Game Preview: Michigan State
Jon Gross, Cristian Flores and Jason Marcus preview No. 7 Penn State's matchup with the No. 24 Michigan State Spartans this weekend in East Lansing.
The Land Grant Trophy is on the line this weekend in East Lansing as Penn State looks to bounce back after last week’s heartbreaking loss at Ohio State as they take on the Spartans of Michigan State.
We all remember last year’s meeting. The Nittany Lions had payback on their mind after 2015’s 55-16 shellacking. Penn State dominated the Spartans and left no doubt in their 45-12 win that they were indeed the Big Ten East champions.
Michigan State enters the game 6-2 overall with a loss coming at the hands of Northwestern last weekend. The Wildcats stunned the Spartans 39-31 in triple overtime last weekend at Ryan Field.
Both teams are looking desperately for win to keep themselves alive in the hunt for a potential trip to Indianapolis even with Ohio State still in the driver’s seat in the East Division at the moment.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley once again added to his Heisman résumé with an electric 97-yard kickoff return to open the game last week, and a hard-nosed 36-yard run in which he created room off of the left side of the field.
Quarterback Trace McSorley completed 17 passes on 29 attempts for 192 yards and two touchdowns with a long of 37 yards, but was forced to run for his life as the offensive line had difficulty stopping Ohio State’s defensive line late in the game.
In this Saturday’s matchup with Michigan State, Penn State will look to re-establish its identity and make those big plays that were absent against the Buckeyes.
Michigan State’s defense is stingy and is particularly strong when it comes to stopping the run and creating turnovers.
The Spartans’ defense is anchored by linebackers Joe Bachie and Chris Frey with the defensive line consisting of players such as Kenny Willekes, Mike Panasiuk, Raequan Williams, and Demetrius Cooper.
Justin Layne, David Dowell, Khari Willis, and Josiah Scott are the faces of the Michigan State secondary and they all have the ability to make big plays when needed.
David Dowell is the leader of that secondary and has racked up 29 total tackles alongside 2 interceptions with 35 total return yards.
The Spartans have the eighth-best overall defense in the country giving up an average of 4.4 yards a play and 283.4 yards per game.
The Penn State offense will need to get back to the ways we’ve grown accustomed to in order to crack the Michigan State defense, which can be just as tough Ohio State’s.
Michigan State’s offense has found their guy in quarterback Brian Lewerke. He is a pro-style quarterback but has the ability to use his feet in order to make plays when needed.
Lewerke and LJ Scott are leading rushers with Scott rushing for 511 yards on 113 attempts and four touchdowns and Lewerke rushing for 343 yards on 75 carries and three touchdowns.
Lewerke also has options throwing the ball as well. The two main targets are Darrell Stewart Jr. and Felton Davis III.
Stewart Jr. has 35 receptions for 362 yards and a touchdown. Davis III, on the other hand, has 33 receptions for 405 yards and seven touchdowns.
Michigan State’s offense is extremely balanced with the run and pass and it will be up to Penn State’s defense to stop the run and force the Spartans to pass.
Penn State’s defense has forced 20 turnovers with 11 fumble recoveries and nine interceptions and Michigan State’s offense has turned the ball over 14 times with 10 fumbles and four interceptions on the season.
Penn State has the advantage when it comes to special teams on kickoff returns, but Michigan State has the slight advantage in the kicking game.
Tyler Davis is 7/14 (50 percent) on the season with a long of 47 yards and Matt Coghlin is 7/11 (63.6 percent) on the season with a long of 46 yards.
Both kickers are perfect on extra points this season, but there is the potential for the kick game to be a factor in this game.
With rain, wind, and sloppy weather conditions expected on Saturday in East Lansing, this game will be a classic November Big Ten dogfight.
The game has the potential to be a chess match with Penn State’s offense against Michigan State’s defense.
Saquon Barkley will add yet another play to his Heisman résumé whether it be on a run, pass, or on special teams.
Penn State will find a way to crack through Michigan State’s stingy defense early in the second half while Penn State creates opportunities by forcing the Spartans to turn the ball over a number of times throughout the game.
It won’t be pretty for a while but Penn State will come out of East Lansing with a win, finishing that grueling stretch 2-1 and will get ready for homecoming against Rutgers on November 11.
Prediction: Penn State 30, Michigan State 17
Christopher Hess is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.