Penn State found some juice again last week despite all the adversity. This week Michigan State is facing the uphill battle, missing so many pieces heading into the game. If he’s called into service again, I expect Christian Veilleux will likely find it a tougher task against the Spartans, despite their weak pass defense, but hopefully, Sean Clifford returns with a vengeance to continue the upward trajectory towards the bowl game.
Penn State 27, Michigan State 16
If you’d asked me a couple weeks ago, I think I would have gone with Michigan State by 2+ scores. Now? After PSU just showed that they can actually play against a solid defense with a backup quarterback and look good? And after MSU just got nuked from orbit by Ohio State - the same Ohio State that beat PSU by just 9 points in a night game at the Shoe? Man. I am conflicted.
I said it before and I’ll say it again - if Clifford is 100% healthy, he starts, no questions asked. But if he’s not 100% healthy - lingering injury from the Iowa game, lingering illness from the flu that ran through the team last week - do not play him. Veilleux looked admirable coming in cold against a good defense, and if this is to be Clifford’s last season at Penn State, let him get healthy and play in the bowl game. Regardless of who plays, I feel a TON better about the quarterback position than I did a week ago. I’ll cautiously pick Penn State for the first time since Illinois. That prediction worked out real well!
Penn State 24, Michigan State 17
Prior to last week this is a game where I 100% would have picked the Spartans. However, after being eviscerated by the Buckeyes, Sparty now has a ton of injury issues. They could be without as many 7 starters this weekend. Heisman candidate running back Kenneth walker is not 100%, their left tackle is out and they could be without their top two wide receivers. Also, their secondary that already ranks dead last in the FBS in passing yards allowed per game, is dealing with injuries to their top four cornerbacks.
Regardless if it’s Sean Clifford or Christian Veilleux at quarterback, if they are given time in the pocket then the Nittany Lion passing game should find plenty of success on Saturday afternoon. That carries them to victory number 8, their third over a ranked team, and keeps my preseason prediction of 9 wins in play.
Penn State 28, Michigan State 21
Kenneth Walker will always be a fear of mine. He conjures up images of Sedrick Irvin and Marc Reynaud running wild over the Nittany Lions in 1997, when both backs went over 200 yards. That team was one that limped to a 9-3 finish after starting 7-0.
This Penn State team started 5-0, but is built differently than the 1997 squad. The offense showed some sparks against Rutgers (yes, I’m aware it is Rutgers), and the defense is physical and athletic, despite countless injuries and illnesses. Penn State ends the regular season on a positive note.
Penn State 24, Michigan State 20
It still seems like the Penn State roster is battling the flu, which kept around 20-30 players out last weekend, so it’s difficult to feel confident in any prediction given we don’t know exactly *who* will be playing on either side. I’ll be a dumb idiot homer and go with Penn State because the thing I’m most confident in is Penn State’s defense, but again, I couldn’t be less confident about this prediction.
Penn State 17, Michigan State 13
Both coaches just signed a massive deal to remain at their respective schools. Both coaches had a bounce back season after a disastrous 2020. Both coaches look to compete at the top of the division for years to come. And, unfortunately, both coaches are going to be judged on this game and this game alone when it comes to justifying their massive deals. Sorry Mel!
Penn State 56, Michigan State 17
Michigan State is literally the worst team in FBS (130th out of 130) in passing yards allowed, so look for Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington, and friends to feast like they’re consuming all the Thanksgiving leftovers. Additionally, Sparty’s stud running back Kenneth Walker III is banged up and there’s a decent chance Sparty will be without their two top receivers in Jayden Reed and Jalen Nailor, as well as a handful of other key starters. Mel Tucker has done a tremendous job turning around Sparty’s fortunes so quickly by hitting the jackpot via the transfer portal, but when the injury bug bites like this, it’s very difficult to overcome.
Penn State 31, Michigan State 17
I never thought Sparty had a chance against Ohio State last week, as the match-up between Ohio State’s remarkable receiving corps and the worst pass defense in the nation wouldn’t keep Michigan State in the game. Jahan Dotson and company must be licking their chops at the same thought of facing the Spartans secondary.
Michigan State has had the better season, and deserves all the heavy praise for racing into the top 10 in a year they were supposed to be at the bottom of the Big Ten. But looking at the way they match-up, there’s a reason Penn State opened up as a slight favorite. It’s not just that the pass catchers can overwhelm the Spartans back seven, there’s also the defense’s ability to hinder the run (Illinois game aside) that can cause problems for the Michigan State offense. They will need to keep Walker under 100 yards and force the game into Thorne’s hands, making him deal with the Nittany Lions aggressive pass rush and secondary.
Maybe it’s the way the team responded last week under a terrible set of circumstances that could have easily sunk them. Or maybe it’s just the thought of a few days away from the office to consume way too much food, dark beers, and football. Regardless, I’m feeling optimistic about the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
Penn State 27, Michigan State 20