Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau preview the MSU-Purdue game. The Detroit News
Michigan State vs. Purdue
Kickoff: Noon Saturday, Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Records: Michigan State 4-3, 2-2 Big Ten; Purdue 4-3, 3-1
Line: Michigan State by 2
View from the other side
Mike Carmin covers Purdue football for the Lafayette Journal & Courier. He breaks down the Boilermakers for The Detroit News, answering five questions heading into Saturday’s Michigan State-Purdue game at Spartan Stadium. You can follow him on Twitter at @carmin_jc.
Question. How does Purdue match the intensity it showed in last week’s win over Ohio State?
Answer. Won't be easy since the Boilermakers don't have the home crowd behind them compared to the Ohio State win. They're 2-0 on the road this season, winning at Nebraska, which is a tough place to play, and Illinois, which is not. Purdue has done a good job of starting fast and that will be a key again Saturday.
Question. After losing the first three, what has been the key to Purdue’s turnaround?
Answer. Jeff Brohm decided to go aggressive on both sides of the ball. He blamed himself for the Eastern Michigan loss. He didn't take enough chances and played it more conservative, which is against his DNA. The rain that day didn't help but starting with the Missouri loss, the offense has taken it up another gear each week. Defensively, the Boilermakers returned only four starters and it's taken time for them to get settled. They are also playing with an aggressive approach and mindset.
Question. How likely is it that David Blough passes for 300 yards for the fourth straight game going against an MSU defense that allows more than 275 yards a game?
Answer. If Purdue can hit some big plays, he should reach it. But the Spartans usually don't allow a lot of big plays. Might be difficult for Blough to throw for another 300 yards but he does have Rondale Moore this season. Short passes to Moore have turned into big gains, giving this offense a weapon it hasn't featured in a long time. Blough has been efficient over the last five games, avoiding turnovers, and his receivers are making plays.
Question. How much of a difference has Rondale Moore been to the Purdue offense?
Answer. He's a special player, no doubt. In just seven games, he's taken the Big Ten by storm. Blough told reporters Tuesday that "even when he's covered he's open." Moore came to Purdue ready to make an instant impact and he has. The numbers tell you a lot, but his hidden asset is his strength. He's 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, but squatted 600 pounds this summer. If you saw his 43-yard TD catch and run vs Ohio State, you see why Moore lives up to the billing.
Question. Purdue has allowed its share of yards but has been the best in the Big Ten in the red zone. What has been the difference?
Answer. Last week, the Boilermakers didn't allow Ohio State a TD inside the 20-yard line and the Buckeyes made five trips. They made plays, starting with two pass breakups on third down and another on fourth down. Overall, Purdue is tightening things up near the goal line, crowding the line of scrimmage more and continuing to play aggressively.
Players to watch
David Blough, QB: The senior has thrown for 300 or more yards in three straight games and will be looking to make it four against a Michigan State defense that ranks 115th in the nation in pass defense. Blough leads the Big Ten in passing yards per completion (13.55) and is second in the conference and 10th in the country in passing yards with 2,073. He was Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week following the win over Ohio State after passing for 378 yards and three touchdowns.
Rondale Moore, WR: The freshman has burst onto the scene and established himself as one of the top playmakers in the Big Ten. He leads the conference in all-purpose yards per game (179.86), receptions per game (8.1) and receiving yards per game (104). He’s also scored seven receiving touchdowns, second in the Big Ten, and has five 100-yard receiving games this season, which is tied for the most in the conference. He had 252 total yards against Ohio State while catching 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
Markus Bailey, LB: The junior has a team-best 58 tackles and is second in the Big Ten with 30 solo stops. He is sixth in the nation in tackles per game (8.29) and has 3.5 sacks through seven games. Bailey earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors after the victory over Ohio State as he had a career-high 15 tackles and returned an interception 41 yards for a touchdown to seal the game in the final minutes.
Facts and figures
On a roll: The Boilermakers have won four straight after losing their first three games of the season by a total of eight points, including a four-point loss to Northwestern, a one-point setback to Eastern Michigan on the final play and a three-point loss to Missouri. Since then, Purdue has beaten two ranked opponents – No. 23 Boston College and No. 2 Ohio State.
Perfect vs. Purdue: Michigan State has never lost to Purdue under coach Mark Dantonio, carrying a 7-0 record into Saturday’s matchup. The last meeting came in 2015 when the Spartans pulled out a 24-21 win at home. Six of the last 10 meetings between the teams has been decided by 10 points or less.
Causing problems: Michigan State junior Kenny Willekes has excelled at disrupting opposing offenses and leads the Spartans in tackles for loss (11) and sacks (5.5). The former walk-on is tied for first in the Big Ten in tackles for loss per game (1.57) and is fifth among active players in the FBS with 1.21 tackles for loss per game.