Penn State vs. Michigan State
I’m writing a abbreviated version of the usual pre-game preview and predictions because time is running out in the pre-Thanksgiving hours for this pre-eminent turkey. This is a dangerous time of year for turkeys, so I’m laying low.
The Land Grant Trophy Classic
This is the season finale for Penn State, the battle for the ugly and unwanted Land Grant Trophy. Our mighty Penn State Nittany Lions (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) travel to East Lansing to take on the #5 Michigan State Spartans (10-1, 6-1 Big Ten). Last weekend, Michigan State dominated #3 Ohio State, who could muster no offense in the 17-14 Spartan victory. The Buckeyes generated only 132 yards total offense and five first downs against the MSU defense, leaving tOSU in such disarray that Zeke Elliott dissed Urban Meyer in public and Meyer pretty much agreed with his diss-course.
Critical Post-Season Implications for Moo U.
This game means little to Penn State, and it might even be worth losing just to ensure that the Land Grant Trophy stays in Michigan. We secretly hope that some Detroit street gang torches it one night. Perhaps the game means the difference between a bowl game in windy Santa Clara versus twangy Nashville or perhaps sunny Jacksonville. BFD. I don’t think that’s enough to motivate this Penn State team to exceed itself. I just don’t know that there’s any fight left in them.
On the other hand, the game means everything to Michigan State, who we call Moo U. around these parts. The Spartans are presently tied with Michigan and Ohio State for the lead in the Eastern Division of the Big Ten, and they possess tie-breakers over both of their archrivals. Thus, in sportswriter lingo, they [engage echo chamber] CONTROLLLLL THEIR OWN DESSSSTINYYYYYY! A win over Penn State, and Moo U. is in the Big Ten Title game regardless of the outcome of Ohio State vs. Michigan, both of whom are hoping for a Penn State upset. In the remote chance that the upset does occur (fat chance!), the winner of the Bucks vs. Wolverines goes to the B1G championship. Got it?
A one-loss Moo U. that wins the Big Ten Championship game over (likely) Iowa will be a viable contender for one of the CFP slots in the national championship playoff series that begins on New Year’s Eve and will keep a lot of drunks off the road for a while.
Trap Game for Moo U.? What does that even MEAN.
Some regard this as a trap game for Moo U., but I sure as hell can’t see why. Big, emotional win last week, yeah, true, and I actually did see Mark Dantonio smile in his post-game interview, which must have shocked many of the players right out of their jocks or their frigging compression skivvies or whatever passes for high-tech athletic undergarments these days. They’ll be favored over the Nittany Lions by more than a touchdown, which is another “trappy” element. However, as I’ve said before, they have everything up to a potential national championship on the line for this game. They’re at home, they won’t be nervous, and this turkey believes they’ll take care of the business at hand.
Besides, the mythical “trap game” is a syndrome invented by sportswriters, who as you know, typically have their heads up their asses. As the ultimate expression of ambiguously false humility, I’ll take credit for membership in their minion, just because I typically have my head up my ass. Sideways.
Can you see that I’m not in an analytical mood with Thanksgiving on my mind? Wait, what?
I said this would be abbreviated, and it will be. I’ll skip right to the Tur-keys.
Tur-KEYS to the Upset Win for PSU
- Third down conversions. Yeah, Penn State is now almost dead last in the FBS in third down conversions, at 27.6%. In-conference, it’s even worse. Hack and the Traffic Cones just fail miserably at this. I don’t see it changing for this game, either, even if Moo U. shows up allowing 36.1% They allowed Ohio State only five first downs all day.
- Pray a lot. There is a lot to be thankful about this Thanksgiving, but praying to the football gods probably won’t be enough to make a game of this. Nevertheless, it might be appropriate to pray for mercy before the game is over.
- Protect the Hackster. The “reliable” members of the offensive line probably won’t be able to open any holes for Saquon Barkley, so the Great John Donovan will unleash Hack’s arm. Only thing is, Hack won’t have much time to throw. Have mercy on him, Traffic Cones. He’ll be carrying an extra five pounds of Thanksgiving turkey. Don’t let him get even close to getting sacked. He backs up, forgets about the pocket (what pocket?) and forgets how to get rid of the ball. Save Hack! Paris Palmer, here in this blog referred to as the Colossus of Rhodes, was ineffectual in the Michigan game and was replaced by Andrew Nelson, who moved from right tackle. That didn’t help much, as the Sack-a-Hack proceeded apace. The talent just doesn’t exist on this line, but in K. John’s words, at least some of them are reliable. We’ll lose the best of them, Angelo Mangiro to graduationalism, and there doesn’t appear to be much, if any improvement in store for next year, so this is their final stand. Do this turkey proud in his hour of need!
