Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs. Michigan State Spartans Game Preview


The 17th-seeded Michigan Spartans have a perfect 4-0 record in this weekend’s game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (1-2) for the 2021 homecoming game. The Spartans will play under the spotlight for the second week in a row, and the third time this season, kicking off at 7:30 p.m. EST (well, 7:40 p.m., if we want to get technical) at Spartan Stadium. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network. This is the very first meeting between the two programs.

Let’s be clear on one thing: Western Kentucky is not a group of five cupcake program. The Hilltoppers launch an aerial attack and will challenge the Spartans in the passing game. Expect West Kentucky to pick up a lot of yards in the air, but the question is whether or not Michigan State can keep the Hilltoppers off the scoreboard – something the Spartans have well. done this season. Western Kentucky gave Indiana a run for its money last week, narrowly losing by a final score of 33-31. Don’t expect the Hilltoppers to be afraid to come to East Lansing. Michigan State, on the other hand, narrowly beat Nebraska in overtime last week.

MSU must focus on defeating WKU and cannot anticipate the next Big Ten roster, otherwise an upheaval is entirely plausible.

Tale of the Band

Michigan State:
Record 2021 – 4-0 (2-0 in the Big Ten)

2021 offense (averages per game) – 453.5 total yards, 238 passing yards, 215.5 rushing yards

Defense 2021 (averages per game) – 396.5 total yards allowed, 264 passing yards allowed, 132.5 rushing yards allowed

2021 cumulative points scored: 141 (35.25 ppg)

2021 cumulative points authorized: 72 (18 pages per day)

Current SP + ranking: 30th

Western Kentucky:
Record 2021 – 1-2 (0-0 in USA conference)

2021 offense (averages per game) – 507.3 total yards, 426 passing yards, 81.3 rushing yards

Defense 2021 (averages per game) – 439.7 yards allowed, 215 passing yards allowed, 224.7 rushing yards allowed

Cumulative 2021 points scored: 125 (41.67 ppg)

2021 cumulative points authorized: 92 (30.67 ppg)

Current SP + ranking: 39th

Series History / All-Time Records

Face-to-face all-time record: N / A (Saturday is the very first meeting between the two programs)
Current series: N / A
Michigan State’s Last Victory: N / A
Last victory in western Kentucky: N / A
Michigan State All-Time Record: 714-470-44 (.599)
All-time record in Western Kentucky: 589-413-31 (.585)

Uniform watch:

It’s ‘Gruff Sparty’ time! The State of Michigan will sport white helmets with the “Gruff Sparty” logo on both sides. The Spartans will also wear green jerseys with white lettering, white pants with a thin green stripe down the side and white studs with the green Nike “Swoosh” symbol. These uniforms are fantastic.

Let’s take a closer look at this week’s discussions:

Western Kentucky goes with white jerseys with red letters. Hilltoppers will also wear black pants and shiny chrome helmets.

Previous match results

Michigan State 23, Nebraska 20, overtime

For truly the first time this season, Michigan State found itself in a close battle. It wasn’t pretty, but the Spartans found a way to win by beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers in overtime. Fans striped Spartan Stadium with alternating green and white sections and rocked “The Woodshed”.

The Cornhuskers took the fight to the Spartans, however, playing solid defense and holding MSU to just 14 yards (including one in the fourth quarter) and zero first downs in the second half. When Nebraska took a 20-13 lead on an Adrian Martinez touchdown with 7:33 in the fourth quarter, it was Michigan State’s special teams and defensive units that stepped up when the offense couldn’t. .

Jayden Reed returned a 62-yard punt for a touchdown with 4:49 left. This score tied the game at 20 (after the extra point) and ultimately forced overtime. Then it was Florida cornerback Chester Kimbrough’s turn to make a play, knocking out Martinez on the third play of the extra period and nearly returning him for a touchdown. Kimbrough was barely stopped, but Kenneth Walker III made his first 23-yard postponement in overtime, which ultimately allowed Matt Coghlin to make a winning field goal attempt. Coghlin pierced him from 21 yards and the Spartans won an incredibly close game.

