It is the final regular season game of the year and the annual battle for the Land Grant Trophy. The Michigan State Spartans are looking to close out the season with a perfect home record and get to 10 wins. It’s a holiday weekend so let’s cut the trimming and get to it.
School: Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)
Nickname: Nittany Lions
Conference: Big Ten (East Division)
Location: University Park, PA
Head Coach: James Franklin (eigth season)
Mascot: The Nittany Lion
All Time Series: Tied 17-17-1
Rivalry Trophy: Land Grant Trophy
Both of these head coaches, Mel Tucker and James Franklin, got new 10-year deals this week, so they should be pretty comfortable coming into this game, at least we know they are financially comfortable. James Franklin will be looking to steal a win on the road and get Penn State its third-straight win in the series.
Penn State comes in at 80th in the nation in scoring at 26.2 points per game. The Nittany Lions have only eclipsed the 30-point mark once in the Big Ten schedule, and that was against Maryland.
Penn State has not been very effective running the ball, checking in at 116th in the country in total rushing and averaging just 3.18 yards per carry, which is 120th nationally.
The Nittany Lions can pass the ball. They are 25th in the country in passing at 270.9 yards per game. The yards per attempt numbers are not nearly as good, though, at 7.1 yards per attempt, which is 89th overall. The overall passer rating is also at 80, with 21 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Defensively, Penn State has been pretty good. The Nittany Lions are allowing 15.5 points per game, fourth best in the nation.
They are 36th in the country against the run, allowing 133 yards per game, and just 3.48 yards per rush, which is 22nd overall.
Penn State also is solid against the pass, ranking 30th overall and allowing just 5.7 yards per pass attempt, which is fifth best in the country. PSU has more interceptions (11) than passing touchdowns allowed (nine).
Players to Watch
Quarterback Sean Clifford is likely to play on Saturday, and when he does, Penn State is a semi-functional offense. Clifford has thrown for just under 2,600 yards on 7.2 yards per attempt and completes almost 62 percent of his passes. He has 17 passing touchdowns and six interceptions. He also has 148 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
As we mentioned, the rushing game isn’t much to brag about. The leading rusher on PSU is Keyvone Lee, who has 416 yards and averages 4.67 yards per carry. Noah Cain has the most attempts with an even 100, and has 322 yards and four touchdowns. Cain also has 17 catches for 102 yards receiving.
Jahan Dotson is one of the best receivers in the country. He has 83 catches for 1,045 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Parker Washington has 53 catches for 662 yards and three scores as the secondary option.
On defense, Arnold Ebiketie is a force, with 9.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss. He has also forced two fumbles and blocked two kicks.
Brandon Smith is second on the team in total tackles, tackles for loss, and sacks and also has a forced fumble.
Senior safety Ji’Ayir Brown has four interceptions, including a return for a touchdown. He also has four other pass breakups and is third on the team in total tackles.
Senior kicker Jordan Stout is 16-for-22 on field goals this year, and has made 32-of-33 extra points. He also serves as the team’s punter, and averages over 46 yards per punt.
So there you have it. Penn State is a good defensive team with limited offensive capabilities, but the Nittany Lions can throw the ball with Clifford and Dotson. It will be a tough matchup for a banged up Michigan Statet squad, but certainly one the Spartans are capable of winning.