College Football

Michigan State Hopes to Keep Playoff Chances Alive

Michigan State Vs Michigan
Michigan State quarterback Payton Thorne celebrates as his team goes ahead of Michigan on a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Daniel Mears, Detroit News

Number 7 Michigan State is coming off a brutal upset loss at the hands of Purdue. The Spartans never led in the 40-29 defeat, as the defense was torched threw the air, to the tune of 536 passing yards. Despite the loss, 8-1 Michigan State still has a significant chance to make the playoffs, should they win out. It all starts with welcoming Maryland to East Lansing on Saturday. Maryland, who sits at 5-4, is looking for one more win to become bowl eligible. Upsetting a top 10 team on the road would be a statement win for the Terrapins, and a bright spot in what has been an otherwise mediocre 2021 campaign.

What Michigan St. Needs to do to Bounce Back

Michigan State has put together a remarkably gritty season so far. The No.7 team in the country has found a way to secure big plays when they need it on both sides of the ball. Whether it be the overtime interception against Nebraska, or Keneth Walker III’s 23 yard touchdown run to down rival Michigan, Sparty has done what they need to do pretty much all year. Unfortunately for them, Michigan State’s one stumble came in a conference game, leaving them one game back of Ohio St in the Big Ten East. So it is up to Mel Tucker to get his crew ready for an essential game at home against Maryland.

The biggest issue for the Spartans in the loss to Purdue was their pass defense. It is an issue that will need to be fixed quickly, as the Terrapins are a pass first team, with starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa dropping back to pass nearly 38 times a game. Sitting on quick routes and forcing turnovers will be essential for the Spartans. Maryland is a rhythm offense who relies on easy completions early to set up the deep balls later on. However, if Michigan State’s defense can manage to contain the air raid that they will almost certainly face, it could be a good day for the home crowd in East Lansing.

While the defense has shown some holes over the course of the year, quarterback Peyton Thorne and running back Kenneth Walker III have had the offense firing on all cylinders. Walker has emerged as perhaps the best running back in the country. The Wake Forest transfer leads the NCAA in rushing yards with 1,330, and is tied for third with 15 touchdowns. Meanwhile, Thorne is efficient enough to ensure opposing defenses can not stack the box constantly. Maryland’s defense has been absolutely gashed in recent weeks, allowing 43.4 points per game in their last five outings. Expect a big day from Walker and the high powered Spartan offense against a struggling defense.

Any Hope for Maryland?

While Maryland does face an uphill battle, there is a chance they could pull off the upset. In fact, Purdue showed them the formula last week. Throw the ball. Throw it as much as you can. If the Terrapins have any hope of winning, they will need a monster game from Taulia Tagovailoa. The junior quarterback will need to start setting his sights a little more downfield to challenge Michigan State’s corners and safeties. The Spartan secondary has a propensity to give up big plays, but only when they are challenged. It is a bend but don’t break style of defense, so it us up to Tagovailoa to force the issue and break it as many times as possible.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Jon Hoke must commit to stopping the run. Walker is a bell cow back, and Michigan State has shown they have no problem feeding him the ball in any situation. While stacking the box allows opportunities in the pass game, it is almost a necessity when facing one of the best running backs in the league. it will be up the cornerbacks to hold their own on the outside and prevent any big plays in the passing game. While it is not an ideal situation, it is Maryland’s best chance to keep themselves in the game long enough for their offense to make a difference.


Despite a disappointing performance against Purdue, Michigan State is the favorite this week, and rightfully so. With a game changing running back leading a humming offense, it is unlikely Maryland will be able to create enough stops to hang around for long. However, the Terrapins’ explosive passing game should allow them to put up a fair amount points, which makes this an intriguing game for fans who love offense. Expect a heavy does of Kenneth Walker III and a ton of passing from Taulia Tagovailoa, all ending in a 45-31 win for the Spartans.

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