Michigan State, huh? Shit, they were really good last year. Like, "should have been playing in the national championship game" good. Damn it. Well, let's just take this step by step.
Connor Cook is back at quarterback. He was actually pretty bad at the beginning of the last year. But he became pretty decent. He beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game by throwing for over 300 yards and three touchdowns. And then he went and beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl for some even bigger-game experience. Add to that Jeremy Langford also coming back at tailback. He ran for over 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns last year.
And they didn't even win with their offense last year! The 2013 Michigan State defense was one of the best Big Ten defenses ever, letting up only 13.2 points per game (third in the nation) and 252 yards per game (second in the nation). They picked off 17 passes and sacked opposing quarterbacks 32 times throughout last season. The most intimidating part of said defense, Shilique Calhoun (37 tackles, 14 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 3 defensive TDs) returns for his junior season along with senior Marcus Rush, who lines up on the other end of the defensive line.
Alright. I'm just digging Penn State into a deeper hole now. Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way.
Yeah, Connor Cook and Jeremy Langford are great talents running the show for the Michigan State offense. But who's going to be there to protect them? The Spartan lose a combined 92 starts between three graduating members of last year's offensive line. Will Langford be able to find holes or will Cook be able to get the ball out to his plethora of wide receivers if Anthony Zettel and company are able to bear down on them within a matter of seconds?
Hey, a glimmer of hope.
What about the defense? It certainly won't be the defense of 2013. The meat of the middle of their defensive line is gone. Linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, two of MSU's top four tacklers from last year, have graduated. And Darqueze Dennard Island has moved onto the NFL. Surely, there is some experience coming back, but will Pat Narduzzi (Damn it, you'll be a great head coach. Why didn't someone just hire you away this offseason?) be able to create the same sort of magic as he did in 2013? They'll be very good, but probably not as dominating as a year ago.
OK, I'm talking myself into this.
AND THIS MAY BE A MATCHUP OF UNBEATENS! If you've read this series the entire way through, you know that Penn State will be 11-0 at this point of the season. Michigan State has to go to Oregon during the second week of the season but get Nebraska, Michigan and Ohio State all on their home field. This game, however, will take place on the Beaver Stadium turf in the last game for the senior class. AND IT'S A RIVALRY! THIS WILL BE UP FOR GRABS!
WHAT PENN STATE PLAYER ISN'T GOING TO BE UP FOR THE RENEWAL OF THE GAME TO PLAY FOR THIS BEAUT?
But really, in the modern era, this game always plays out two ways. 1. It's competitive (see: 2010). 2. Penn State blows the doors off of Michigan State (see: 2008 in the snow or 2002 when LJ ran for 279 yards in the first half). We'll forget about the Dark Years battle in 2003. This season's game will fall into that #1 category and Michigan State....
You, Michigan State, will be the twelfth and final victim of Penn State's undefeated season when the Nittany Lions beat you at home in the snow (undoubtedly), 24-23 on a Sam Ficken field goal.