EAST LASNING - At first glance, Michigan State looks like they are in for a tough time at Purdue when analyzing common opponents.
The schools have played five teams the other has also seen. Purdue is 3-2 in those games and MSU is 1-4. Not a good sign for the Green and White, but closer inspection is merited.
Look, for instance, at their common losses - Ohio State and Michigan. The Boilermakers entered the Ohio State game undefeated and nationally ranked at home. They got thumped by the Buckeyes 23-7.
Michigan State, on the other hand, went to Ohio State 1-2 in their previous three games. Although they had been thoroughly outplayed for most of the game, a couple of defensive touchdowns brought them to within a touchdown. They even had a chance to tie the score with a late drive, but ultimately failed, losing 24-17.
Then there's Michigan. Again, Purdue was routed in their worst defensive performance of the season, falling 48-21.
MSU hung with the Wolverines, even taking a 10-point second half lead. The Spartans could not hold on, however, and lost 28-24.
Against the two toughest, most talented opponents they have played, MSU had a margin of defeat of 11 points; Purdue's margin was 41 points.
But what about the other three opponents? Well, seeing as how Notre Dame just lost to Navy for the first time in 44 years, there's probably not much value in comparison. Both MSU and PU beat the Irish handily.
Purdue did beat Northwestern and Iowa soundly, playing both at home. MSU lost to both, in overtime, in games that could have gone either way. If anything, the games point to Michigan State's struggles to put opponents away. In games decided by a touchdown or less, MSU is 1-5.
One of these weeks, MSU will get back to the mindset that allowed them to pull out a tough game against Pittsburgh in the second week of the season. In any event, they'll have their work cut out for them in West Lafayette this week against a consistently solid Boilermaker program.
"Joe Tiller does an outstanding job over there … excellent concepts," Spartan coach Mark Dantonio says. "People work extremely hard every week to try to get a win, and it'll be very much the same over there. We're looking forward to the challenge."
Perhaps Dantonio is looking even more forward to the challenge this week because of the record his Spartans have against opponents who run the spread offense this season. MSU is 2-1, with a solid 28-17 win against a talented Bowling Green squad and a blowout smashing of Indiana, 52-27. In that regard, the same-old-Spartans will be welcomed by MSU fans as the team attempts, for the fourth week in a row, to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2003.
ANALYSIS: Common Opponents Give Insight
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