Michigan State off to best start in 6 years, hosts WKU

Western Kentucky (1-2) at No. 17 Michigan State (4-0), Saturday at 7:40 p.m. EDT (Big Ten Network).

Line: Michigan State by 11 1/2, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

Series record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Michigan State is building a lot of momentum under second-year coach Mel Tucker, and getting upset at home by Western Kentucky would be a big blow. The Spartans are 4-0 for the first time since starting 8-0 in 2015. The Hilltoppers are not interested in moral victories after losing by two points to both Indiana and Army.

KEY MATCHUP

Michigan State RB Kenneth Walker against Western Kentucky’s run defense. The Wake Forest transfer leads the nation with 138.5 yards rushing per game, but Nebraska may have showed how to slow him down. Walker had just 61 yards on 19 carries in last week’s overtime win over the Huskers. The Hilltoppers gave up 109 yards rushing and two TDs to Stephen Carr last week in a 33-31 loss Indiana.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

WKU: QB Bailey Zappe ranks 10th in the nation with 1,224 yards passing, including 365 against Indiana. Zappe threw for more than 10,000 yards at Houston Baptist from 2017 to 2020. He has completed 73% of his passes for 1,224 yards with 13 touchdowns and two INTs.

MSU: WR Jayden Reed is averaging 146.3 all-purpose yards, ranking ninth in the nation. Reed has four touchdowns, tied for the conference lead, and is averaging 84 yards receiving to rank fifth in the Big Ten. Reed pulled Michigan State into a tie against the Huskers with 3:47 left in regulation with the program’s first punt return for a touchdown since 2011.

FACTS & FIGURES

Michigan State became the Big Ten’s first team to start 2-0 in conference play. … QB Payton Thorne has thrown a Big Ten-best 10 TD passes. … DE Jacub Panasiuk had a career-high two sacks, forced a fumble in the fourth quarter, and had seven tackles against Nebraska. … Western Kentucky is averaging 41.7 points per game and 426 yards passing, ranking among the nation’s leaders, and is among the best by converting on 57.7% of third downs. … WKU WR Jerreth Sterns has 23 catches, 360 yards receiving and 4 TDs. … DB Antwon Kincade leads the Hilltoppers with 26 tackles. … Western Kentucky had a school-record 25,171 fans attend its home game against the Hoosiers.

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