victory. (Dale G. Young / Detroit News)
East Lansing — Plenty will be going on today when Michigan State hosts Indiana in its Big Ten home opener.
■ It’s the 500th game in the history of Spartan Stadium.
■ It’s homecoming.
■ The Spartans’ last Rose Bowl team will be celebrating its 25th anniversary.
And, there’s the issue of trying to win a conference home game, something the Spartans have not done since beating the Hoosiers in November 2011.
“Yeah, obviously we want to reverse that,” coach Mark Dantonio said of a team that’s won 28 conference games since 2008.
But it won’t be easy.
Michigan State faces one of the most potent offenses in the Big Ten but, at the same time, one of the weakest defenses.
Last season, it took the Spartans the entire first half to get its defensive bearings before rallying for a road victory over the Hoosiers.
Still, it was Michigan State’s play at home that was the most perplexing.
“Last year we lost some games at home and they were a double-overtime game, there was the Nebraska game at the end of the game, Northwestern at the end of the game,” Dantonio said. “I can’t remember who else. But there were some very, very tight football games here, and we just need to understand that this is our place and we need to play up.”
For example ...
■ It took a perfect 63-yard pass from Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and an ineffective red-zone offense to drop a 17-16 decision to open the Big Ten.
■ Then there was a double-overtime loss to Iowa when a late defensive breakdown led to the Hawkeyes tying the game in the final minute and sealing the victory when Andrew Maxwell’s pass was tipped and intercepted in the second overtime.
■ And the controversial 28-24 setback to Nebraska, when Darqueze Dennard’s fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown was negated when Johnny Adams was called for a block in the back on the return. The Huskers responded with a pair of late touchdowns, the final one extended on a pass interference call on Dennard in the end zone.
■Michigan State capped its winless run at home with a 23-20 loss to Northwestern, allowing a field goal with more than seven minutes to play and failing to mount a comeback.
In the end, it was four losses by a total of 11 points.
But a win today gets the Spartans off to a 2-0 Big Ten start, and Dantonio is hoping the homecoming crowd will play a key role in slowing the high-scoring Hoosiers offense.
“They’re an offense that gets everything and does everything at the line with no-huddle,” Dantonio said. “So the louder we can make it in our stadium the better it’s going to be.”
It will be the first road game for Indiana this season, and coach Kevin Wilson said he likes getting his team away from home, saying there are fewer distractions.
And, he isn’t too concerned his offense will have trouble with crowd noise.
“We (already) kind of communicate in no-huddle,” he said. “So I don’t know if it’s a communication deal.
“When you play on the road, you have communication issues. Outside of that, it’s the same field and that’s keeping your eyes focused on the target and what you’ve got to do.”
In addition to a homecoming crowd, Dantonio hopes to draw some inspiration from the 1987 team that beat USC in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1988. It was the last time a Michigan State team reached the Rose Bowl.
“We’re going to obviously take advantage of that,” Dantonio said.