One could be expected to possibly overlook a 3-8 team, but the Spartans were very competitive in their games their games against Michigan and Ohio State earlier this year. The mood may also be dampened if the Buckeyes can’t take care of business in Columbus in the day leading up to kickoff, but just remember this happened just last year:
This team certainly remembers.
Penn State 30, Michigan State 13
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried about this game. It's not that I think Michigan State is a good team that's been having a rough go of things - I think their record reflects exactly who they are this season. And it's not that I think Penn State has overperformed to date on the season - I predicted 9-3 way back before the season started, so they're more or less right where they should be. No, the reasons I'm worried about this game are that a) MSU was able to more or less completely shut down a potent Ohio State offense last week, and if not for some failed gamesmanship, could have won, and b) Penn State did NOT look very good against Rutgers, 39-0 be damned. And c), I suppose, is that the team is playing with some real expectations, which can be tough for young players to bear. I realize both a) and b) were aided in no small part by the awful weather last weekend, which hindered both the PSU and OSU offenses. And I realize that the Lions have been playing with expectations ever since defeating the Buckeyes. But still, I worry.
Now, all that being said, the weather looks to be improved from last week - cold, but with a much lower chance of frozen death raining from the sky. I expect to see Connor McGovern back on the field for the patchwork offensive line. And despite playing with expectations, Coach Franklin has kept the team focused and winning. So though I may be worried about the game, I still see a favorable outcome for the good guys - and anything that may come after that is just gravy.
Penn State 35, Michigan State 17
This year-end game with Michigan State is often unpredictable, no matter the teams' records. The Spartans showed last week that their defense is capable of keeping any game close, and LJ Scott has been a load to tackle this year. However, their quarterback play has been suspect at best, and the Penn State defensive line has emerged as one of the more dangerous in the conference.
Barkley goes over 100 yards, and a Penn State receiver not named Godwin or Gesicki catches a touchdown, as Penn State holds off a valiant effort from the Spartans.
Penn State 28, Michigan State 20
Ever since the Ohio State win, we've spent a good portion of the time discussing how sneaky good Michigan State is. Loss after loss, we've been able to find ways to overlook what's actually happening on the field, giving more importance to potential. Finally, Michigan State was able to back some of that potential by giving both Michigan and Ohio State two good games, and also beating Rutgers. The problem, of course, is that their best effort, on both occasions, still led to losses. Does Michigan State have a third "best effort" left? Sure, why not? Do they have another Notre Dame-like performance left in them? I don't see why not. They still have talented players, and what most believe is a very good coach guiding them. It's not out of the realm of possibility that they can outperform their entire season and do the unthinkable this weekend. So by that virtue, no, Michigan State does not have a zero percent chance of winning. They could very well add us to the list of "ridiculous upsets we watched week after week," and I understand that there is a sizable portion of the fanbase who thinks this is a real possibility.
But that's just it though. Michigan State wining, by any reliable statistical measure, would be one of the "ridiculous upsets we watched week after week." The reason they are "ridiculous upsets we watched week after week" is because no one with any sense of reason believes the underdog has a realistic chance in the game. Michigan State, in their entire season: 1) Struggled with a mediocre FCS team. 2) Almost blew a double-digit lead against a 7-loss Notre Dame. 3) Got taken to the woodshed against Wisconsin. 4) Lost against a good-but-not-great Indiana team still looking for its sixth win. 5) Got blown out in back to back weeks against BYU and Northwestern. 6) Lost on the road to a mediocre at best Maryland team and an awful Illinois team, whose other Big Ten win up to that point was Rutgers (who, not coincidentally, is also Michigan State's only Big Ten win). 7) Played a close game against Ohio State, and added a garbage time touchdown against Michigan to make the score look closer than it really was. Both games were at home.
So no, I'm not worried. Not one bit. And I won't apologize for thinking that being overly concerned about this game is an exercise in futility. I'm worried that Michigan will win and make the game semi-meaningless. I'm worried Wisconsin will lose to Minnesota and fall off the top 10. I'm worried Washington, Clemson, and Oklahoma will all win [out]. I'm worried this turkey sandwich I'm about to eat isn't as good as advertised. I am not, however, worried about loss against Michigan State, and would be shocked if the game is close. And until this game actually becomes one of the "ridiculous upsets we watched week after week," I will continue to assume both teams are what their records, and performances on the field, say they are.
Penn State 56, Michigan State 17
Sparty almost pulled out a win last week, and we're lackluster until the 2nd half.
