Penn State Looks to Ace Three Game Test with Win Over Michigan State
At the beginning of the season most fans and writers looked at this stretch of the schedule: @Iowa, Michigan, and @Michigan State, as make-it-or-break-it for the Nittany Lions. Prior to the start of the season, all three opponents were supposed to be formidable.
And while the first half of the season has proved somewhat otherwise, these three games were and are a difficult path for any team. Winning in Iowa City is never easy, facing Michigan with all of their talent especially on defense always presents problems, and traveling to Michigan State flashbacks a whole list of horrors for Lions’ fans.
The good news for the Nittany Lions is they are coming off consecutive wins against ranked opponents, which is the first time since 2005. The bad news is in 2005 they lost their ensuing game in the same state they play this weekend, Michigan.
But this is entirely different group of coaches and players from 14 years ago. This pride of Lions includes the best defense in head coach James Franklin’s tenure at Penn State. It includes an admirable offensive line, not an embarrassing one. It includes a gunslinger quarterback and an explosive array of surrounding talent–even if it isn’t always utilized properly–compared to scattered playmakers across the field. It’s unified by a tight-knit sense of camaraderie that reminds everyone of the 2016 Big Ten Championship team. And most importantly, this team has bought in to what the coaches are selling, which makes them dangerous.
Can this unit do what hasn’t been done since 2009? Can they beat Michigan State in their house?
If they can, it will cap-off a three-game sprint with three straight wins against upper tier opponents, two of which would have came on the road. It would be a Statement of an October that would propel Penn State into Playoff conversations heading into the final full month of the season.
But the task at hand won’t be a simple one. Like the ancient Spartans, Michigan State still exhibits a stout defense that will vigorously defend their turf. They will make the Nittany Lions work for every yard on the ground. Thankfully, Penn State’s own defense should be able to dominate their opponent’s offense as long as the Spartan signal caller doesn’t transform into Leonidas in the battle of Thermopylae.
Will the storyline this weekend be another mishap against Michigan State or will the demon be slayed?