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The 3-2-1 Preview: 3 things we want to see, 2 key stats, 1 best bet vs. Penn State

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The betting record is better than MSU’s, so at least get on board for that

Penn State v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

You know what’s sick about all of this?

Michigan State hasn’t even gotten into the hard part of their season yet. That fun gets to happen now as our Spartans head to Happy Valley trying to take down Penn State for the second year in a row.

Well, let’s try to figure out how that happens.

3 Things We Want To See

More Passing, Less Running

Mark Dantonio said the formula for success is running the ball 40 times per game. And you know what? I would totally agree with that…if we had a healthy offensive line that had even the slightest bit of chemistry.

The numbers back up Dantonio’s statement too – MSU is 70-8 when running the ball more than 40 times. However, when you go back and look at the teams, he’s never had an offensive line that struggles this much in the run game. Not even close, really. A MSU win is going to have come in shootout fashion, and that won’t be won with this run game.

Target Felton Davis

Target Felton Davis anything less than 50 times on Saturday, and it’s malpractice.

Alright, might be a small exaggeration, but you get my point. Felton Davis has to be an emphasis of this passing game. I can’t believe I have to say it, but seeing Felton Davis all but get sent to the locker room during last week’s fourth quarter makes this statement not so obvious, apparently.

A Strong Pass Rush

This will be the key to the game. The run defense should be the least of our worries. I’ll be shocked – SHOCKED, I tell you – if Penn State’s run game is what wins it for them. It’s clear the pass game will be what wins it for the Nittany Lions, and our only hope of throwing that off even a little is to get to Trace McSorley.

And, of course, that’s waaaaaay easier said than done. And, of course again, McSorley is solid outside of the pocket. But MSU can’t afford to let quarterbacks have slightly less than a decade of time to throw the ball on third downs to a receiver with eight yards of cushion.

MSU’s pass defense is putting up stats that are very, very far away from the No Fly Zone numbers of yore. However, a large part of that is a) the run defense is too dominant for other teams to run and b) the pass rush hasn’t consistently been there this season.

Central Michigan v Michigan State Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

2 Key Stats

261.2

This is rushing yards per game for Penn State, and this also highlights the most fascinating matchup within this game.

MSU’s nation-best run defense hasn’t run into a test like Penn State. Penn State’s 12th-best running offense hasn’t run in to a test like Michigan State. Even if MSU can slash those average rushing yards in half to about 130 yards, that will give the Spartans at least a chance to dream about pulling the upset.

23.7

That’s yards per reception for Michigan native and Penn State receiver KJ Hamler, who has 13 catches on the year. Long story short, he’s the big play guy for Penn State. When he gets the ball in his hands, fireworks are about to happen. If Penn State gives McSorley enough time in the pocket for plays to unfold, expect Hamler to be on the receiving end of big throws.

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

1 Best Bet

(PSU -13.5, O/U 52)

Unfortunately, Northwestern +10 was the easiest money of the season. The line this weekend is a little challenging for a few reasons. First, can MSU keep it competitive on the road against its first legitimate opponent of the season? Second, can the offense do their part in getting the total to above 52?

Just based on everything we’ve seen lately, I don’t know if MSU can get to a number high enough to help the over hit. And I think MSU’s run defense will be enough to contain Penn State’s offense somewhat, so I’m going to go ahead and take the under.

Record: 4-2

Poll

What’s your best bet for Saturday’s game vs. Penn State?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    MSU +13.5
    (51 votes)
  • 46%
    PSU -13.5
    (113 votes)
  • 10%
    Over 52
    (26 votes)
  • 21%
    Under 52
    (53 votes)
243 votes total Vote Now