No. 5 Spartans try to keep unbeaten quest on track at Purdue

No. 5 Michigan State (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten, No. 3 CFP) at Purdue (5-3, 3-2), Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EDT (ABC).

Line: Michigan State by 2 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: Michigan State leads 38-26-3.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

The Spartans aren’t just playing for a conference crown — they’re the Big Ten’s last unbeaten team and a top playoff contender. So they can’t afford to stumble now. Purdue already has beaten one top-five team and a second would make them bowl-eligible for the first time in three years, put them back in the Top 25 and add another chapter to their remarkable turnaround season.

KEY MATCHUP

Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker III vs. Purdue’s run defense. Walker’s breakthrough season has made him a serious Heisman Trophy candidate and, so far, opponents have struggled to slow him down. The Boilermakers’ defense has improved this season but need avoid a repeat of what happened two weeks ago when Wisconsin rushed for 290 yards and three scores.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Michigan State: It’s hard not to keep watching Walker, the nation’s second-leading rusher. A week ago he ran for 197 yards and a record five TDs against rival Michigan. The Wake Forest transfer is averaging 149.2 yards per game and has run for 15 scores.

Purdue: A broken leg kept RB Zander Horvath on the bench for five games before returning last week. His return gave the offense a more physical presence, the kind they’ll need to lean on heavily Saturday.

FACTS & FIGURES

Michigan State hasn’t started 9-0 since 1966 when a late-season tie with Notre Dame cost the Spartans a shot at the national title. … Walker’s five touchdowns against the Wolverines were the most by any FBS player against a top-10 team since Colorado RB Chris Brown scored six times against Nebraska almost 20 years ago. … After beating No. 3 Michigan to remain unbeaten in 1999, the fifth-ranked Spartans lost at No. 20 Purdue 52-28. Nick Saban was the Michigan State coach. Drew Brees was the Purdue quarterback. … The Boilermakers have lost eight straight in the series and will be hosting their first game against Michigan State since 2014. … Purdue’s defense has picked off four passes in two of the last three games. … Purdue WR David Bell needs 10 catches for 200, four yards receiving to hit 2,500 and one TD catch for No. 20.

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