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Staff predictions: No. 7 Michigan State vs. Maryland

It's time for the Spartans to bounce back at The Woodshed!

Michigan State (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) looks to bounce back from their lone loss of the season today when they host the Maryland Terrapins (5-4, 2-4).

With kickoff just hours away, the staff of Spartan Nation takes a look at the game and provides bold predictions, our thoughts on the matchup and a final score prediction.

Kenny’s 3 Bold Predictions:

1. Kenneth Walker gets the ball on almost every third and medium

Something that really frustrated me las week was the play-calling on third and medium. I am all for Jay Johnson trusting quarterback Payton Thorne, but if it’s third and less than six Kenneth Walker III should have the ball in his hands on almost every single play. During the second half of the Michigan game, Michigan State was successful with this approach and it wore Michigan down. I give Purdue credit for slowing the Spartans down and getting themselves in some 3rd and long situations, forcing Thorne to beat them in the second half. But there were a few calls I thought Walker should’ve had the ball and that was the difference in the two weeks and the results of those games.

2. Michigan State pass rushers bring the pressure this week

For most the season, Michigan State has been able to generate pressure up front with the front seven of the defense. Good pressure on the quarterback can bail out a below average secondary, and MSU will need to get back to that this week. Blitzing could lead to some big plays, but I think it may be the Spartans’ best shot at slowing down Maryland’s pass attack, especially with Charles Brantley’s status for the game unknown.

3. Maliq Carr roles continues to increase

Maliq Carr, the 6-foot-5 tight end that transferred this season from Purdue, finally saw some action last week against his former team where he had one catch for 28 yards and also had a catch on a two point conversion. Carr is a mismatch nightmare for defenses with his size, speed and his above average hands. I expect Jay Johnson to continue to utilize Carr especially on passing downs moving forward and give the Spartans a glimpse of the future at the tight end position.

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Matt’s 3 Bold Predictions:

1. Sparty’s defense comes up with two INTs

Michigan State’s defense was embarrassed last week in pass coverage, and it had to rub them the wrong way. The Spartans are going to be playing angry on that side of the ball, and the secondary will be out to prove they aren’t the weak link on this team. In addition, Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa leads the Big Ten in interceptions thrown with nine. The Terrapins are going to have success throwing the ball, but Tagovailoa is going to put the ball in harm’s way at times too, and I see the Spartans taking advantage with two interceptions on Saturday afternoon.

2. Michigan State scores 42 points or more

The Spartan offense is in for a big day today. Maryland has no answer for Kenneth Walker III, and with the Terps having to dedicate extra defenders to stop the run, look for Payton Thorne to have a big day as well. I’ll call for 125 rushing yards and two touchdowns for Walker, while Thorne eclipses 200 yards passing and adds a trio of touchdowns through the air.

3. Jayden Reed returns a kick/punt for a TD

Michigan State is due for a big play on special teams, and I think Jayden Reed delivers one today for the Spartans. Reed is an explosive athlete in space, and he may get several cracks at a kick return in what I think will be a high-scoring game. Look for the junior to take one to the house at some points today.

Kenny’s overview:

Every game matters. Following a crushing loss to a good Purdue team last week, the margin of error in the next three weeks is gone for the Spartans. In order for Michigan State to return to the Big Ten Championship for the first time since they won it in 2015, the Spartans likely have to win out. MSU will face another good passing attack led by Taulia Tagovailoa, and the Spartans have struggled defending the pass most the season but until last week had done a pretty good job of holding opponents to field goals in the red zone. Maryland isn’t quite as explosive as Purdue, but the Terrapins shouldn’t be taken lightly. Prediction: Michigan State 41, Maryland 31

Matt’s overview:

The Spartans return to the friendly confines of The Woodshed, but they come in limping after the loss to the Boilermakers. Michigan State has also suffered a number of injuries o key positions that are concerning. This team has been resilient and found ways to win more often than not, but this seems like another scary game with the way Maryland is able to move the ball through the air. Michigan State is going to win this game, but I won’t be surprised to see the Terps make the Spartans sweat a little bit. Prediction: Michigan State 42, Maryland 34