Hoo boy do we have a big showdown on Saturday.
MSU comes into their game against Penn State as anywhere between a 11.5 and 7.5 point underdog, depending where you look. Let’s not BS ourselves here — this will be a very difficult game for our Spartans.
However, as we’ve come to learn in the Mark Dantonio Era, no game is impossible (well, maybe Alabama games). As a matter of fact, I stumbled across the recipe card for an upset while cleaning my desk today. This is what the Spartans will need for a shocking win against the Nittany Lions.
Penn State coming in deflated: Oh, you bet I’m all aboard the THEY’RE POSSIBLY NOT MENTALLY INTO THIS train. Coming off a gutting loss that possibly derailed all of their goals? Check. Road game against an inferior opponent? Check. Crappy weather with a noon kickoff? Check.
Anyone else have Rick Ross in their head? TRAP TRAP TRAP.
Home crowd bringing it: We already know the student section will be 40% full – at most – by the second half. Can the rest of Spartan Stadium bring the ruckus and make it a hostile environment? I think so. I’m already banking on having zero voice for Sunday and Monday.
Containing the run: Hey, I never said some of these won’t be obvious. Saquon Barkley, who’s been out to end the college football world one snap at a time, will be the man to stop on Saturday. If he’s not stopped, well, you can scrap this whole plan. Luckily, this is in the realm of possibility as MSU hasn’t allowed a running back to scamper for more than 65 yards this season.
Containing the pass: The Penn State air raid is underrated. They’ve got big targets and a quarterback who has a saucy touch pass to go along with them. Ask me two weeks ago what my thoughts are on stopping the pass game, and it would’ve been a lot more confident than I am today. After Northwestern’s mediocre pass game exploited MSU’s defense last week, I’m not as positive it can happen. But hey, I’ve been wrong plenty of times before this.
Making field goals: Making field goals, in my opinion, is always a sound strategy. In a big game as an underdog, that’s magnified even more. Matt Coghlin is coming off a shaky game where he missed one from Wrigley Field and another from short range last week, so this will be an important bounce-back game for him.
Brian Lewerke playing close to perfect: Last week JT Barrett went Greek God Mode – especially in the fourth quarter – and beat the Nittany Lions with his arm and legs. Now, we know Lewerke can do both of those effectively. However, we also know he’s prone to throw straight to defensive backs and miss open receivers. Can he cut that down and play efficiently like he did in the beginning of the season? And can he also get out of the pocket and make some patented White Lightning plays happen? Stay tuned to find out, kids.
Offensive line moves the earth: This will be a tough task for the offensive line. Footballoutsiders.com has the offensive line playing at a 32.8 percent opportunity rate, which is 116th in the country. Now, what the hell does that even mean? This is straight from their website, which does a great job at explaining: “The percentage of carries (when five yards are available) that gain at least five yards, i.e. the percentage of carries in which the line does its job, so to speak.”
So, basically, what I’m saying is the offensive line will need the performance of the year against a solid Penn State front seven.
So, easy does it. That’s how the Spartans beat Penn State.