Avoid playing to level of the competition
Michigan State has not struggled with this so far this season, but it seems to happen whenever the Spartans play Purdue. In last year’s Rose Bowl run, the Boilermakers amounted to the most tightly fought regular season Big Ten game in just a 14-0 win without an offensive touchdown. The Spartans need to play to their level against Purdue and not slump against one of the Big Ten’s lesser teams.
Do better on third down
Michigan State was not good on third down against Nebraska, converting just four of 17 attempts. The Spartans had not been below 40 percent until last Saturday and had converted more than 50 percent twice. Purdue allows opponents to convert almost 50 percent of their attempts, so Michigan State should be set to do better on third down and get back to sustaining more drives.
Focus in on Akeem Hunt
Hunt is the player for the Purdue offense, as he not only is the leading rusher, but also leads the team in receptions. He averages about 16 total touches per game and around 100 yards per game. He ran nine times for 43 yards last season against MSU, while Brandon Cottom was the player for the Boilers in East Lansing. Could Cottom be used again as a big back to potentially give the Spartans struggles? Possibly, but Hunt looks like the guy for Purdue.
Get Connor Cook clicking again
Cook had been rolling through the first four games of the season, but hit a bit of a wall against Nebraska as he completed less than 50 percent of his passes for just the second time in his career. He did not throw a touchdown pass against Purdue last season and it was not one of his better games, so surely he will be looking for a bounce back from not only last week, but last season.
Clean up the little errors
Michigan State had just 11 penalties through the first three games of the season, but has nine in each of the past two. Last week featured three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, two from Jack Allen. The Spartans need to clean up the little mistakes and play more clean games, like they were doing earlier in the season.
Langford has run for more than 100 yards per game in nine straight Big Ten games – nine of 10 career games as the starting running back. He will look to continue that streak against a Boilermakers defense that allows around 140 yards per game.
Cooper was all but called out this week by coach Mark Dantonio as needing to play better. The Spartans counted on Cooper being a solid No. 3 defensive end this season and he has shown flashes, but more is needed. Given the fact MSU could have to replace both of its defensive ends after the season, his development through Big Ten play is essential.
Jones is coming off his best game of the season and one of the best of his career. The way he played was what Michigan State needs him to be at the middle linebacker spot and this is a game to see if the energy was keyed by playing Nebraska and taking Bo Pelini’s comments personally or if it can be a week to week thing.
Knox made his season debut last week against Nebraska and played sparingly. This is a good opportunity for him to break in more to the rotation and get Michigan State set with a top four playing group of Knox, Lawrence Thomas, Joel Heath and Malik McDowell.
Will Nicholson get the start again? Let’s assume so. After getting his first start a week ago, the true freshman safety should get plenty of chances to cement himself in that spot this week against Purdue. The experience he gains week by week now will go a long way in setting up the rest of his season and beyond.