clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

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

There could absolutely be a road to victory here...we think

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports


This is the biggest game in the nation this weekend. I don’t care what the haters say. This is even bigger than any Big Ten Championship.

Let’s take a look at some numbers and chop this whole thing up.



That would be Keyvone Lee’s yards per carry in the last two games for Penn State, gaining 229 yards off of 39 carries between the Michigan and Rutgers games.

Before that pair of games? Just 19 carries for 93 yards. So it appears that the Nittany Lions have found a new offensive spark in their true freshman running back.

Of course, Lee won’t be the only guy carrying the rock as they mix in running backs Devyn Ford, Caziah Holmes and even quarterback-seemingly-turned-running back Will Levis pretty often. And there’s no doubt quarterback Sean Clifford will run the ball too as he leads the team with a whopping 81 rushing attempts on the year.


Let’s keep the conversation about running going. The Nittany Lions are absolutely hellbent on running the ball as they have 107 RUSHING ATTEMPTS THE LAST TWO GAMES. My goodness gracious, those games must have been one hour and 17 minutes.

Adding up their 51 pass attempts and doing some division, that makes Penn State’s run/pass split a lopsided 68 percent run, 32 percent pass (look at that Spartan education paying off).

So, yeah, get ready to see a lot of ground game. This actually kind of plays right into MSU’s hand as the Spartan defense is amongst the best in the country at stopping the run.



That’s the yards per carry Penn State’s defense is allowing, putting them at 37th in the nation at that category. The Nittany Lions are coming off their first game holding an opponent under 100 rushing yards since Week One. Then again, it was Rutgers, so how much is that saying?

Allow me to chuck a few more numbers your way:

  • Penn State’s stuff rate (run plays stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage) is just 15.6 percent, which is 97th in the country.
  • Their opportunity rate (percentage of runs that gain at least four yards) is 43.1 percent, which is 23rd in the country.
  • MSU’s offensive stuff rate and opportunity rate check in at 123rd and 124th in the country, respectively. So, uhh, not great. But we all know this by now.



Yeah so there’s a very, very good reason Penn State has been running the ball a lot lately. It’s because Sean Clifford hasn’t been having a banner year, to say the least. A completion percentage of 58.9 percent paired with a 12 touchdown and nine interception split kind of explains why Penn State is having the bad offensive season they are having.

The recipe to success is very basic — stop the run on early downs and get them in long yardage situations where they have to air it out.


An obvious one, yes, but it could and should be very doable against Penn State. They have a head-scratching low interception total of just (drum roll) two. TWO! ON THE ENTIRE SEASON! Shakur Brown alone has two games with two interceptions.

That should be a welcome stat for whoever is under center on Saturday. For a team that’s only had 10 touchdown drives this season, there can’t be coughed up turnovers. Turnovers are never good (hot take, I know) but they are especially devastating to a struggling offense. Let’s just…not do the turnovers on Saturday.


MSU +14.5, over/under 47

This has not been a good year for the best bets. Our reign of going above .500 on the season is done after (checks notes) two years. WHAT A RUN.

Let’s try to creep closer to .500 this week. I’m going to keep it simple and just go with the Spartans solely because of MSU’s run defense and Penn State’s love of running the ball. Am I neglecting that MSU will have to score points on offense? SURE AM! But I’m going with our Gruffy guys anyway.

Pick: MSU +14.5

Record: 2-4


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

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    MSU +14.5
    (43 votes)
  • 20%
    Penn State -14.5
    (20 votes)
  • 2%
    Over 47
    (2 votes)
  • 33%
    Under 47
    (33 votes)
98 votes total Vote Now