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Indiana vs. Michigan State: Slowing Sudfeld key

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday's Indiana-Michigan State game at Spartan Stadium (3:30, ABC/WJR).

Hoosiers: Players to watch

Nate Sudfeld, QB: The senior leads the Big Ten in passing (290.2 yards), is second in completion percentage (63.0) and fourth in TDs (11). Last week in a 55-52 loss at Rutgers, Sudfeld set career highs in completions (32), passing yards (464), total yards (456) and TDs accounted for (five). His four TD passes tied a career-best. His 464 yards are the eighth-most in the FBS this season and best in the Big Ten.

Jordan Howard, RB: The junior has missed the past two games with an ankle injury but is expected to play Saturday. He’s has 709 yards in five games, and became the only FBS player in the last 20 seasons with 140-plus rushing yards in each of his first four games with a program. He transferred from Alabama-Birmingham, where he rushed for a school-record 1,587 yards and 13 TDs in 2014. He has 15 career 100-yard games, including in eight of his last nine, and 10 150-yard performances.

Marcus Oliver, LB: The Hoosiers are allowing 35.1 points, more than any team in the Big Ten. But Oliver has been solid, and his 61 tackles rank seventh in the conference. After he posted a then-career-high 13 tackles against Penn State, Oliver had 1, including 12 solo and an INT, last week against Rutgers.

Intangibles

Ups and downs: Michigan State has been very good after big games, but coming down from the emotional high of the last-second victory over Michigan won’t be simple. A bye awaits before a trip to Nebraska, but if Michigan State gets caught looking past Indiana, it could come back to bite it. Indiana knows how to put points on the board, and the young Michigan State secondary will be tested.

Another trophy: The Old Brass Spittoon has spent most of its time in East Lansing as Michigan State leads the series 44-15-1. The Hoosiers haven’t possessed the trophy since 2006, and determining how much it plays into Saturday’s matchup is hard to gauge. It might not be the most noteworthy symbol in college football, but the Hoosiers would relish taking it from the home team.

Connections: Michigan State defensive line coach Ron Burton spent five years as linebackers coach at Indiana (1997-2001). He also played with Indiana coach Kevin Wilson at North Carolina. Burton was a defensive lineman from 1982-86 while Wilson was an offensive lineman from 1980-83. Michigan State QB Connor Cook’s father, Chris, was a tight end at Indiana from 1982-84.

Start and stop: The Hoosiers started 4-0 but have lost three straight since. Indiana has been on the verge of a big win, however, coming up a TD short against No. 1 Ohio State and watching a 25-point lead disappear last week at Rutgers. Indiana has played Michigan State close, and it will be looking to be the team that finally upsets the Spartans.

Painful gain: Michigan State has suffered quite a few significant injuries this season, but getting through Saturday’s game unscathed will be key with a bye next. The offensive line is starting to get back near 100 percent and is waiting on C Jack Allen, while RB Madre London could be back.

Facts and figures

*Michigan State QB Connor Cook (61) is two TD passes from passing Jeff Smoker for second in school history. Kirk Cousins threw 67 TDs. Cook is also 67 passing yards away from being the fourth Spartans quarterback to accumulate 8,000 total yards.

*The Spartans enter Saturday’s game on an 11-game winning streak, the longest under coach Mark Dantonio. It is tied for fourth-longest in school history, while Dantonio is the only Michigan State coach to win 11 straight two times. A victory would give the Spartans 12 straight, which would tie for third-longest streak.

*Indiana ranks at the top in the Big Ten in total offense (478.9 yards) and passing (284 yards). The Hoosiers are also third in scoring (34.1 points) and fifth in rushing (194.9 yards). Indiana, however, is last in the conference in scoring defense (35.1 points) and total defense (504.1 yards), while ranking 13th in passing defense (334.1 yards) and 12th in rushing defense (170 yards).

*Mark Dantonio won his 100th game as a coach last week and is 82-31 at Michigan State, ranking him second behind Duffy Daugherty (109). He is one of 14 active FBS coaches with at least 80 victories at the same school. His .716 winning percentage (48-19) in Big Ten games is first in Michigan State history.

*Indiana trails only Michigan State in turnover margin in the Big Ten and is second with 13 takeaways (six INTs). The Hoosiers have scored 65 off the 13 turnovers, including two INT returns for TDs. They have recorded at least two takeaways in six of its last nine games.

Indiana's Nate Sudfeld has passed for  1,741 yards this season with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions.