Spartans try not to fall into 'look ahead' trap

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing — The "trap" game is a pretty routine problem on a football team's schedule, especially for those chasing conference championships and a national playoff berth.

And if there is such a game on Michigan State's schedule, this week's at Indiana certainly qualifies.

While the Spartans sit atop the East Division and are fighting to be part of the College Football Playoff, the Hoosiers have had their share of struggles and will be without their starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

But the trap comes in looking to next week when Michigan State hosts Michigan.

"The way this program is built, has been built, is to every week, every day, go back and ground yourself, and work hard," coach Mark Dantonio said. "That's the way I hope that we are structured and built. And if you do that, then you're always ready for the next challenge, whether it's after a big game that you lose or after a big game that you win. And I think that's what we have to be about."

There will be plenty for Michigan State to focus on this week.

While the Hoosiers have not been able to stop teams defensively, they haven't had any trouble scoring, thanks to running back Tevin Coleman, who leads the nation with 1,060 yards. And there's the fact the Spartans, coming off two straight poor fourth quarters, believe they are far from playing their best.

"I think all you have to do is you watch the film and you see the big play potential that's there on the offensive side of the ball," Dantonio said when asked how he keeps his team from looking ahead. "And you listen to reporters asking about fourth-quarter issues and you've got no problems."

Some players suggested this week's game can provide the perfect chance to head into next week with momentum. But most chose to keep their sights set on Indiana.

"We're not even worried about next week," nose tackle Lawrence Thomas said. "The focus is on Indiana right now."

It's exactly how Dantonio wants his players thinking.

"Next week takes care of itself," he said. "This week is about Indiana and our focus needs to be right there. We have so much to lose; we have too much to play for."

Role playing for London

Preparing for players like Coleman sometimes can be taxing on a scout team. Getting the right player to step into that role can be challenging.

Tony Lippett first made a name for himself as a true freshman in 2010 playing the role of Michigan's Dennard Robinson. So who is trying to emulate Indiana's outstanding running back?

"Madre London," defensive line coach Ron Burton said. "He does a great job with it, and we also have one other kid who's doing it, too … Gerald (Holmes)."

Holmes saw limited action before getting hurt against Eastern Michigan, while London is a true freshman who has yet to play. He appears, at this point, headed for a redshirt season.

Extra points

Junior center Jack Allen (left ankle) did not practice Tuesday and is day to day, co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said.

Allen had started 15 straight games before missing the Wyoming game with an undisclosed injury. If he does not play, he'll likely be replaced by fifth-year senior Connor Kruse. Fifth-year senior left guard Travis Jackson and true freshman Brian Allen also have played center this season.

… Burton, on the status of fifth-year senior defensive tackle James Kittredge: "I think he is still in work mode right now as far as where he needs to be. But he is out on the field working. He is not up to game speed yet."

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Michigan State at Indiana

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.

TV/radio: ESPN/WJR

Records: No. 8 Michigan State 5-1 (2-0 Big Ten), Indiana 3-3 (0-2)

Line: Michigan State by 14½

Series: Michigan State leads 43-15-2 (Michigan State 42-28, Oct. 12, 2013)

Did you know? Indiana RB Tevin Coleman has a touchdown in 15 consecutive games.