- Don’t give up. “That dullard look” was evident on lots of Nittany Lionfaces last week, particularly on the frustrated Hackface. Thus, they might have given up last week, if not against Northwestern. The bye week didn’t seem to revitalize them. They can regain some pride in themselves with a good showing against Moo U., win or lose. Just don’t fricking give up!
- Red Zone. Get there once in a while, then do something about it! Last week’s stalling drives in the Code Red area were disgusting. The play calling was disgusting. The clock management was disgusting. Yeah.
With a 3:30 kickoff, they’ll be playing in the afternoon warmth. That warmth is scheduled to produce a high of 38° with lots of sun. The overnight low is forecast as 21°, but the field probably won’t be frozen by kickoff time. Hands will be cold on both sides and the Penn State kicking game will once again suck.
Official Turkey Poop Prediction and BS
Hey, it’s been a fun season of Penn State football, even if they didn’t meet most of your expectations. It’s always great hanging around with a bunch of opinionated, knowledgeable quasi-experts. I always learn a lot. On this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for your readership and your interesting comments. They’re what keep me going. What, you thought I write this for my own amusement? Well, maybe there’s some of that narcissistic pleasure thing going on here, too. But I digress.
Michigan State is favored by eleven, with an over/under of 47, which altogether suggests that we all should enjoy Thanksgiving and not worry too much about the game. Still, the game will give us something non-strenuous to do as we emerge from a three-day food coma.
The bookmakers and their clientele seem to be suggesting a Moo U. victory to the tune of 29-18. I don’t think we’re looking at blowout numbers here. Without Connor Cook at quarterback, which is still up in the air, so to speak, the Spartans could be missing a key ingredient. Same goes for PSU, who could be missing Carl Nassib again. Those would seem to somewhat balance each other if the the teams were evenly matched and equally well coached. They’re not. Even without Connor Cook, Michigan State 27, Penn State 17. Take the under.
I want to wish all my readers and their families a very Happy Thanksgiving! Travel safely and enjoy your company. Don’t fight at the dinner table and — above all — don’t allow cell phones to be used during dinner. Have fun, don’t eat too much, don’t drink too much, be kind to each other, and respect the turkey you’re about to eat. It could be a relative of mine.
I’ll be back for my post-game Turkey Wrap.
K. John says
I got nothing. When it comes to individual talent in the top 22, I think Penn State is better. Overwhelming so. However, if you compared the offensive lines, Moo U gets the nod at four of five positions which is huge despite Penn State’s obvious advantage almost every where else. Football of course is the ultimate team game, and individual talent is somewhat meaningless as we have seen the last two games as Penn State has a major talent advantage over both Michigan and Northwestern. Our problems are well documented. Bad coaching and a bad offensive line. If good John Donovan show up and the special teams don’t beat themselves, Penn State can win. If bad Donovan shows up, regardless of the special teams, we lose. Simple as that. I am hoping beyond hope that State puts together something resembling a complete game for the second time this year and the first time on the road under Franklin and tops Sparty 28 to 24 causing complete chaos. Getting rolled 35 to 10 would be more likely and if that is what it takes to get John Donovan out the door, I would gladly deal with sitting in the cold in East Lansing for three hours. A trip to Harpers afterward is always fun though as Michigan State, along with Penn State and Nebraska, have the best fans in the Big Ten if not the country.
The Nittany Turkey says
Moo U. has had lots of close calls this year, but they seem to pull them out (except the Nebraska debacle) when push comes to shove. Dantonio and lots of strong senior leadership provide the cohesiveness to make this bunch that you have judged to be less talented exceed their meager capabilities to play their asses off as a team.
Would that we could see some of that kind of emotion from this flat-faced pride of Nittany Lions. One or two of them here and there seem to get charged up, but I think the season has worn many of them down, as has watching Hack’s exasperation. That rubs off. Remember how Marcus Allen was last year and at the beginning of this year? He was flying into tackles all over the field. You could read his excitement and energy. I’m not seeing that anymore. It’s been a long season, I know, but the bye week didn’t help and they’ve now got the appearance of a defeated bunch.
Enjoy Harper’s and have a Happy Thanksgiving in the meanwhile. Got you for 28-24 good guys.
Yeah, PSU getting rolled 35 – 10 sounds more like it. Although I will start out watching the game I think I will likely tune out around halftime…maybe sooner. Btw, NTN, please don’t tell me to not eat or drink too much on Thanksgiving…it’s the one day I live for!
The Nittany Turkey says
I will withdraw my request for moderation. Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself!