Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan State Spartans Pick
Michigan State Spartans (3-2 SU, 1-4 ATS) vs. #8 Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1 SU, 4-1 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date and Time: October 13 at 3:30 pm ET
Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
TV: Big Ten Network
By: Kyle Cash, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: PSU -14/MSU +14 (opened PSU -13.5 at MyBookie)
Week 6 Round Up
The last time that we saw the Nittany Lions take the field, Senator James Franklin fell asleep at the wheel and crashed Penn State’s upset bid into the Chappaquiddick. Coughing up a 12-point lead in the 4th quarter versus your #1 rival is one thing, but doing it in front of the largest crowd in Beaver Stadium history is coaching malpractice. That team is Happy Valley’s baby, and if I were a Penn State alumni, I would be calling Child Protective Services on Franklin for calling a RB draw on 4th and 5 in the biggest game of the season. Michigan State, on the other hand, was thumped convincingly at home by another Big Ten rival, plummeting out of the AP Top 25. While the #1 run defense in the country has looked impenetrable all year long, the Spartans up-and-down play from second-year QB Brian Lewerke has left them on the outside looking in to one of the most competitive conferences in FBS. Penn State comes into the game as a two touchdown favorite, and looks to bury their conference opponent in hopes of stoking the ashes of their playoff flame.
The 2018 season for Michigan State has been the football version of Groundhog’s Day; every Saturday, they stop the rush, get thrown all over, and watch their QB cough up the football before either pulling ahead or falling behind in the final minutes. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Coach Mark Dantonio’s squad is not without NFL talent on both sides of the ball, and their run defense has only allowed 33.8 yards per game to opposing teams. Unfortunately, their secondary allows the 8th most yards to opposing arms, and they have failed to execute in the fourth quarters – they have been outscored 58-18 in the final period this season.
Most importantly, QB Brian Lewerke has not had the attention-grabbing season that some thought he might. While his passing numbers (1328 yards, 64.2 comp. %) are nothing to scoff at, his 6 interceptions and lack of success on the ground has put a ceiling on the success of his team. In a matchup with a Penn State team that is allowing 161.8 rushing yards per game, Lewerke is going to have to use his mobility to take advantage of the space given to him to extend drives and put points on the board.
Run It Up
Penn State comes into the game ranked #8 in the AP Top 25, and with their lone loss being a 1-point loss to powerhouse Ohio State, their playoff hopes are still very much alive. Trace McSorley has been spectacular through 5 games of the season, accounting for 57% of Penn State’s total yards as well as 16 total TDs to only 2 interceptions. Coach James Franklin’s play calling might leave something to be desired, but his ability to recruit has been unbelievable. McSorley has lost three weapons (RB Saquon Barkley, WR Chris Godwin, and TE Mike Gesicki) to the NFL in the last two years, but Franklin has found him new toy in WRs KJ Hamler and Juwan Johnson, the latter of whom made the catch of the year in the loss to Ohio State. Seriously, go look it up. While RB Miles Sanders could not hope to be a new Saquon, he has played well enough, and McSorley’s ability to run has opened up the offense to the tune of a whopping 49.6 points per game.
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The key for Penn State this weekend revolves around their ability to run the ball. McSorley has had two very different starts for Michigan State in his college career – one brilliant one, and one disastrous. With a potentially wet field Saturday afternoon, McSorley and Sanders are going to have to use their legs, and Coach Franklin might need to use some razzle dazzle to maneuver around the Spartans’ insane defensive front. Penn State does not want to get into another slog-fest in the 20s; the more points they can rack up, the better they play.
What History Has Taught Us
These two Big Ten rivals have built up a bad blood over their last couple of matchups. Both teams have run up the score on one another in unsportsmanlike ways over the last few years, and last year Michigan State was able to recover from a 3 hour, 22-minute rain delay to unseat Penn State with a last second field goal. The Spartans run defense was on full display in that game, holding future NFL star RB and Heisman finalist Saquon Barkley to a mere 76 yards from scrimmage, and only allowing Trace McSorley to scramble for 2 yards while throwing 3 interceptions. Brian Lewerke, on the other hand, threw for 400 yards in the upset and showed off his blossoming skillset. Michigan State is 3-1 against the Nittany Lions since 2014, and leads the all-time rivalry 16-15.
What The Future Holds
A 14-point spread is scary for several reasons: the Big Ten is highly competitive, and Michigan State is not the type of team to get rolled over. The game line opened at -13.5, and it feels like a trap – it’s like they want us to lay the points. If McSorley is unable to use his legs to create plays, his lack of weapons might be a problem, and this could turn into an ugly game. With all that being said, the 3:30 ET start feels like a time slot for a game that is going to be a blowout, and Penn State is rested coming off of a bye and looking to avenge their loss. Look for James Franklin’s squad to pile on late and keep their foot on the gas pedal – give me the points and let’s go celebrate in Happy Valley.
Final Score Prediction: Penn State 45 – Michigan State 17