With the holiday tomorrow, we’re moving this week’s preview up a day.
James Franklin and his team will return home for senior day, and a possible Big Ten title game appearance, the only thing standing in their way, is an old foe Mark Dantonio.
The Nittany Lions, 9-2, will finish off the regular season Saturday afternoon against the Michigan State Spartans, a team with nothing to play for, which is why there is some cause for concern. The Nittany Lions are flying high as they ride their seven game win streak, while the Spartans are going through one their worst seasons in recent memory with a 3-8 record. Penn State is looking for a 10 win season and a spot in the Big Ten championship game against either Wisconsin or Nebraska, all the pressure is on, and Dantonio will have his squad prepared to pull the upset.
Location: Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
Time: 3:30 PM (EST)
Opponent: Michigan State Spartans (3-8,1-7)
Ranks: PSU-#7 MSU- #94
Last meeting: 55-16 MSU (2015)
Line: PSU -12
Injuries: OT Brendon Mahon (assumed out)
Visitors: 2017 commits:3 star OG Mike Miranda, 3 star DE Damion Barber. 2017 recruits: 5 star DE Josh Kaindoh- official visit (Maryland commit), 4 star DT Fred Hansard-official visit (Florida commit), 4 star CB Ambry Thomas- official visit, 3 star DT Jamari Logan. 2018 commits: 4 star TE Pat Freiermuth.2018 recruits: TE Brenden Bates. 2019 recruits: LB Cody Ross, RB Terry Smith, WR Dean Engram, 4 star DL Antonio Alfano.
We expect this impressive group to rise before week’s end, we will update it.
Honoring the Seniors
Saturday afternoon, Penn State will honor 17 seniors who will play their last game at Beaver Stadium. They are as follow:
C Brian Gaia
OT Paris Palmer
OG Wendy Laurent
OG Derek Dowrey
WR Gordon Bentley
WR Gregg Garrity
LB Wayeem Wartman-White
LB Brandon Bell
S Malik Golden
CB Jordan Smith
DE Evan Schwan
LB Von Walker
LS Tyler Yazujian
C Tom Devenney
OT Evan Galimberti
LS Zach Ladonis
RB Irvine Paye
Penn State is in the thick of things this week so let’s go over what needs to happen.
For Penn State to reach the Big Ten championship game as the East division representative, they will Need to beat Michigan State AND Ohio State must beat Michigan. Penn State will face Wisconsin if the Badgers win on Saturday, if Wisconsin loses and Nebraska wins, Nebraska gets in. If Michigan beats Ohio State then Penn State CANNOT reach the championship game. A Penn State Loss and Ohio State Win means the Buckeyes will play in the championship game. The Michigan/Ohio State game will be at noon so we will know the outcome around the time Penn State kicks off.
A Call for Help
After last Saturday’s victory, James Franklin knew how important this game would be. In his post game presser, he called on all students, fans, alumni, letterman, and recruits to attend this game, he specifically called out legendary linebacker LaVar Arrington to attend, Arrington said he will be there. The recruits will definitely be there for this one as you can see from the impressive list above, but Franklin is relying on students to comeback early from Thanksgiving break and show the Spartans why Beaver Stadium is the toughest place for opposing teams to play in. Franklin and his team needs to full support of 107K and I think he’ll get it.
Michigan State has been awful this year, their offense and defense has taken turns struggling, but as of late, the Spartans aren’t playing half bad, they dismantled Rutgers 49-0 and nearly upset Ohio State last week, but fell 17-16. The Spartan offense lives and dies with their with star tailback L.J. Scott. The sophomore has 935 rushing yards and 6 TDs on the year, he had his best game all season last week when he went for 160 and 2 scores against the Buckeyes. Penn State’s run defense has been better as of late, but they must stop Scott. The Michigan State quarterback is redshirt senior Tyler O’Connor, he’s not Connor Cook, but he should still be taken seriously. O’Connor has 1,852 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, but he does have 9 interceptions, and Penn State will need one or two to prevent a close game. Cornerback John Reid will have the assignment of covering O’Connor’s favorite target, senior receiver R.J. Shelton, who has 48 receptions for 715 yards and 5 scores, shutting him down will go a long way in shutting down Michigan State’s shaky pass offense. Michigan State’s once dominate offensive line has been suspect this year, expect Garrett Sickles, Kevin Givens, and the rest of the wild dogs to get after O’Connor, he’s been sacked 23 times so far this year.
For the Nittany Lions, the game plan is simple, just keep doing what you’re doing. The Nittany Lions are averaging 46.7 points per game in their last four games. Barkley continues to be focal point of the offense and that will have to continue Saturday with weather conditions expected to not be ideal for a heavy passing game. The Spartans are allowing 166 rushing yards per game, but Barkley, McSorley, and the other running backs will have to get over 250 yards in this one. Winds are expected to range between 10-20 MPH so at times it will be easier to throw, when it is, McSorley will have to hit his deep balls like he’s been doing lately. Mike Gesicki continues to be the X factor as no defense continues to have an answer for the 6’6 250LBs tight end. Gesicki must become a major threat in the redzone on Saturday, because the Nittany Lions must get touchdowns, not settle for field goals like they did a week ago, a Mark Dantonio team will make them pay for that mistake. Luckily for the Nittany Lions, it seems like the Spartans will be without their best player as defensive lineman Malik McDowell is expected to miss a third straight game due to an ankle injury. This is big as Penn State continues to survive their dire offensive line situation.
Last year, it was the Spartans embarrassing the Nittany Lions on the Spartans’ senior day as they destroyed the Lions 55-16. This year, Franklin and company will try to reverse this fortune and embarrass the Spartans en route to a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship game, who knows maybe center and senior Brian Gaia will score a touchdown. The ever clever Mark Dantonio will be a tough road block for the Lions, he’ll pull out all his tricks in this one, onside kicks, fake field goals, fake punts, Penn State must be sound on special teams on Saturday to prevent the upset.
At the end of the day, this game means more to Penn State and its senior than it does to Michigan State, not to mention the home team hasn’t lost at Beaver Stadium this season. I think it’ll be a close one, at times too close for comfort, but in crunch time the Nittany Lions will prevail.
Prediction: Penn State 31 Michigan State 23
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Complete Philly Coverage.