Purdue just loves to play the role of spoiler. And this time, it was Michigan State’s turn.
A week after a triumphant come-from-behind victory over Michigan vaulted MSU to No. 3 in the College Football Playoff rankings, the Spartans went into West Lafayette and were upset by Purdue, 40-29. With the loss, Michigan State fell from the ranks of the unbeaten and took a hit — but not a fatal one — to both its Big Ten and CFP hopes.
The Michigan State defense just had no answers for Purdue’s passing attack. Aidan O’Connell threw for a whopping 536 yards and three touchdowns in the win with David Bell as his favorite target. Bell, one of the best receivers in the country, hauled in 11 passes for 217 yards and a score.
Saturday’s outcome marked the second time this season that the unranked Boilermakers have upset a top three team in the country and the third time during Jeff Brohm’s tenure.
Just last month, Purdue shocked then-No. 2 Iowa 24-7 in Iowa City behind a similar offensive performance from O’Connell and Bell, who also topped 200 yards in that outing.
Purdue also upset No. 2 Ohio State 49-20 back in 2018 in a game that ultimately cost the Buckeyes a trip to the College Football Playoff.
Will Michigan State endure the same fate?
Purdue took early lead, pulled away in 3rd quarter
O'Connell and the Purdue passing attack were on fire from the start.
O'Connell completed four of his first five passes and led the Boilermakers to an early 7-0 lead. That lead grew to 21-7 late in the second quarter on one of Brohm's many creative play calls on the day.
We'll call this a reverse flea flicker screen pass, and it went for a 39-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Anthrop.
— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) November 6, 2021
Michigan State would battle back and tie the score at 21-21 early in the third quarter, but the defense just could not get the stops it needed.
Purdue would score on its next four drives — one touchdown and three field goals — to build a 37-21 lead with 6:48 to go.
Michigan State overcame a two-score deficit last week versus Michigan, but couldn't get it done this time.
What does this mean for Michigan State?
With the loss, Michigan State is now 8-1 and set to drop in the College Football Playoff rankings. But how far will the Spartans fall?
No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Cincinnati both had close wins on Saturday while No. 4 Oregon is set to face Washington on the road later Saturday night. No. 9 Wake Forest, undefeated entering the day, lost to North Carolina. There's definitely going to be movement in the rankings, but MSU may not fall very far.
Now there are three one-loss teams in the Big Ten East that are ranked in the top 10. MSU already has a win over No. 7 Michigan, which hosts Indiana on Saturday. Ohio State is 8-1 overall and undefeated in conference play but still has Michigan State and Michigan remaining on its schedule.
The team to emerge as the Big Ten East champion will almost certainly be the favorite in the Big Ten title game. And if that Big Ten East team goes on to win the conference title. there's a good chance it advances to the CFP.