GAME NOTES: The 11th-ranked Michigan State Spartans will try to move one step closer to the Big Ten title this weekend, as they host the Purdue Boilermakers in East Lansing.
The Spartans are involved in a tight race, which will likely go down to the wire. MSU currently sits at 5-1 within the conference and the team bounced back from a loss at Iowa with a 31-8 triumph of Minnesota last time out on November 6th.
"It was a big win for the program" said head coach Mark Dantonio, who now has 31 victories in four years at MSU. "Nine wins and one loss I think is very exciting for our program right now. Second time in three years that we have won nine games so that's exciting."
Purdue, meanwhile, is on a downward spiral following four consecutive losses. The Boilermakers were defeated 27-16 by Michigan last weekend, leaving them at 4-6 and in need of consecutive victories to have a shot at the postseason.
As for the all-time series, MSU holds 31-28-3 advantage and the Spartans are 3-0 versus the Boilermakers under coach Dantonio.
The Boilermakers used three different QBs last weekend, but the move didn't really pay off considering the offense failed to score a TD and managed just 256 total yards in a loss to Michigan. Purdue actually had two QBs in the game at all times, as Rob Henry also saw time at TB. Henry even led the team with in rushing with 75 yards, but passed for only 54 on 5-of-9 attempts.
"I'm just trying to help the team in any way I can," stated Henry. "It was nothing different really for me. I just want to help this team win."
Sean Robinson was the QB that saw the most snaps under center, as he hit on 12-of-23 tosses for 78 yards and two INTs. Both Robinson and Henry have struggled throwing the ball this season and that helps explain why Purdue has averaged just 9.7 ppg over during its current four-game losing skid. Henry has at least been successful running for 466 yards, helping Purdue average a solid 168.3 ypg on the ground.
Defensively, Purdue did a good job against Michigan's potent offensive attack last weekend, forcing five turnovers, including a 94-yard INT return for a TD by Ricardo Allen.
"It was a big play and a great achievement. But it means nothing with the loss today," Allen said of his INT return.
DE Ryan Kerrigan also turned in a noteworthy performance, as he recorded four sacks, two forced fumbles and 10 tackles. It was a simply tremendous effort from Kerrigan, who now has 23 TFLs and 11.5 sacks to his credit. Kerrigan has also forced five fumbles.
Overall, the Purdue defense is allowing opponents 364.4 total ypg, though Michigan did go for 395 last weekend.
Edwin Baker ran wild in MSU's most recent outing, as he toted 27 times for 179 yards and four TDs in a 31-8 triumph of Minnesota.
"Edwin Baker had a great game, explosive. He was the hot back. He ran the ball very effectively. We look for more from him," said Dantonio.
A talented runner, Baker has now gone for 979 yards and 11 TDs on the ground, helping the Spartans to post 176.8 rushing ypg. Le'Veon Bell is another option for MSU, as he ranks second to Baker with 585 yards and eight TDs.
QB Kirk Cousins has certainly benefited from the strong ground game, completing 65.5 percent of his tosses with 15 TDs on the year. The steady QB, however, wasn't much of a factor against Minnesota, as he hit just 9-of-20 attempts for 131 yards and an INT.
Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham are the top options in the passing game and they have each caught 41 passes, while combining for 10 TDs.
The Spartans have been solid on the defensive side of the ball this season, keeping opponents to 18.8 ppg and 327.9 total ypg. The unit has been especially strong against the run, allowing 119.0 ypg, while slowing down opposing pass attacks with 14 INTs.
Last game, MSU put forth a terrific defensive effort, limiting Minnesota to 267 total yards and one TD. It marked the third time this season the Spartans kept an opposing team from reaching double-digit points.
"I think the defense played pretty well today," stated defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi following the effort versus Minnesota. "Obviously we would have liked to keep those eight points off the board but overall I am happy with the guys out there."
Greg Jones led the way with nine stops in the win, while Marcus Hyde came up with his third INT of the year. For the season, Jones tops the roster with 87 stops and Hyde follows with 71.
Behind their dynamic ground attack and steady defense, expect the Spartans to take care of Purdue this weekend and put themselves in even better position for the Big Ten title.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan State 30, Purdue 13