Michigan State Preview
Matchup: No. 8 Penn State (4-1) vs. Michigan State (3-2)
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
When: Saturday October 13th, 2018 at 3:30 EST
Penn State Offense vs. Michigan State Defense
By: Brandon Musso
Penn State’s bye week has concluded as they will head back out into Beaver Stadium to take on Michigan State on Saturday. This comes two weeks after a heartbreaking one-point loss at the hands of Ohio State. They managed to score 26 points on a rather solid Ohio State defense but were not able to complete the game winning drive in the game’s final seconds. So now the offense is tasked with putting the game sealing turnover behind them and focusing on Michigan State.
Michigan State comes into the game holding a 3-2 record after losses to Arizona State and last week, Northwestern. Fortunately for Penn State, their defense isn’t having the best year as they have allowed 29+ points in each of four out of their five games. Oddly enough despite allowing so many points, Michigan State has one of the strongest run defenses in the country. In fact, they are currently the leading rush defense in the NCAA having allowed just 169 total rushing yards all year which averages out to just 33.8 rushing yards allowed per game. This will certainly be one of the toughest tasks Miles Sanders and the rushing attack will face.
While they have one of the top rush defenses in the country, their passing defense is one of the worst. They currently rank 122nd in the NCAA as they are averaging just over 305 passing yards allowed per game. If there is a glaring weakness that Penn State should take advantage of, it is this one. Trace McSorley should look to have a big game through the air while also keeping in mind the nine interceptions that the defense has nabbed so far this season.
Individually, Michigan State has a few impact players to watch. Linebacker Joe Batchie is leading the team in total tackles with 39 and has added a sack. The junior linebacker is on the Butkus Award watch list and was named the team MVP last season. Upfront, Kenny Willekes is leading the team in sacks with four. The junior defensive end is disruptive in the backfield as he also leads the team with eight tackles-for-loss. Finally, Justin Layne is one of their best cornerbacks. He is second on the team in total tackles and has an interception.
Penn State Defense vs. Michigan State Offense
By: Kraigen Rasalla
Coming off the bye week, the Nittany Lion defense will look to continue the flashes of dominance they showed against Ohio State. This week, the Lions take on Michigan State in a bit of a revenge game. The Spartans won the matchup in 2017 with QB Brian Lewerke throwing for 400 yards in a 27-24 victory in East Lansing. Let’s see how the Spartans will stack up against the Lions in 2018.
Lewerke is back at the helm for the Spartans and is looking to repeat the performance he had against Brent Pry’s defense in 2017 in hopes to turn around his 2018 season. Lewerke has six touchdowns and six interceptions this season and is far behind his average rushing numbers for his career. Lewerke averaged around 40 yards per game on the ground over his first two seasons and has seen his rushing average drop to 12.6 yards per game on 2018. Obviously, 2017 shows that Lewerke has great potential, but he has not been the same quarterback the Nittany Lions saw in East Lansing last season.
In the backfield, the Spartans have struggled all season, especially with the injury to the experienced LJ Scott. Connor Heyward and La’Darius Jefferson both average less than four yards per carry and around 30 yards per game rushing. Their struggles can be credited to not only inexperience, but also some injuries to the offensive line. David Beedle and Kevin Jarvis are both starting guards who will be out on Saturday, making the interior of the line very vulnerable.
On the outside, Felton Davis III is back and is in the midst of another solid season. Last year, Davis III has 12 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown against the Nittany Lions. This year, the 6’4’’ senior has at least 60 yards receiving in every game. He was a major key to the Spartans staying in the game last week against Northwestern as he had 96 yards receiving complemented by 50 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown. Look for Davis III to be the main target of Lewerke yet again in this matchup. Also, look for Cody White, Darrell Stewart Jr, and Brandon Sowards to be key receivers for the Spartan offense.
Brandon Musso (5-0):
It is hard to forget the last year’s matchup with Michigan State. The Nittany Lions were again coming off a heartbreaking one-point loss to Ohio State. They went into Michigan State and played a very sloppy game. The game included a several hour rain delay before Penn State took its second loss of the season and effectively put them out of the College Football Playoff conversation. While the circumstances are pretty similar to last season, I think the outcome will be different. The Nittany Lions will be playing in front of their home crowd and I think the offense will have no problem carving up the Michigan State secondary.
Penn State 35 Michigan State 20
Kraigen Rasalla (4-1):
With the Spartans stumbling to Northwestern last week, this matchup loses a bit of its buzz on the national radar. However, this is a huge game for both teams. The Spartans can use this as a springboard to turn their season around after losing two games to unranked opponents. If they win out, they would be your Big Ten East division winner. If the Lions win, they rebound after the Ohio State loss and continue to hope they can win at least 11 games and see how the College Football Playoff scenarios play out. With Trace McSorley coming off a huge game, Miles Sanders ready to have a big game after struggling in week five, and KJ Hamler probable to return this week, I expect the Lions to be a force on offense this week, once again. With the Spartan offense struggling thus far, I think the Nittany Lions defense that is well rested will get to Brian Lewerke on a consistent level. Also, I don’t think there will be a three and a half hour delay this year on homecoming.
Penn State 37 Michigan State 17