Purdue coach Hazell explains how his team has given MSU fits recently
Michigan State has not lost to Purdue since Mark Dantonio became head coach of the Spartans in 2007.
The Spartans have won six in a row in the series, and they are three touchdown favorites heading into the next matchup with the Boilermakers scheduled for this weekend.
So why is Dantonio wary of coach Darrell Hazell’s team?
He knows the Boilermakers have been surprisingly hard for the Spartans to shake over the past few years, even as one program has fallen on hard times and the other has surged toward the top of the national rankings.
"If you look at the history of the games, they have always been close games and we expect those things, for whatever reason we play each other very, very well and there’s been a tradition in there that," Dantonio said this week.
Coaches have been known to perhaps stretch the truth when talking up underdog opponents, but a look at recent scores shows he was not exaggerating.
Last season, the Boilermakers had the ball with a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter before a pick-six for MSU set the final score at 45-31.
The year before that, the eventual Big Ten champion Spartans slogged to a 14-0 win over a Purdue squad that finished 1-11.
In 2010, MSU won by four, which is one more point than the Spartans won by a season earlier.
"You know, I think our guys have a lot of confidence of the schemes that we’re playing against those guys," Hazell, who took over as head coach in West Lafayette in 2013, said during his preview press conference Wednesday. "Michigan State plays an offense that they’re going to try to grind the clock down and try to wear you down a little bit, and I think that plays a little bit into our hands.
"Now, they can throw the ball. Connor Cook’s done a nice job of locating guys, but also on the other side of the ball, they play a scheme that where you know where guys are going to be. They’re not a high pressure team in terms of true zero coverage. They will bring them a hot zone blitz every once in a while, but you know where their guys are going to be and that kind of helps you a little bit."