Indiana 33, Western Kentucky 31

Indiana took a 14-0 lead over Western Kentucky in the first quarter before the Hilltoppers rose to the board with an Adam Cofield touchdown early in the second quarter to halve IU’s lead. The Hoosiers went on to score two field goals before the Tops came back on the board with a touchdown pass from Bailey Zappe to Daewood Davis. Indiana added another goal before half-time and took a 23-14 lead in the locker room.

Western Kentucky got the ball to start the second half and quickly scored on a Zappe touchdown at Dalvin Smith, making it 23-21, Hoosiers. Indiana got another basket in the third quarter, while WKU also added another basket later. Indiana was leading 26-24 after three quarters of play.

The next score only came with 5:03 remaining in the game, as Stephen Carr scored a one-yard touchdown for the Hoosiers, bringing the score to 33-24. The Hilltoppers would respond with another touchdown when Zappe found Malachi Corley 19 yards with 3:03 to go. Indiana was still leading 33-31 at that time. However, once Indiana got the ball back he was able to run the time limit and survive a western Kentucky scare.

Key matches

Bailey Zappe and Jerreth Sterns vs. Michigan State defensive backs: Again, the western Kentucky pass attack is dangerous. Zappe, the quarterback, and Sterns, a wide receiver, are the two main playmakers in WKU’s air raid system. Whether or not that’s the coaching staff philosophy or it goes that way, Michigan State has certainly seemed like a ‘fold-don’t-break’ defense so far this season, and has was likely to drop much of the distance through the air, but not many points. Expect the Hilltoppers to be able to move the ball around – especially with the depth of the defensive backfield even thinner now with Kalon Gervin in the transfer portal – but also wait for the MSU secondary to step up in times of crisis.

Kenneth Walker III / MSU’s offensive line against West Kentucky’s top seven: It probably gets a little repetitive to see Walker’s name in this section every week, but here are the facts: The Hilltoppers are terrible at defending the run, allowing 224.7 yards per game, which ranks 120th in FBS and 4, 8 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the Spartans rank 20th in FBS in attacking rushing with 215.5 yards per game, and Walker leads the country with 554 yards. Expect the MSU offensive line to dominate the trenches and Walker to have a big day against a lackluster WKU defense.

Payton Thorne vs. Western Kentucky Secondary: While the Hilltoppers fight the race, Western Kentucky’s passing defense is actually solid, allowing just 215 yards per game in the air, which ranks him 62nd in the country. However, keep in mind that WKU played in one of their three games against Army, and the Black Knights only passed six times in that game for a total of 77 yards, which would skew the stats early on. of the season. The Hilltoppers gave up 373 passing yards to the Indiana Hoosiers last week. I expect Thorne to have a rebounding game after his less than stellar performance last week, and I expect Walker’s success in the ground game to open the passing game for Thorne, Jayden Reed. , Jalen Nailor and Tre Mosley.

Game Info

Time: 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time (7:40 p.m. kick off)
TV channel: Big Ten Network
Site: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing, Michigan
Weather forecast : Rain showers are expected at kick-off and throughout the match. Temperatures in the 70s / 60s, with winds blowing with winds blowing from the south / southwest at five to eight miles per hour.
Line: Michigan State -11


After Michigan State’s putrid offensive performance against Nebraska last week, especially in the second half, I expect to see a much better unit performance this week against a West Kentucky team that allows 439, 7 yards and 30.67 points per game.

On the other side of the ball, Michigan State allows just 18 points per game (33rd in FBS), while Western Kentucky is averaging 41 points per game (14th in FBS). MSU is allowing 396.5 yards per game, while WKU is allowing 507.3 yards and 426 passing yards per game. So the most intriguing game will be MSU’s defense against the Western Kentucky offense. The Hilltoppers will also challenge the Spartans with plenty of fast paced, no-huddle play.

There should be some rain showers in this game as well, which could affect both teams’ passing attacks, but could also make things more difficult for the defensive backs who keep wide receivers. We’ll have to see if the weather is playing a role.

Overall, I expect a relatively high scoring game that will be closer than many fans might anticipate, but a Michigan State win when all is said and done.

For more on Western Kentucky, please read our “Get to Know Your Opponent” article or check out my conversation with The Towel Rack – an independent website for all things Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. For my answers to The Towel Rack questions, read here.


Will Michigan State beat Western Kentucky in the second leg?

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