Penn State vs. Michigan State Preview
As the college football regular season winds down, the No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions (9-2, 7-1 B1G) continue blazing their trail into the playoffs with one final home game against the Michigan State Spartans (3-8, 1-7 B1G). Penn State’s senior day in Beaver Stadium will prove to be pivotal in the three-way race with the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines for the Big Ten Championship.
High stakes aside, the Nittany Lions, especially the seventeen seniors, have much to celebrate; from facing the adversity of injuries and losses to finally putting the past of the sanctions behind them. James Franklin’s seat also does not seem so hot in light of their rolling seven-game winning streak.
Penn State will face the struggling defending Big Ten champions for the thirty-first time in their historical slate. Michigan State holds the historical and recent edge; with a 15-14-1 overall record, Michigan State hopes to win their fourth consecutive victory over the Blue and White. Interestingly enough, the defending champs clinched the Big Ten East Division title with a 55-16 victory over Penn State. Will the roles reverse this year?
Although the stars seem to be aligning for the Nittany Lions’ Cinderella story, the Spartans have the chance to play upset.
Their momentum stems from powerhouse sophomore running back LJ Scott. Scott is thirsty to cement his status as the sixth sophomore at Michigan State to rush for 1,000 yards in a season; he is only 65 yards away from the feat. Last Saturday against a dynamic Ohio State team, Scott had a career day with 160 rushing yards and 76 receiving yards.
While Scott implements the Spartans’ ground game, their defense proved formidable against their 17-16 loss to the Buckeyes. With the help of junior safety Montae Nicholson, they held the Buckeyes, who are No. 2 in the FBS in scoring, to a season low in points, total offense and passing. With only seven sacks on the season before last Saturday, the Spartans also managed to find J.T. Barrett three times for a loss. Their improving defense could create trouble for the Nittany Lions’ struggling and injured offensive line; McSorley has been sacked 20 times this season.
Penn State has a lot to lose this Saturday with regards to its path towards coveted bowl games and its current 6-0 home game streak. Will the Lions prevail?
The Nittany Lions continue to gain momentum at pivotal parts of the season; McSorley finds himself within reach of breaking Penn State’s record for total offense in one season, while Gesicki already set the record for receptions by a tight end. The Blue and White began the season uniting around a prolific Barkley, but developed in the face of adversity to average 39.7 points per game with other compliments to the offensive scheme.
With that being said, expect a battle of the running backs on Saturday.
Coming off of a shutout, Penn State’s defense also proves to be benefiting from the team’s momentum as the team only allowed 87 yards against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights last Saturday. The Lions stifling force was the fewest yards allowed in a Big Ten game in the university’s history.
The Nittany Lions return to Beaver Stadium for their season finale this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against the Michigan State Spartans.
Madeleine Balestrier is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email email@example.com.