An early spin through MSU’s football season: Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11

This is the sixth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.

Week 6: Purdue
Time and Date: TBA, Oct. 11
Venue: Ross-Ade Stadium, West Lafayette, Ind.

Boilermakers at a glance
Coach: Darrell Hazell (second season, 1-11)
Last season: 1-11 overall; 0-8 Big Ten (6th, Leaders Division)
Returning starters: 12 (six offense, six defense)

Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 3-9 overall, 0-8 Big Ten (7th, West Division); ranked No. 80 nationally
Lindy’s: Tied-6th Big Ten West; ranked No. 92
Sporting News: 7th Big Ten West

Why they’ll beat the Spartans
They weren’t far from doing so last year, when MSU beat the Boilermakers 14-0 with a dismal offensive effort in mid-October. The Spartans — and QB Connor Cook — were never that bad again. But it showed that the difference between a unfocused emerging contender and a motivated cellar-dweller isn’t extreme. This game has all the makings of a letdown for MSU, which will be coming off a prime-time home game against Nebraska a week earlier. Purdue also has a manageable schedule early, and could have confidence remaining when the Spartans visit.

Sophomore quarterback Danny Etling showed promise and an arm as a freshman, and Purdue’s backfield has potential, with seniors Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert, a Big Ten champion sprinter. And defensively … well, maybe Cook will revert back 12 months, if only for a day.

Why they won’t
Purdue is in for a long season. Two Big Ten wins would be an accomplishment in Year 2 for Hazell. One of them probably isn’t here. The Boilermakers’ wideouts didn’t scare anyone last season, averaging 6.1 yards per catch. And if your wideouts can’t stretch the Spartans, your ground game has little chance at consistent movement, especially behind a relatively young offensive line. Purdue’s losses on defense included its best two players, corner Ricardo Allen and tackle Bruce Gaston. And MSU is likely to look at Purdue and remember its performance a year ago. Cook especially.

Final analysis
Road games in the Big Ten should never be taken for granted. As long as the Spartans don’t, they should be fine.

Previously …
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29

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