Michigan State vs Penn State

One of the great things about the Big Ten Michigan State vs Penn State is almost every game is for some kind of rivalry trophy. And you just don’t get many trophies better than the Land Grant Trophy between Big Ten East foes Penn State and Michigan State.

This year’s game has an extra layer of salt to it because both teams are coming off of brutal losses. The Nittany Lions allowed Ohio State to come back — twice — in a Week 5 loss to the Buckeyes, and have had an extra week to simmer on all that went wrong. Michigan State held Northwestern to eight yards rushing in Week 6, but still couldn’t get a win. Another loss here could start derailing the season for either team.

Viewing information
Date: Saturday, Oct. 13 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Beaver Stadium — University Park, Pennsylvania
TV: Big Ten Network | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)

Storylines
Penn State: The last time Penn State played, it had its heart ripped out by Ohio State. Though the Nittany Lions retain their top-10 ranking, this next month will be critical if they’re going to at least try to keep pace in the Big Ten East race. Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin all come to Happy Valley over the next four weeks and there’s a road game at Michigan in late October. Coach James Franklin preached after the Ohio State loss about the importance of doing all the little things right. We’ll see after a week off if Penn State has taken that to heart.

Michigan State: The Spartans are in real danger of slipping into mediocrity if the Penn State game gets away from them. The pass defense in particular is extremely problematic and Penn State has one of the country’s best quarterbacks in Trace McSorley. Keep in mind, too, that Sparty just lost to Northwestern in Week 6 in a game in which the Wildcats rushed for only eight yards. Michigan State’s run defense is terrific, but that can’t be the only thing it has going for it.

Game prediction, picks
Few things motivate a team like spending a bye week stewing over a loss. The Nittany Lions have the the passing attack to give Michigan State all kinds of problems as well. Divisional rivalry games can be tricky, but Penn State has been a great team to lay the points on this season. Pick: Penn State -13.5

Key Matchups
KJ Hamler vs. MSU Secondary: Redshirt freshmen Hamler, a Michigan native, is a legitimate threat against a poor MSU passing defense. He has great speed and leads PSU with 308 receiving yards and four touchdowns, while averaging about 23.7 yards per catch. He also has been used as a punt and kickoff returner. Whether it’s Justin Layne, Josh Butler or another Spartan guarding Hamler, he absolutely cannot get free or behind the defense. Hamler exited the Ohio State game, but is expected to play.

Trace McSorley’s dual threat ability vs. MSU defense: It’s not only the MSU secondary that needs to worry about McSorley. While his passing game prowess is enough to worry about, McSorley’s scrambling ability and knack to make plays is something the front seven need to be well aware of. Michigan State’s top-ranked rushing attack is facing a Penn State team averaging more than 260 yards per contest, and McSorley has rushed for 410 yards and six scores this season. In the passing game, the quarterback has thrown for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns, while averaging 7.6 yards per attempt.

Penn State’s running game vs. Michigan State’s running game: Michigan State’s 109th-ranked rush offense faces Penn State’s 67th-ranked rushing defense. The Spartans, likely to be without LJ Scott once again, need to show up here this week. If MSU controls the trenches and keep the ball away from PSU’s offense, good things will happen. But this is unlikely to happen with MSU’s poor o-line play and nonexistent running game. On the flip side, MSU easily has the best rushing defense in the nation, while Penn State ranks 11th nationally rushing the football. Something’s got to give here. This game will be won in the trenches.

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