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Football Five Factors: Purspective

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Diving into the win at Purdue

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the title of this is a bad pun, not a typo (Big box):

The Offense

The offense was both explosive and efficient, where it was merely explosive against Nebraska. Connor Cook still has work to do, though; he still is somewhat inconsistent and it shows in his completion percentage (a mere 19/37, or 51%). This is especially confusing because there have been just 3 sacks given up by the offensive line all year, and all of them came against Oregon. The running game certainly helped, as Jeremy Langford, Nick Hill and Delton Williams all averaged at least 8 yards per carry.

Apart from Cook's consistency, the only other concern I have about the offense is the ability to finish drives. Cook's interception cost MSU an opportunity to put the game away completely, and settling for two field goal attempts wasn't great, either. This is one way Purdue was able to make this game close despite being less efficient at moving the ball; they did a much better job of finishing their drives.

The Defense

I'm totally surprised that Purdue had so much success on the ground. One thing to remember is that Purdue had a relatively small number of carries for the game (just 21 after kneeldowns and sacks are factored in). Because of that, the one 52-yard run by Akeem Hunt skews the total average. So was the defense that bad stopping the run? Well, that one broken play is something that shouldn't happen, but apart from that I'm not too concerned, actually. The rush defense earned some credibility with me by shutting down Ameer Abdullah's Heisman campaign.

I was impressed both by Darell Hazell's gameplan and Austin Appleby. Though Purdue's 4.8 yards per attempt average wasn't great, they were patient against the MSU defense and took the easy completions underneath, which extended drives for them.

The #Narrative

Even ESPN's headlines are confused about this game:

Lol wut.

The way I see it, there are two major ways to look at this game, which aren't mutually exclusive:

First, that the win further evidence of MSU's inability to finish games.

MSU has been outscored 47-7 in the fourth quarter in games against P5 competition (Oregon, Nebraska, Purdue). This is concerning. There were, again, several weird plays in the fourth quarter that caused the score to be uncomfortably close: the Cook interception, the long touchdown run by Akeem Hunt, and the botched fake punt. When do those "weird" plays start to define a team?

Second, that this was another two-score victory over an improved Big Ten opponent.

The offense continues to look rock-solid, especially with the improvement in the running game. The defense sealed the game with a late score. There's not much else to say, except to pick nits.

Think back to the 2009 and 2012 seasons, where wins in the conference were few and far between. MSU has now won 12 straight Big Ten games dating back to the 2012 win at Minnesota; 11 of those wins have been by double digits. The average margin has been 16.25 points.

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Enjoy the win, because this amazing streak will eventually end.