It’s a matchup of teams from the East Division of the Big Ten in the Great Lakes State. The #6 Penn State Nittany Lions are on the road as they travel to face the Michigan State Spartans Saturday afternoon. Penn State comes in off a 28-21 win at home over #16 Michigan last Saturday night. Michigan State had a bye last week: they were drubbed 38-0 on the road by then-#8 Wisconsin in their previous game on October 12th. The Spartans own a 16-15-1 edge in the all-time series between the teams and have taken the last two: that includes a 21-17 road win in the most recent matchup on October 13, 2018.
Penn State Nittany Lions Seek to Remain UnbeatenPenn State prevailed at home over #16 Michigan last week to remain unbeaten and avenge a 42-7 pasting at the hands of the Wolverines in Ann Arbor last season. The Nittany Lions try to remain unbeaten heading into a game with #17 Minnesota next week. Penn State bolted to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter and hung on after Michigan made it a seven-point game twice, the last time with 8:48 to play. The Nittany Lions were outgained 417-283, gave up 26 first downs while recording 14 and were crushed 37:45 to 22:15 in time of possession in the contest. Penn State did force the game’s lone turnover: their strong start carried them to victory.
The Nittany Lions enter this contest 44th in the nation in passing offense as they average 261 yards through the air this season. Penn State is 52nd in rushing offense as they pick up 178.3 yards per contest. The Nittany Lions are 10th in the FBS in scoring offense by averaging 40 points per game and stand 3rd in scoring defense by allowing just 10 points per contest. Sean Clifford is 116 of 184 passing for 1,742 yards with 16 touchdowns and two interceptions: he is second on the team with 269 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Will Levis is 14 of 22 for 85 yards and a score while adding 66 rushing yards and two scores. Noah Cain leads the team on the ground with 62 carries for 329 yards and six scores. Journey Brown (39 carries, 252 yards, three TD) and Devyn Ford (31 carries, 217 yards, two TD) are also valuable options in the ground game. KJ Hamler leads the Nittany Lions with 32 receptions for 563 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Pat Freiermuth (20 grabs, 231 yards, four TD) and Jahan Dotson (15 receptions, 298 yards, three TD) are the only other players with double-digit catches on the year. Jake Pinegar has hit all 37 extra point attempts and five of six field goals with a long of 38 this season. Jordan Stout has not attempted an extra point and is two of three on field goals with a long of 57.
Michigan State Spartans Look for Home UpsetMichigan State had a bye last week and it may have come at a good time as the team had been drubbed in the previous two games. The Spartans were hammered by a combined 72-10 against Ohio State and Wisconsin as they try to regroup here. Michigan State was outgained 402-149 by Wisconsin in their latest loss. The Spartans gave up 22 first downs while picking up just seven and were wiped out by a 39:10 to 20:50 margin in time of possession. Michigan State turned the ball over twice, including a pick-six, while facing to record a takeaway in the game.
The Spartans are averaging 240.3 yards per game through the air (64th in the nation) while racking up 117.1 yards per game (110th in the nation) on the ground this season. Michigan State enters the contest 97th in the FBS as they average 23.9 points per game while the team is 33rd in scoring defense by allowing 21 points per game. Brian Lewerke is under center and has completed 131 of 228 passes for 1,596 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions while adding 147 yards on the ground. Darrell Stewart Jr. completed his lone pass for 17 yards while Rocky Lombardi hit six of 15 passes for 69 yards and an interception. Elijah Collins leads the team with 98 carries for 492 yards and three scores on the ground: Connor Heyward (24 carries, 79 yards) and Anthony Williams Jr. (19 carries, 50 yards) are next in line. Stewart Jr. has reeled in a team-leading 46 passes for 683 yards plus four scores this season. Cody White (27 receptions, 333 yards, two TD) and tight end Matt Dotson (11 catches, 96 yards, TD) are next in line. Matt Coghlin has booted all 18 extra point attempts and 11 of 17 of his field goal tries with a long of 48.
The offense has been an issue for Michigan State, especially when they play elite offenses. The 149 yards they amassed against Wisconsin was their second-lowest in the Mark Dantonio era. The seven first downs were the lowest in the 13 seasons of Dantonio's tenure.
“I don’t think that anybody played as well as they had,” Dantonio said. “I thought from an offensive perspective, we took a step backwards in that football game.”
Now his offense has an extra week to prepare for a Penn State team that also has an elite defense. But the Spartans have managed to win the last two games in this series, so they have found a formula to defeat the Nittany Lions.
“There’s been some great games in the past as we’ve gone through this, and you know, it’s sort of a game that we’ve pointed to,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said Tuesday (pennlive.com). "Have not had a home game since September 28, so a little bit different type of scheduling. Sort of in a different phase here because we have one game, basically in, three weeks’ time with a bye coming next week, as well. Two games, Penn State, Illinois in one month, four weeks.
“It’s a little bit different in terms of what have we were dealing with, but we knew this was going to happen and needed to prepare ourselves accordingly. I think we’ve embraced the situation. Opportunity to get guys back and focus in a little bit more as we go forward.”
- Nittany Lions are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games following an ATS loss
- Nittany Lions are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 road games vs. a team with a winning home record
- Spartans are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 conference games
- Spartans are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games following a straight up loss of more than 20 points
- Spartans are 0-4 ATS vs. a team with a winning record