What you need to know: Penn State V. Michigan State
Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and when and where you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.
Need-To-Know Details: vs. Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. kickoff, broadcast on ESPN.
Records: Penn State (9-2, 7-1 Big Ten), Michigan State (3-8, 1-7 Big Ten)
Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State has won 12 of the last 13 games.
Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 45 degrees, with a possibility of morning snow showers.
The Overview: After a blowout loss to open the Big Ten season and scuttlebutt about James Franklin’s job security, the Nittany Lions now stand within reaching distance of the Big Ten championship and the College Football Playoff. Penn State needs some help — Ohio State needs to beat Michigan in their noon matchup in Columbus — but the Lions have the best chance of representing the Big Ten’s East Division in Indianapolis next weekend. But as James Franklin would say: “Michigan State. Michigan State. Michigan State, etc.”
The Line: Penn State –13
All-Time Series: Michigan State leads 15-14-1.
Last Time They Met (2015): The Spartans tagged the Nittany Lions with a 55-16 loss in East Lansing.
Penn State Wins If: Beaver Stadium is rocking Saturday — which will happen if the students return early and/or non-season ticket holders gobble up available seats. Count on both happening.
Michigan State Wins If: The Spartans turn Penn State into a one-dimensional offense. One reason for Penn State’s success is the Lions’ tremendous balance. Trace McSorley has shined in his first year as starter, and Barkley and Co. have ensured that opponents can’t pinpoint just one aspect of Penn State’s offense. The Spartans have to take away something, and with Penn State’s offensive line still meshing with new players in new spots, don’t be surprised if the Spartans bring pressure all game.
Count On: Every tailgating lot tuned into the Ohio State-Michigan game. That game traditionally has kicked at noon, so by the time Penn State’s 3:30 kickoff rolls around, the Lions will know whether or not they’ll be playing for a spot in the conference championship.
Keep An Eye On: Michigan State’s energy level. The Spartans have struggled mightily through a season nobody could’ve expected. After losing their first six conference games, Michigan State routed Rutgers — who doesn’t? — and then narrowly upset Ohio State last week. The Spartans don’t have anything tangible to play for this season, but that hasn’t stopped them from playing like a determined team the last few weeks. But after last week’s defeat, the mindset could change on the road against a team with everything to play for.
Trivia Tidbit of The Week: Penn State’s 39-0 blowout of Rutgers was the Nittany Lions’ largest road shutout since beginning Big Ten play in 1993.
Saquon Barkley record book watch: Barkley moved ahead of Charlie Pittman during Saturday’s victory, and now stands 14th all-time with 2,281 yards.
*Season Record: 9-2
*Season Record Against the Spread: 7-3-1
Prediction: Penn State 31, Michigan State 21
*HappyValley.com season predictions