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Get to Know the Opponent: Purdue

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The Spartans will look to avoid a trap game in West Lafayette

Syndication: Journal-Courier Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

While I’m sure everyone is still riding high off last week, it is time to turn the page to this Saturday and a classic trap game for the Michigan State Spartans against the Purdue Boilermakers. This is a matchup that always seems to be a tougher battle than the records show, even when MSU was at its peak under Mark Dantonio. This Purdue squad is no pushover, so let’s get into the details.

School: Purdue University

Nickname: Boilermakers

Conference: Big Ten (West Division)

Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

Head Coach: Jeff Brohm (fifth season, 24-28)

Record: 5-3 (3-2 in Big Ten)

Mascot: Purdue Pete

All-Time Series: Michigan State leads 36-28-3 (MSU has won eight in a row)

The two schools have not met since 2018, and have not played each other in West Lafayette since 2014. Each of the last seven meetings were determined by 14 points or less, with three of those being within four points. Michigan State in 9-4 all-time in games where they are ranked and Purdue is not, so the Boilers have clipped them a few times.

Team Stats

The offense has not been one you would typically expect from a Jeff Brohm-led team. The Boilermakers rank 103rd in scoring offense at 22.9 points per game. In Big Ten play they are averaging just 18.2 points per game.

Don’t expect Purdue to run much against Michigan State, or maybe even try to. The Boilermakers are third from the bottom in the country in total rushing offense, averaging just 79.5 yards per game, and second from the bottom with an average rush of just 2.45 yards. Purdue is No. 116 in total rush attempts this year, the lowest total in the conference.

So as you might expect, Purdue racks up the total yards in the passing game, checking in at 16th nationally at 307.1 yards per game. However, the Boilermakers are terribly inefficient, averaging just seven yards per attempt, which ranks 90th in the country. Their total passer rating is 68th overall, with 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

As a result of the pass heavy offense, Purdue has allowed 23 sacks this season, almost three per game. Meanwhile, the Spartan defense is 11th in the nation in total sacks, so that is a positive matchup for the MSU.

Surprisingly, Purdue has been pretty stingy on defense, holding opponents to just 17.1 points per game, tied with Michigan for 10th in the country. However, Purdue has faced some dreadful offenses this year. Five of the Boilermakers’ eight opponents rank 74th or lower in scoring offense, with three of those lower than 110th. Purdue has only faced two top-40 offenses, and those were two of the first three games of the season. MSU will be the highest scoring offense the Boilermakers have played.

Against the run, the Boilers rank 54th in the nation allowing 139.6 yards per game and are 59th allowing an average rush of 3.96 yards. They have allowed 10 rushing touchdowns on the season.

Against the pass, Purdue has been really stingy, ranking 10th overall and allowing just 174 yards per game. The Boilermakers are 32nd in yards per attempt at 6.7 and No. 8 in opponent passer rating, thanks to 10 interceptions against only five passing touchdowns.

Players to Watch

Aiden O’Connell has taken control of the quarterback position for Purdue, after Jack Plummer started the season getting most of the playing time. The senior has thrown for 1,551 yards on an average of 7.1 yards per pass with nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. He is not a threat to run, with -92 yards (due to sacks) on 15 attempts and one rushing touchdown on the year. So if the pass rush can get home, he’s not likely to escape.

We mentioned the Purdue rushing game is pretty weak, but the leading rusher is King Doerue, who has 360 yards and a touchdown while averaging 3.91 yards per carry. Doerue also has 14 catches for 77 yards out of the backfield to lead all running backs in both categories.

As you might expect, the Boilers spread the ball around in the passing game. David Bell leads the way with 53 catches for 786 yards and four touchdowns. He is easily the biggest threat.

Syndication: USA TODAY Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

MSU will need to account for tight end Payne Durham, who is second on the team in both catches and yards with 36 receptions for 356 yards. Durham has also found the end zone four times.

Junior Milton Wright has 32 catches for 315 yards and three scores as well.

On defense, the Boilers have a pair of defensive ends to worry about. George Karlaftis leads the team with three sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss. He also has a fumble recovery scoop and score for 56 yards and has forced two other fumbles. Kydran Jenkins also has three sacks and is second on the team with six tackles for loss.

Senior linebacker Jaylan Alexander leads the team with 58 total tackles on the year, and has 4.5 tackles for loss, one sack, a forced fumble and four pass break-ups.

Junior safety Cam Allen is a ball hawk in the secondary, with four interceptions on the season and seven in his career.

Linebacker Jalen Graham has two picks of his own, including one returned for a touchdown.

Senior kicker Michael Fineran is 10-for-14 on field goals and has made 21-of-22 extra points.

The punting game has not been a strong suit for Purdue. Freshman Jack Ansell has 34 punts and is averaging less than 39 yards per punt.

That’s the skinny on Purdue. There is nothing terribly frightening there, but there are definitely some red flags. The passing attack is going to come at MSU all day, similar to what we saw from Western Kentucky, except with a better defense. However, the Boilermakers aren’t nearly as efficient in the passing game as some other teams, so MSU will likely need to once again rely on bending, but not breaking.

My guess is Michigan State will want to run the ball, as one does when they have Kenneth Walker III. Purdue has been strong against the pass, so avoiding obvious passing downs will be important.

This game may likely play out like the road games at Indiana and Rutgers. Not pretty, but MSU should be able to do enough. Just plan on sweating it out a little.