Sparty, (Oh) No! The MSU Predicto
The Boilermakers head to East Lansing today to take on #2 MSU. Purdue has played Michigan State reasonably tough for a while now, despite having not beaten them since a 17-15 win in 2006. Recent matchups have included the following: 2007: 48-31 2008: 21-7 2009: 40-37 2010: 35-31 2013: 14-0 2014: 45-31
So, yeah, they haven’t all been what you’d call “close losses,” but many of those games were….games… longer than Purdue seemed to have a right for them to be. 2009 was particularly painful as it ended Purdue’s chances of a bowl in Danny Hope’s first season after a 1-5 start turned into a glimmer of fun. (As Brian Neubert once put it on our podcast, that 2009 team was a bowl team that just didn’t go to a bowl.)
The 2010 game featured Rob Henry inexplicably leading the Boilers to a lead for much of the game (up 28-13 after three!), before a fourth quarter collapse. Sound familiar? And, of course, last year featured Mark Dantonio apparently turning play-calling over to a 14 year old playing PS4 when he elected to go for a fake punt and allow Purdue back into a game that eventually got to 38-31 before an MSU pick-six sealed it.
What’s the point? Oh, I don’t know, anymore. I guess that Purdue likes to keep it interesting versus Sparty, but perhaps it has more to do with MSU having trouble focusing.
Saturday’s nooner features the Boilermakers rolling into East Lansing for a game against the number 2 team in the nation and a team that may be on a mission, having barely missed out on the CFB Playoff last year. How bad will the bloodletting be? Let’s find out what everyone thinks.
While you can never quite be sure what will go on during the games these days, it seems, one thing remains constant about the Darrell Hazell-led teams. They do not, under any circumstances, beat anyone they shouldn’t. That is, if a team looks better and seems better and all that… it’s a lock for that team.
You know we’re careful in handing out the “Sharpie” label around here – usually reserved for horrific places like Madison – but I think we’re pretty comfortable in chalking this one up for the men in green. I don’t even care if they’re not particularly locked in on their doormat opponent this weekend. All that would mean is everyone getting their hopes up again, only to start a twitter flame war in demanding the entire Purdue athletic department be burned to the ground.
I’ll be very interested to see how David Blough handles a very good defense, as opposed to the non-existent defense he faced last week. I have some faith that Blough may be a better quarterback than we’ve seen here in a while, but the question does remain as to whether Shoop will ruin him or not. I do hope that he isn’t ground into a paste by this MSU defense.
Regardless, to win this game, Purdue would need some herculean defensive performances and they would need to take care of the ball on offense completely. And they’d need MSU to get locked in their dressing room. Not sure which of those is the most likely to hope for.
MSU 31 Purdue 10
Unfortunately for Purdue fans, this season looks a lot like the previous two seasons. They can't catch a break, or rather, get out of their own way. It boggles the mind to think that losses to the likes of Marshall and Bowling Green are met with discussions about how good those programs actually are, rather than how embarrassing it is that Purdue can't get out of the non-conference season without a losing record.
It's definitely not going to get any easier for the Boilers, at least not this week. Michigan State is unbelievably tough. They are big and strong, and think themselves every bit as good as Ohio State. And the thing is, they just might be. There isn't a lot that this team can't do to hurt you.
As far as Purdue is concerned, well there frankly isn't a lot Purdue *can* do to hurt anyone it seems. If you squint hard enough, you can see the makings of a real football team, but nothing is in focus yet. They are still making stupid mistakes, turning the ball over at inopportune times, committing bad penalties, not stepping on their opponents throat when pushed...and you wonder if they aren't doing it by now, if they ever will. While none of that will likely matter against Michigan State, it doesn't bode well for the rest of the schedule.
Purdue probably can't win this game without the literal hand of god getting in the way, but that shouldn't affect the effort. I think Purdue gets killed, so more than anything else, I'll be watching to see if there's any fight in this team. I have to imagine the players are just as deflated as the fans, but if they show some fight, well, that at least speaks very positively for this coaching staff's ability to motivate, and the investment they have engendered in their players. Unfortunately, I'd like to see more than that, like...wins. But, I don't think we'll see that Saturday.
MSU 42 Purdue 13
Sparty 2015 is the kind of team you could probably guess they'd be, based on Dantonio's history: they've got plenty of talent but don't seem to have enough focus, easily running up big leads on weak teams and then just as quickly letting the underdog back in the game. (Except against Central Michigan, where they reversed the order of things: the Chippewas made a game of it late, then Sparty scored twice to ice it.)
This is mostly good news for the Boilers, because it means that instead of an absolute thrashing in East Lansing, they might get just a normal beatdown. Excellent teams are more likely to crush weak teams than above-average teams are - from this you might guess that I think the Spartans are overrated, and indeed I do. Polls are worth the time the assistant SIDs spend filling them out for coaches, and no more. Plus polls don't tend to take into account things like Dantonio's inability to understand his team's weaknesses (on the field, that is; we already know he doesn't care about off-the-field stuff), nor the injuries that might slow MSU down a bit Saturday.
