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Game Preview: Michigan State Spartans vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Michigan State (5-6, 3-5 in the Big Ten) travels to take on Penn State (9-2, 6-2) at Beaver Stadium on Saturday in the 2022 regular season finale. The game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Eastern Time and will be broadcast on FS1.

A guaranteed bowl bid is on the line for Michigan State, and the Spartans are also looking to retain the Land-Grant Trophy. However, these two teams have had very different seasons. Penn State has only two losses on the year — to undefeated teams, Michigan and Ohio State — and can get a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl with a win over Michigan State. Meanwhile, MSU has six losses and is coming off of a double overtime loss to Indiana in which the Spartans blew a 17-point lead.

Michigan State enters Saturday’s contest as heavy underdogs, according to the DraftKings Sportsbook. Penn State is favored by 19 points and the over/under is set at 53.

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2022 Record — 5-6 (3-5 in Big Ten)

2022 Offense (per game averages) — 362 total yards, 241 passing yards, 121 rushing yards

2022 Defense (per game averages) — 417.1 total yards allowed, 236.8 passing yards allowed, 180.3 rushing yards allowed

2022 Cumulative Points Scored: 277 (25.18 ppg)

2022 Cumulative Points Allowed: 294 (26.73 ppg)

Current SP+ Ranking: 66th

Penn State:
2022 Record — 9-2 (6-2 in Big Ten)

2022 Offense (per game averages) — 434.46 total yards, 250.36 passing yards, 184.1 rushing yards

2022 Defense (per game averages) — 323.67 yards allowed, 211.27 passing yards allowed, 112.4 rushing yards allowed

2022 Cumulative Points Scored: 395 (35.91 ppg)

2022 Cumulative Points Allowed: 200 (18.18 ppg)

Current SP+ Ranking: sixth

Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: Michigan State leads 18-17-1
Current streak: Michigan State won the previous matchup
Last Michigan State win: Nov. 27, 2021 (30-27)
Last Penn State win: Dec. 12, 2020 (39-24)
Michigan State all-time record: 726-478-44 (.599)
Penn State all-time record: 918-406-42 (.687)

Uniform Watch:

Michigan State:

Michigan State will throw it back to the George Perles era with the “Block S” logo on the helmets this week. The jerseys are white with green lettering and numbering and the pants are also white.

A closer look:

Penn State:

No official word on Penn State’s uniforms, but the Nittany Lions aren’t really known for switching up uniforms. Expect white helmets, blue jerseys and white pants.

Previous Game Results

Indiana, 39 Michigan State 31

To be quite frank, this was an absolute debacle on Michigan State’s part. The Spartans led by 17 points at halftime and again in the third quarter, but ultimately fell to Indiana in double overtime.

Michigan State out-gained Indiana in total yardage 540-288. Indiana passed for a mere 31 yards, but IU quarterback Dexter Williams II and running back Shaun Shivers led the Hoosiers to 257 rushing yards. IU also scored a kick return touchdown.

The Spartans had a chance to win it in regulation, but kicker Ben Patton missed a 22-yard field goal as time expired.

This game has been talked about length on The Only Colors and elsewhere around the internet, so we don’t need to rehash it further here. If you want to read more on Michigan State’s loss to Indiana, please check out our full game recap, peruse the postgame quotes and take a look at the Film Room.

Penn State 55, Rutgers 10

Rutgers hung with Penn State early, but not for long. The Scarlet Knights scored first on a field goal, which was immediately followed by a kick return touchdown by PSU’s Nicholas Singleton.

A strong response by kick returner Aron Cruickshank set Rutgers up deep into Penn State’s territory. Quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and wide receiver Shameen Jones took advantage a few play, connecting for a four-yard touchdown that put Rutgers ahead 10-7.

However, after that, it was all Penn State. The Nittany Lions ripped off 48-straight points and the Scarlet Knights did not score again. PSU won in dominant fashion, 55-10.

Key Matchups

Nick Singleton/Kaytron Allen/Penn State offensive line vs. Michigan State defense front: Singleton and Allen provide a dynamic running back duo in Penn State’s backfield. In fact, they’ve already made Big Ten Conference history as the only freshman duo to each rush for more than 700 yards in the same season. Singleton has rushed 132 times for 863 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns, while Allen has rushed 135 times for 748 yards (5.5 yards) and nine touchdowns. As a team, Penn State averages 184.1 rushing yards per game, which ranks 44th in the FBS. Meanwhile, Michigan State’s defense let Indiana’s Dexter Williams and Shaun Shivers run wild last week, giving up 257 rushing yards to the Hoosiers. Entering this game, MSU allows 180.3 rushing yards per game, ranking 100th in the FBS. If the Spartans have any chance of winning this game, MSU must find a way to shut down PSU’s strong rushing attack.

Payton Thorne/Jayden Reed/Keon Coleman vs. Penn State secondary: Michigan State is in for a challenge against Penn State’s defensive backfield. If he is active this week after missing the past couple games, Joey Porter Jr. is a sensational cornerback who will test Reed and/or Coleman. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have other strong players in the secondary, including Detroit native Kalen King, Johnny Dixon and Ji’Ayir Brown. Overall, Penn State ranks in the top-50 in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (211.3). Reed and Coleman are Michigan State’s best playmakers, and they will have to step up against this tough secondary if MSU is going to have a shot in this one. Thorne will need to be accurate, consistent and take care of the football in this game.

Mel Tucker versus James Franklin: Michigan State fans have gotten used to head-scratching in-game management decisions when playing against James Franklin’s Penn State teams over the years, and have seen a couple of upsets over the Nittany Lions because of it. Unfortunately, the late-game decision-making from Mel Tucker and his staff has also come under scrutiny on numerous occasions this season. If the Spartans somehow keep this game close in the fourth quarter, which coaching staff is going to out-smart the other to win? Tucker and company need to capitalize on any blunders from Franklin’s sideline and manage the game much better than the MSU staff has shown over the past few weeks.

Game Info

Time: Saturday, Nov. 26 at 4 p.m. Eastern Time (kickoff scheduled for 4:05 p.m.)
TV Channel: FS1
Location: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pennsylvania
Weather expectations: Sunny, temperatures around 52 degrees at kickoff, winds blowing west/southwest at around four to eight miles per hour
DraftKings Line: Michigan State +19


This has been an almost dead even all-time series, with Michigan State holding a slight edge at 18-17-1.

Interestingly, going back to 2014, the trend seems to be one of these two teams winning two matchups in a row (with 2016 being an outlier). Michigan State won in 2014 and 2015, Penn State won in 2016, MSU won in 2017 and 2018, PSU won in 2019 and 2020, and then the Spartans won the most recent matchup in 2021. With MSU getting the victory in a snowy East Lansing last season, recent history points to another victory for the Spartans. However, on paper, it seems pretty clear that the Nittany Lions are the better team in 2022.

Both teams have something to play for in this one. Of course, the beautifully-designed Land-Grant Trophy is up for grabs, but Michigan State is playing for a bowl game (there is a small, but unlikely chance that MSU could get a bowl bid even with a loss to PSU), while Penn State is looking to secure a New Year’s Six bowl bid.

This is Penn State’s game to lose, but this rivalry has had some odd moments and unexpected results, so anything could happen.

For more on Penn State, please read our “Get to Know the Opponent” article and our “5 Questions with Black Shoe Diaries” conversation.


Will Michigan State defeat Penn State?

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