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Week 10 Game Preview: Penn State vs. Michigan State

Who will take home the Land-Grant Trophy?

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve talked a little bit this week about how last week’s loss at Northwestern felt somewhat deflating, but it is time to move on. The Michigan State Spartans still control their own destiny in the Big Ten, but things don’t get any easier this week as the Penn State Nittany Lions visit East Lansing and the teams will battle for the Land-Grant Trophy.

Let’s be honest, Penn State is probably the toughest opponent Michigan State has seen so far (Notre Dame is making a strong case, though). There’s a matchup against Ohio State on the road next week as well. This is a crucial and brutal stretch for the Spartans. If Sparty wants to keep its Big Ten Title hopes alive, It has to pull off the upset against Penn State.

Let’s preview the matchup:

Tale of the Tape:

Michigan State:

Record — 6-2, (4-1 Big Ten)

Offense — 393.3 total yards per game (6th in Big Ten), 226.5 passing yards per game, 167.1 rushing yards per game, 23.8 points per game

Defense — 283.4 yards allowed per game (3rd in Big Ten), 168.7 passing yards allowed per game, 93.4 rushing yards allowed per game, 19.6 points allowed per game

Penn State:

Record — 7-1 (4-1 Big Ten)

Offense — 440.8 total yards per game (3rd in Big Ten), 277.6 passing yards per game, 163.1 rushing yards per game, 39.8 points per game

Defense — 313.6 yards allowed per game (8th in Big Ten), 187.6 passing yards allowed per game, 126 rushing yards allowed per game, 13.3 points allowed per game

Quick takeaways: MSU’s passing yards per game average skyrocketed by more than 30 yards after Brian Lewerke exploded for a Michigan State record of 445 yards against Northwestern. But Trace McSorley and the Penn State offense is consistent and ranks only behind Ohio State in the conference in passing yards per game. Of course Saquon Barkley is an incredible talent at running back, though as a team, Michigan State averages more yards per game on the ground than Penn State. Plus, the Nittany Lions average nearly 40 points per game. The Michigan State defense fell apart in overtime last week, and this is by far the most potent offense the Spartans will have to deal with thus far. Penn State also does not allow a lot of points. Shutting down Barkley and playing better in pass coverage are keys to victory against PSU.

Series History

All-time record: Tied 15-15-1

Last Spartans win: Nov. 28, 2015 (55-16)

Last Nittany Lions win: Nov. 26, 2016 (45-12)

Biggest Spartans win: 55-16 (2015)

Biggest Nittany Lions win: 61-7 (2002)

Current Streak: Penn State with a one-game winning streak

Longest winning streak: Michigan State won five games in a row 1949 through 1966

Quick takeaways: Historically, this series is as even as it gets. A good Penn State team crushed an awful Michigan State team in 2016, but the Spartans had won the three games prior to that, including their biggest win ever against the Nittany Lions in 2015. The longest winning streak in series history is five by the Spartans, and that was back in the late 1940s through 1960s when the teams didn’t play every year. After the 1966 season, the teams didn’t meet again until 1993 when Penn State joined Big Ten competition. Since then, no team has won more than four in a row (which only happened once), which goes to show how competitive it has been.

Previous Matchups:

Michigan State: I don’t even want to talk about it. A triple overtime loss to a Northwestern team I still believe Michigan State is better than was hard to swallow. With that said, I was impressed by Clayton Thorson, who threw for 356 yards and two touchdowns, and the Northwestern team. But Michigan State’s mistakes, complete breakdown on defense in OT, penalties and missed field goals sealed their fate. A bad decision by Lewreke ended the game on an interception. This was a game that MSU needed to take care of business in, because Penn State is a much better team than Northwestern and Ohio State follows. I fear this loss to the Wildcats may have a domino effect, but I hope I am wrong.

Penn State: If the Michigan State loss at Northwestern was deflating, the Penn State loss at Ohio State was shattering. The Nittany Lions raced out to an early 14-0 lead less than five minutes into the game. That lead ballooned into a 28-10 lead in the second quarter and a 28-17 advantage at halftime. Penn State scored only 10 points in the second half and Ohio State stormed all the way back for a 39-38 win. Barkley had a 36-yard touchdown run and a 97-yard kickoff return to open the game. But he finished with just 44 yards on 21 carries — netting just 6 yards on the other 20 runs besides the score.

Key Players

Michigan State:

Brian Lewerke: 134.7 QB rating, 1,807 passing yards, 61.4 percent completion rate, 14 TDs, four INTs, 343 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns

LJ Scott: 113 rushes, 511 yards, 4.5 yards per carry, four TDs, 11 catches for 83 yards and one receiving TD

Felton Davis III: 33 catches, 405 yards, 12.3 yards per catch, seven TDs

Joe Bachie: 71 tackles, 5.5 tackle for loss, two sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one pass defended

Justin Layne: 27 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, one pass defended, one forced fumble, responsible for one of the best GIFs of all-time

Penn State:

Trace McSorley: 152.9 QB rating, 2,071 passing yards, 65.9 percent completion rate, 16 TDs, five INTs, 303 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdowns

Saquon Barkley: 138 rushes, 801 yards, 5.8 yards per carry, nine TDs, 36 catches for 471 yards and three receiving TDs, two kickoff return TDs

DaeSean Hamilton: 29 catches, 494 yards, 17 yards per catch, five TDs

Jason Cabinda: 60 tackles, 4.5 tackle for loss, two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery

Marcus Allen: 50 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack, one interception, two passes defended, two fumbles forced

Game Info

Time: Noon EST

TV Channel: Fox

Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing

Weather expectations: 43 degrees, rainy (25 percent chance of precipitation at kickoff, up to 50 percent at 3 p.m.), winds 10 MPH blowing east

Odds: Penn State -9.5

Over/Under: 48

Rival blog: Black Shoe Diaries


An aggressive offense with the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, a defense that only gives up about 13 points per game and a supremely talented Penn State that is pissed off after last week? Things may not be shaping up well for Sparty. There is rain in the forecast. I think that bodes well for Michigan State, as the team has played multiple games in inclement weather and will hopefully slow down McSorley and Barkley.

Another underrated point is McSorley’s ability to be a dual-threat QB. He has more than 300 yards rushing and eight touchdowns on the ground. We saw the Spartans struggle with this against Brandon Wimbush and Notre Dame. Barkley is already enough to deal with running the ball. With all of this said, I do think this game will end up being a lot closer than many think. But I don’t foresee a victory for the Spartans here and I think the Land-Grant Trophy will stay in Happy Valley for another year.

Also, how is it Week 10 already? This season is flying by.

Be honest, Spartan fans. Who wins?


Who wins the Land-Grant Trophy in 2017?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Penn State
    (111 votes)
  • 26%
    Michigan State
    (39 votes)
150 votes total Vote Now