Penn State 31, Michigan State 24
Michigan State has been playing better lately, and this game would be even more interesting if the Spartans were at home. With the game at Beaver Stadium, I don't think the visitors have enough firepower on offense to overcome a Penn State defense that will be prepared for a heavy dose of LJ Scott. Tyler O'Connor will make enough mistakes to bail out the Lions, who I expect to struggle early on with an improving Michigan State defense.
Penn State 24, Michigan State 17
We don't give a damn for the whole state of Michigan, the whole state of Michigan, the whole state of Michigan
Penn State 38, Michigan State 10
Michigan State is weird because it's one of those programs you don't expect to see the wheels fall off. Dantonio is a great coach, the coaching staff has been in place for years, and they've recruited the best they've ever recruited the past couple seasons. So while I expected a drop off from Sparty this season, seeing this team just completely falter is confusing.
Does this game worry me? Yeah, it does. But honestly, Penn State could be playing Boston College or Virginia tomorrow and I'd be worried about the game because the stakes are just that high. So I'm going to trust that 3-8 is 3-8, and that last week was Michigan State's super bowl.
Penn State 38, Michigan State 13
There will be precious few seniors hugging family at mid-field this Saturday. But what a pride of Lions they've become. They committed to Dear Old State at its all-time low. They stuck with us even though the NCAA begged them leave. They kept working through coaching changes and in-fighting and trustee bungling and everything familiar or comfortable either dying, retiring, or being reorganized, in many cases more than once. Seabass, Spider, JT - all long gone. Fitz, BO'B, McWhorter, Hand, Roof, Shoop, et.al., each came and went. They're not even faux-interviewed by Tony Mancuso for GoPSUSports any longer.
It's been crazy, brother. Absolutely crazy. And to think that, after all of that, they're gonna top it off with a Big Ten Championship next Saturday.
PSU Some, Sparty Something Less
While I do have some concerns, given how Sparty has looked the last couple of weeks, I just feel like they may have emotionally spent themselves against Ohio State and could have little to nothing left in the tank against a PSU team that could potentially be playing for a spot in the B1G title game. Stack the box against LJ Scott and force Tyler O’Connor to beat you with his arm (SPOILER ALERT: he can't) and continue to let the offense work their magic and this should be a pleasant Senior Day for the first time since 2012 when BOB’s “Bunch of Fighters” shocked Wisconsin in OT.
Penn State 34, Michigan State 17
Michigan State is playing some of the best football it’s played all year the past few weeks. The problem for the Spartans? Penn State has as well, and the Nittany Lions’ streak goes back seven games - and all seven of those have been wins. This game is also in Happy Valley, where teams under Franklin have lost only one game in the past two seasons - and this MSU squad is not in the top five of teams to have come into Beaver Stadium over that time period, so should not expect to win. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more nervous than I was, say, two weeks ago, but a home game, against a 3-8 squad, potentially with a berth to Lucas Oil Stadium on the line? Give be this Penn State squad and this coaching staff any time. And in the second half, look for the pedal to be put to the metal.
Penn State 31, Michigan State 16
Despite Michigan State’s abysmal record, I’ve been nervous about this game long before they nearly pulled off an incredible upset in Columbus last weekend. The Spartans have some trouble spots that have sunk their season, but they still have plenty of talent and one of the best head coaches in the business. The Spartans will get be really good again in no time, and a blowout victory against a listless Rutgers squad two weeks ago may have been what was needed to wake this team up and turn a corner.
However, if there’s one thing that stands out about the 2016 Penn State team, it’s their incredible resolve. This team has a never-say-die attitude and plays with a laser-focused determination, despite the abundance of youth on the field. With a potential Big East Division championship on the line on Senior Day under the Beaver Stadium lights (well, starting at some point in the second quarter at least), the Nittany Lions will once again play their hearts out. While Michigan State will make things difficult, Penn State ultimately pulls away in the fourth quarter for a remarkable 10-2 season that very few outside the locker room could have imagined in September.
Brandon “Bam Bam” Bell goes off in his final home game, collecting 17 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Grant Haley comes up big with an interception in the end zone, denying the Spartans a score and Kevin Givens jumps on a fumble to seal the game in the fourth quarter, sending all of Happy Valley into pandemonium.
Barkley ends the season on a high note with 140 rushing yards and two touchdowns, while Mike Gesicki comes up with a huge 40-yards catch-and-run touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Penn State 30, Michigan State 20