WR/CB matchup: Aaron Burbridge vs. Anthony Brown
East Lansing plays host to the top wide receiver and cornerback matchup on Saturday. Michigan State WR Aaron Burbridge looks to regain his early season form against Purdue CB Anthony Brown. Despite the struggling Boilermakers hitting the road against the No. 2-ranked Spartans, both of these players rank in the top five at their position, so this should be an evenly matched battle between two premier Big Ten players.
Burbridge (+9.0) and the Spartans struggled last week at home against Central Michigan even though they still won by 20 points. After receiving praise nationally for his hot start and acrobatic catches, Burbridge turned in a pedestrian stat line of four catches for 31 yards and no touchdowns against the Chippewas. He is still our third- ranked receiver and has 24 catches, 405 yards receiving and four touchdowns on the season. The 6-1 senior has been QB Connor Cook’s favorite target and is hauling in 67.7 percent of passes thrown his way. A top prospect coming out of high school, Burbridge has finally become the alpha dog in 2015 after fighting through injuries and stiff competition for playing time his first three years on campus.
Brown (+7.4), a senior, is a three-year starter and flies a little under the radar thanks to Purdue’s poor record and secondary running mate, Frankie Williams, getting more attention. He is PFF’s fifth-ranked cornerback and has only yielded eight catches and 71 yards receiving on the season. The 5-11 speedster returns kicks and also runs track for Purdue, so his athleticism is a strong trait. He can keep up with any receiver and the 47.1 completion percentage for opposing quarterbacks when targeting him is a testament to his tight coverage skills.
Burbridge wins if…
He runs a variety of routes to keep Brown from getting comfortable, and uses his highly-acclaimed body control to haul in catches near the sidelines. Along with great hands (only one drop on the season) and route-running, Burbridge also has terrific speed and run-after-the-catch ability. Coupling his top-notch skillset with a high-volume of targets, Burbridge should have no problem bouncing back after a frustrating Week 4.
Brown wins if…
He plays aggressively by jumping routes and getting a hand on every pass thrown near him. The Boilermakers cannot afford to play soft coverage and let routes develop like they did against Bowling Green in Week 4. Brown has the talent and experience to lock up on Burbridge and be a thorn in his side. After a penalty nullified a pick-six for Brown last week, look for him to be even hungrier to make a game-changing play in Week 5 while under the national spotlight.
Brown over Burbridge
After getting embarrassed by Bowling Green’s passing attack, the Purdue secondary plays with more pride this week. It won’t be enough to upset Michigan State, but Brown does an excellent job containing Burbridge by holding him under 80 yards receiving and without a touchdown. The Spartans will lean on the running game after struggling to get the aerial attack to click. Purdue still loses big, but it won’t be because of Brown.