Saturday brings us a rivalry matchup in the Big Ten as the no. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions play host to the Michigan State Spartans. While this rivalry runs deep, Penn State is a considerable favorite for this year’s installment at -13 with an over/under of 53.5 points.
This will actually be Penn State’s first game since they led a 4th quarter lead slip away against Ohio State. Outside of that game, the Nittany Lions have been awfully impressive this season, practically scoring at will behind quarterback Trace McSorley. Penn State also knows that if they can win out and get a little help, they still have a chance to reach the Big Ten Championship Game and maybe even slip into the College Football Playoff.
Things have not gone as well for Michigan State this season, as the Spartans were bounced from the top-25 after last week’s loss to Northwestern. Even MSU’s wins this season against the likes of Utah State, Indiana, and Central Michigan haven’t been all that convincing. That being said, the Spartans still have a chance to make some noise in the Big Ten, but they have to get things turned around in a hurry, starting with this week’s trip to Happy Valley.
Throw It Over the Wall
McSorley has done a great job of leading the Penn State offense after the Nittany Lions lost many of their top playmakers from a year ago. However, this week they’ll face a Michigan State defense that’s one of the best in the country at stopping the run and forcing teams to become one-dimensional. In their five games this season, the Spartans have given up no more than 63 rushing yards in a single game.
While McSorley has put up outstanding numbers and the Nittany Lions are scoring at a high rate, he’s not been the most efficient quarterback in the country. He’s completing just 53% of his passes, which is down from 66% last year. He’s also more reliant on making plays with his legs than past seasons. If the Spartans are able to take that away, it could leave the Penn State offense in uncharted territory.
Going Nowhere Slowly
While the Michigan State defense is keeping the Spartans in games, it’s on offense that they’re finding a way to lose. The MSU rushing attack is going nowhere this season, as they’re ranked 110th in the country. That lack of productivity can be explained by the absence of running back L.J. Scott and multiple offensive linemen due to injury. But knowing the cause doesn’t solve the problem.
If those woes continue, it’ll be up to quarterback Brian Lewerke to put the team on his back against a tough Penn State defense. Lewerke is a fine game manager, but he’s not the kind of quarterback who can carry a team. The more he throws, the less effective he is. He’s already thrown six interceptions this season after only throwing seven all last season.
Come On, Get Happy
The Michigan State defense is good enough to make this a tight, low-scoring game for a little while. But MSU’s shortcomings on offense will eventually be their downfall. The Nittany Lions will end up scoring enough points to cover the spread. Bet on Penn State -13 to beat Michigan State.