Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#223 Penn State vs.
#224 Michigan State
Saturday, November 27, 2021 at 3:30pm EST
Written by Ben the Pen

We have Big 10 action as Michigan State hosts Penn State on Saturday at 3:30 pm EST from Spartan Stadium. The Spartans are 9-2 overall and 6-2 in the Big Ten, and Penn State is 7-4 overall and 4-4 in the conference.

MSU was having a great season with an outside shot at a college football playoff berth before getting crushed by Ohio State 56-7 last week. Penn State rebounded from a tough home loss to Michigan by shutting out Rutgers 28-0. They also gave head coach James Franklin a 10-year extension on Tuesday.

Last year, PSU took care of the Spartans 39-24 at home.

Distraction? What distraction?

Penn State is a 7-4 team. Whether James Franklin's reported alliances with big-time schools LSU and USC were real and a distraction to the team is something only the players can say. The Nittany Lions are good, but a three-point loss at Iowa, followed by an overtime loss (nine OTs) to a subpar Illinois team showed that they aren't ready for prime time.

"I get it," Franklin said last Tuesday at his weekly press conference on SI.com. "We’ve been in the same situation before and have had really strong seasons. I think you’re also in a situation, obviously this year, where we’ve lost some games that we had a chance to win, and our record looks a little bit different. So I get that people are trying to connect the dots there. All the things that I’m able to control, I’m controlling."

Last week, the Nittany Lions shut out Rutgers despite not having at least 21 players due to the flu. That included quarterback Sean Clifford and right tackle Caedan Wallace. Clifford attempted to play and got through the first quarter completing 2 of 8 for 23 yards and was pulled for Christian Veilleux, who threw for 235 yards with 3 TDs. Clifford is expected to start this week with Veilleux as the backup.

Clifford has been good this season, but not great. He has 2,599 yards passing, 17 TDs and six INTs. The running game is not an afterthought, but the best player on offense is Jahan Dotson, who has 83 catches for 1,045 yards with 10 TDs.

Offensively, Penn State ranks 25th with 270.9 passing yards per game, but averages just 110.5 rushing yards (116th). On defense, they rank 26th with 334.2 overall yards per game, 30th against the pass (202.9ypg) and 32nd (131.3ypg) against the run. Linebacker Ellis Brooks leads the team with 91 tackles.

More contract distractions?

While James Franklin was getting an extension on Tuesday after possibly seeking employment elsewhere, MSU coach Mel Tucker was rumored to get a massive extension last week, right before his team was heading to Columbus. On Wednesday night, Tucker signed said extension at 10 years, $95 million. But again, some critics wondered when the Spartans were distracted on Saturday, a reason they lost by 49 points. Maybe there's a point, when you get down 49-0, or Ohio State is just that good and Michigan State's defense is a problem.

That defense couldn't stop the Buckeyes in the air (449 yards) or on the ground (206 yards). Ohio State's revamped defense completely clamped Sparty's running game, as they ran for just 66 yards on 21 carries. Kenneth Walker, who came into the game leading FBS with 1,437 yards and 16 touchdowns, was held to 25 yards on just six attempts. Walker also needs some help from quarterback Payton Thorne, who is completing 60.5% of his passes for 2,618 yards with 22 TDs and eight INTs.

Sparty used to be known for their defense, but part of the team has been their Achilles heel. They are allowing a whopping 340.3 yards per game in the air to rank 130th and 463.2 yards overall (120th). It's going to be a cold win in East Lansing, but precipitation is not expected so both teams should be able to throw the ball.

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Full-Game Side Bet

Insiders Status:

Rating:

I went back and forth on this pick and then realized to not overreact from Michigan State's horrible loss at Ohio State and that their offense, especially Walker, will wake up this week against the Nittany Lions. My other concerns aside from the fact that Franklin is surprisingly returning are that all the players who battled the flu last week, probably lost some weight and are not 100% ready to go. MSU was embarrassed last week and the Tucker extension will not be a distraction because it was finalized. Penn State also hasn't played great on the road, having played just four games.

Prediction: Michigan State +2.5

Full-Game Total Pick

Insiders Status:

Rating:

I do like Penn State's defense, but they gave up 33 points to Ohio State. They aren't invincible and their offense certainly should put up points against a Spartans' defense that gave up 40 points to Purdue and 31 to Western Kentucky earlier in the season. Michigan State's offense has to get their swag back, because that offense is averaging 32.1 points per game and they'll need that to get the win.

Prediction: Over 52
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Written By Ben Hayes , "Ben the Pen"

Ben has been a sports writer for over 35 years, dabbling in college and pro basketball, college and pro football, baseball, college lacrosse, minor league baseball and even college gymnastics. He's also been involved in the gaming industry for nearly 30 years and has been looking to beat the books since he was 13! Ben has had great success in handicapping college football, the NFL, college basketball, the NBA and MLB for 27+ years. His Twitter handle is @BenHayesWAW