With Michigan State’s defense coming off another impressive performance last week in the victory over Northwestern, the Spartans will have to game plan for potentially two quraterbacks for this weekend’s matchup with Indiana.
The Hoosiers (3-1, 0-1 Big Ten) come to Spartan Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday and there’s no guarantee who will be under center at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr. began the season as Indiana’s starter, but an injury has kept him out of the last two games. In his place has been junior Peyton Ramsey, the former starter who Penix supplanted in preseason camp.
“There will be a game-time decision for that position,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said Monday. “Really pleased with Peyton's play and the way he's led and continues to do great job, and so Michael's been rehabbing and that's continued to go well and we'll find out more here throughout the week and then make a decision for that position on game day.”
Penix played in three games last season as a true freshman before a knee injury ended his year and forced him to take a redshirt year. He won the job in preseason camp and threw for 523 yards and three touchdowns in his two games of action this season while running nine times for 79 yards.
Allen said he fully expects Penix to be on the practice field this week.
“I do expect that, yes, so we'll see how that goes,” Allen said. “That's the expectation; he'll be practicing this week and getting himself ready and we'll see how his body responds to that. So that will be the case (Tuesday) and on Wednesday and then Thursday we should have a pretty good idea where we're at and then announce it at kickoff.”
If Penix doesn’t make it back, the Hoosiers will stick with Ramsey.
It’s hardly a bad option, considering Ramsey started all 12 games last season and completed 66 percent of his passes for 2,875 yards and 19 touchdowns. However, he did throw 13 interceptions, helping lead to the quarterback competition.
In two starts this season, it’s been a bit of a mixed bag for Ramsey. He was just 19-for-33 for 162 yards and an interception against Ohio State before throwing for 247 yards and three touchdowns last week against Connecticut.
“I thought that Peyton was extremely accurate, and which is his, one of his traits and just did a great job commanding the offense,” Allen said. “And ball security to me is the focus, so we fumbled that one and threw a pick, kid made a great play, but still got to protect that football. That's very important.”
Ramsey threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns last year against Michigan State, but was picked off twice. In 2017, he threw for 158 yards without a touchdown or an interception.
While No. 25 Michigan State (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) has seen Ramsey, it hasn’t seen Penix. Allen believes that could turn into an advantage for the Hoosiers.
“I guess in some ways that would be, because I've been on that side of it as well when you're not sure who it's going to be,” Allen said. “I truly stand right here in front of you and tell you I don't know who it's going to be. So they don't either, so I guess that may give us a little bit of an advantage. They will have to prepare for both, but yeah, I think you just have to schematically be able to cover your bases and be prepared for whatever options may occur and so, yeah, I think that that's one way to look at it for sure.”
Whichever player starts at quarterback, the Hoosiers will be protecting him with a new left tackle. Senior Coy Cronk was lost for the season after injuring his leg last week. Moving right tackle Caleb Jones over to the left side is probably the way Indiana goes, but after him, there’s plenty of inexperience.
That’s not a great position to be in heading into a game against Michigan State’s front seven.
“That's a tall task against that type of an opponent,” Allen said. “But that's the position you find yourself in. So you can look at it one of two ways: You can say does that concern you or does that excite you. And to me, it excites me about the opportunity that it's going to present for somebody to step up and grow because you really find out a lot about somebody during these opportunities.”
Indiana at Michigan State
Kickoff: 3:30 Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Records: No. 25 Michigan State 3-1 (1-0 Big Ten), Indiana 3-1 (0-1)
Line: Michigan State by 14