The other bit of good news is that Michigan State likes to run the ball on early downs, and they don't particularly run it well. Go check out their Football Study Hall profile - they're 115th in Rushing S&P+, but they run 72.0% on standard downs, 15th in I-A. What bails out the offense is that Connor Cook is consistent (31st in Success Rate) and explosive (44th in IsoPPP) ... and he's been sacked 3 times so far. In 4 games. So Sparty likes to run until they have to pass, then they pass for a first down, and repeat until they work a long drive for a TD or a back breaks a long run.
Unfortunately, Purdue's defense has been bad against the run (101st in rushing success rate) ... oh hell, they've been bad everywhere. Expect several long, methodical drives by Sparty, putting David Blough in an early hole. This is a bad thing, because Sparty likes sacks - 22nd in adjusted sack rate. 7 players have at least 1 sack so far, led by Shilique Calhoun (4.5) and Riley Bullough (3.0). While Pat Narduzzi may no longer be around, the defense he helped to build is still in place, and it will likely be bringing pressure in ways Blough has never seen. The Boilers have to be able to run the ball enough to keep the wolves from Blough's door - the last thing we want to see is Blough in a succession of third-and-long situations with seven guys coming at him from different directions.
The best thing that could happen Saturday is for both teams to run the ball a lot. The less the clock stops, the sooner the game will be over - in a literal sense, that is. For all intents and purposes, it's already over.
Michigan State 41 Purdue 16
For a program to turn around, it has to have a signature win...a loud declaration that things have changed. But before that can happen, doesn't there have to be other indicators of change?
Purdue killed itself last week with personal fouls that lost games last season (reference Minny game). Our Boilers' lack of depth at key spots has led to missed tackles and dropped passes.
So while we all might agree that the team looks better, there is nothing to show for it when it comes to hard statistical evidence and even more importantly...no wins of note.
Sadly, I don't see that changing any time in the near future. Purdue's murderer's row is now upon them...and if
Coach Haze's belief that this can be a 'special season' is to come true, they'd better win a special game in a hurry. Beating the #2 team in the nation would count as that.
Instead, my gut says this will be an ol' fashioned flogging. Hazell bragged that they see what's coming with MSU's formations and play calling...I bet Dantonio read that quote just as I did...I also bet he remembers the Boilers flirting with competing last season. For that, the good guys will pay on Saturday.
Blough developing or taking a step backward.
Robinson making noise or staying relatively quiet.
Jones and Knox getting back to averaging 4+ as a corps.
MSU 40 Purdue 20
Aneesh the Swamy:
It looks like my distinguished colleagues at BS have taken care of the hard-hitting analysis of this dismal non-conference slate, and I’ve recorded damn near all of my thoughts with J and Mike on this week’s Handsome Hour.
The few big takeaways:
If Griggs makes those field goals against Bowling Green, or if Hudson’s defense could have come up with one single stop on a third and long, maybe we’re 2-2 and not feeling this bad. Maybe we’re being too swayed by Purdue’s inability to close, and we’re looking over the positive strides being made. I preach process over results as much as anyone out there…I just want to see some pay-off for our perception that Hazell is a coach that can succeed at Purdue.
THIS was the article I talked about in the podcast that put Purdue as one of 9 Power-5 teams who “don't list a special teams coach or coordinator on their roster”.
Criticism of David Blough, while also saying he was clearly the best part of last weekend’s game and did more than enough to win, isn’t a bad thing. Settle down. He’s played one game, and we were all drooling like this after Appleby’s first start last year. Blough was very good. He did everything he needed to for a Purdue win last week. I still think the substitution was made too quickly, and Blough has some understandable holes in his young game, but as long as Hazell doesn’t look back after what will assuredly be a rough October it’ll turn out fine.
The offensive line, while improved, needs to pick up consistency. Michigan State’s defense is unforgiving, and for Purdue to even attempt to cover the 21 point spread they’ll need to create space for Knox and Jones to work and buy time for Blough.
Now, hopefully some of you are keeping track of Purdue’s performance in the rankings. No, not those rankings. Tom Fornelli’s “Bottom 25” on CBSsports.com rankings. Let’s catch up with Purdue’s performance on the season so far (where 1 is the worst):
I want to tattoo “so very Purdue” on my forehead.
FCS WIN BABY #HAZELLBALL YAY YAEEE
Everyone entered the “bargaining” stage of grief after that Virginia Tech loss.
I celebrated when I read that. Then I felt dirty, because I realized these back-handed compliments were coming after a loss against a MAC team.
And now we play the #2 team in the country. At least Purdue is staying in the news…like Donald Trump says, any press is good press.
Michigan State 55 Purdue 12