MSU vs. Maryland: Shake the shell shock
Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday's Michigan State-Maryland game at Spartan Stadium (noon, ESPN2 / WJR 760).
Terrapins to watch
William Likely, CB: The junior, a first-team All-Big Ten player in 2014, is one of the top special teams players in the nation. Likely has two punt returns for a touchdown and his 18.2 return average leads the Big Ten. He also has a kickoff return for a touchdown and is third in the Big Ten (24.7-yard average). He had 228 kickoff return yards last season against the Spartans, a single-game record. He has 38 tackles and a team-high 10 pass breakups.
Yannick Ngakoue, DL: The junior ranks second in the FBS and in the Big Ten with 11 sacks. With two more, Ngakoue will tie the Maryland single-season mark of 13, established by Mark Duda in 1982 and Bruce Palmer in 1979. He also has 12 tackles for loss.
Perry Hills, QB: The junior has started the last four games and is a running threat who will test the MSU defense. He ran for 170 yards against Ohio State this season and ran for more than 100 in three straight games before being held to minus-14 last week against Wisconsin. He still leads the team at 83.8 yards rushing per game.
Bouncing back: Michigan State has talked all week about bouncing back, and it will be tested coming off a one-point loss last week at Nebraska. It ended the Spartans’ quest for an unbeaten season and has the potential to derail a shot at the Big Ten title and spot in the playoffs. Allowing it to affect them Saturday could lead the Spartans to an even bigger upset than a week ago.
Harris motivated: Fifth-year senior linebacker Darien Harris is enjoying his best season at Michigan State and is coming off a 13-tackle performance against Nebraska. This will be a big game for the Silver Spring, Md., native. He has plenty of friends playing for the Terrapins and he’ll have plenty of motivation to go out on a winning note.
Avoiding second loss: It was 364 days in between losses for Michigan State, and learning how to move on will be tested. The loss to the Cornhuskers was only the fourth in the last three seasons and it ended a 12-game road winning streak in the Big Ten. Maryland is struggling this season, but it would be more than happy to hand Michigan State a rare second straight loss.
Senior moments: Time is winding down for Michigan State’s seniors and only one home game remains after today. The senior class will be looking to remain unbeaten at Spartan Stadium after losing once last year and going undefeated in 2013.
Facts and figures
*Connor Cook needs 314 more yards of total offense to become Michigan State’s career leader. Cook has 8,691 yards of total offense, which is third in school history behind Kirk Cousins (9,004) and Jeff Smoker (8,714). Cook also is third in passing yards with 8,468, behind Cousins (9,131) and Smoker (8,932), and he needs just one more 300-yard passing game to surpass Smoker as the career MSU leader at 11.
*Senior wide receiver Aaron Burbridge is just 90 yards away from becoming the 11th receiver in Michigan State history to reach 2,000 career receiving yards. He is also just eight catches from becoming only the second receiver to grab 150, trailing leader B.J. Cunningham (218). Burbridge needs one more 100-yard game to tie Cunningham’s single-season mark of eight.
*Maryland is last in the FBS in turnover margin (-1.89), forcing 13 turnovers while giving the ball up 30 times, tied for the most in the country. Michigan State, on the other hand, is sixth-best in the nation in turnover margin at 1.22. It has 16 takeaways against just five turnovers, the third fewest in the nation.
*Michigan State is the fifth opponent in Maryland’s last six games that is ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, including four in the top 15. The Terrapins are 0-4 in those games.