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Michigan State enters the game as one of the new darlings of America. They beat Michigan in an exciting fashion, are unbeaten and if the season ended right now would be playing Alabama for a shot at the national championship game.
That sounds like music to Purdue’s ears. The Boilermakers are no stranger to the upset, and a vulnerable yet highly-ranked team is just what they need at home. Still, MSU has too much talent, too much grit — and mostly too much Mel Tucker, who has been the best coach in America. We like MSU to cover the spread and on the money line.
Garcia’s 2021 record: (17-13)
The hype from East Lansing has now reached the rest of the country.
That’s what happens when you’re undefeated and ranked No. 8, playing your rival who is undefeated, No. 6 and has one of the largest fan bases in the country — and you beat them in the most nationally watched college football game of the season, with ESPN and Fox Sports’ pregame shows both on hand to broadcast it.
It was in that game that Kenneth Walker III had his coming out party, tallying more than 200 all-purpose yards with a record five touchdowns — the most a single player had ever scored in one game against Michigan.
The game plan for every team moving forward will now of course be how can you stop Walker. Once that happens, expect MSU to try and open up its passing game, though it might be limited after one of the two star receivers for MSU, Jalen Nailor, left last week’s game and was seen in a cast on the sideline.
Still, Payton Thorne has shown an ability to connect wit his former high school teammate Jayden Reed, keeping MSU’s offense as one of the tops in the conference.
On the flipside, Purdue has alternated wins and losses since Week 2, but they don’t have a ‘bad’ result on their schedule. The highlight of the year was a win against then-No. 2 Iowa, and what would be considered the worst loss is a 20-13 defeat to Minnesota when the Boilermakers were held scoreless in the second half.
Their defense has been good — holding all but one opponent to 27 points or fewer, but MSU is the best offense it will have seen to date.
The Boilermakers offense hasn’t been great. Purdue has scored exactly 13 points in four of its past six games, scored 24 in the other and an October-best 28 in a win over Nebraska last week.
Much of that inconsistency has been because of unreliable quarterback play. O’Connell has a great completion percentage — he’s 154-of-217 (71.0 percent) — but has just nine touchdowns compared to eight interceptions.
David Bell is of course his favorite wide receiver. The likely All-Big Ten receiver has 53 catches for 786 yards (14.8 YPC) and four touchdowns.
However as far as O’Connell, he’s been a bit jekyll and hyde. In wins over Nebraska and Iowa, he went 64-of-85 for 608 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
In the loss to Wisconsin in between those games, O’Connell still completed 24-of-32 passes (75 percent) but netted just 200 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.
Still, there will be room to pass against an MSU secondary that gives up nearly 400 passing yards per game. The Spartans allowed 551 yards against Michigan last week, but they always seem to come up big in the red zone, forcing four field goals in seven Wolverine trips.
We will see if this bend-don’t-break defense can last another week.
For Michigan State, it has to be whoever is option No. 3. Walker is the obvious one to watch. Then there’s Reed, who was on All-American mid-season watch lists in his own right just a few weeks ago. Now, with Nailor out, who will step up in his absence.
Tre Mosley was the No. 3 receiver earlier this year, but he’s a different type of wideout than Nailor. Expect Montorie Foster, the 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman, to play a significant role.
For Purdue, is there any legitimate rushing threat? King Doerue has led the way this year, but he’s averaging fewer than 50 yards per game, four yards per carry and has just one touchdown. As a team, the Boilermakers have rushed for just four scores. If they’re going to win, it can’t only be through the air. There has to be some offense on the ground.
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|Michigan State Spartans vs Purdue Boilermakers Information
|No. 3 Michigan State Spartans at Purdue Boilermakers
|Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, IN
|Saturday, Nov. 6, 3:30 p.m. EST
|How to watch
Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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