TV Schedule: October 3, 12 p.m. ET on ESPN2
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Mich.
Line: Michigan State (-21.5)
The Michigan State Spartans are the No. 2 ranked team in all of college football and they will open their Big 10 season this Saturday against the Purdue Boilermakers. The Spartans come in with a record of 4-0, with victories over Western Michigan, Oregon, Air Force and Central Michigan, while the Boilermakers will bring a 1-3 record with them to East Lansing.
The Spartans have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in Connor Cook, who has completed 61 of his 105 pass attempts for 838 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception. When Cook drops back to pass, he’ll be looking for star receiver Aaron Burbridge who has hauled in 24 of those completions for 450 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensively, the Spartans haven’t been the shutdown unit that we’re used to seeing out of Mark Dantonio-coached teams. Allowing 395.8 yards per game is extremely out of character and the majority of the damage is coming through the air where opponents are averaging 277 yards passing per game.
On the other side, Boilermakers fans wish that they could go back in time to when Drew Brees was running the show, because this team has been terrible for a while, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Head coach Darrell Hazell is entering his third season in West Lafayette, and to this point, he’s only compiled a 5-23 record. If Hazell can’t turn things around in the next few games, it may be time to begin another head coaching search.
While the offense is putting up a respectable 421.2 yards per game, the Boilermakers’ defense is allowing 442.2 yards per game and is a big part of the problem. Creating pressure on the opposing quarterback has been an issue, as well as getting dominated up front. If Hazell sticks around for another year, he has to find some recruits who can make an impact on the defensive line.
After starting the season with Austin Appleby under center, Hazell has since moved on to redshirt freshman David Blough. Blough started the team’s last game against Bowling Green and he played very well, completing 29-of-39 passes for 340 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. If Blough can get into a rhythm on Saturday, the Boilermakers could certainly hang around for a while.
In the end, the Spartans, despite their flaws, are the No. 2 team in the nation for a reason and they’re not going to lose to a 1-3 Purdue team at home. Look for Cook to be the star and an improved effort from the Spartans’ defense in a lopsided victory.
Prediction: Michigan State 38, Purdue 17