Michigan State (hereinafter referred to as Moo U.) have long relished the role of spoiler when it doesn’t have what it takes to go to the big bowls or the playoffs. In this all-important competition for the vaunted Land Grant Trophy (right), the #24 Moo U. Spartans (6-2, 4-1 B1G), presently tied for second in the Big Ten East, host the #7 Penn State Nittany Lions (7-1, 4-1).
Moo U. is coming off a dramatic triple-overtime loss to Northwestern, 37-31, whereas Penn State suffered its first defeat of the season last week in Columbus to a well rested bunch of Buckeyes, 39-38.
So, What to Expect, Already?
Who knows? We have no idea how whether and how much last week’s losses will affect the mindsets of these two squads. Emotion aside, we know a few things about Penn State. We knew that this three-game stretch in October/November would reveal any flaws. Two-thirds of the way through it, it has done so. Moo U., meanwhile, is as always a mystery team. Sometimes they look great, and sometimes they blow.
First and foremost, the offensive line still suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. That unit was completely ineffectual against the Buckeyes, even after it showed some positive progress during the Michigan game. One step forward followed by two steps backward does not portend well for redeeming this season. Against a stiff Moo U. defense (much of the time, anyway), the offensive line’s presence will be crucial.
In addition, the weaknesses of the defensive front seven we feared at season’s outset were revealed big time against Ohio State’s potent offense. They got run over in the second half. The loss of Ryan Buchholtz hurt even more, but in the end, their talent level and depth were insufficient to do the job.
The Spartans and Nittany Lions have played this series to a flat-out tie, 15-15-1. Last year, the Nittany Lions prevailed over Moo U., 45-12, late in November at St. Joe Memorial Stadium. Is it Moo U’s turn to retaliate on their home turf?
Moo U. has home field advantage and excellent motivation to win this game. It would give them undisputed second place in the B1G East, and it would be a huge boost in their CFP ranking. Both Moo U. and PSU would be 7-2, so who could justify ranking them so far apart? Moo U. would have to move up, or PSU would have to move down, or both. Every win counts big now toward getting those premium bowl invitations. Yeah.
Michigan State offers an excellent run defense. Where have you heard that one before? They’re allowing fewer than 90 yards per game, good for tops in the conference and fourth in the nation. They’ll be intent on shutting Saquon Barkley down.
Pass defense is mediocre, ranking seventh in the conference. Perhaps this will present opportunities for Trace McSorley and his receivers. McSorley didn’t have time against the Buckeyes and his receivers were not getting separation.
Penn State needs to take what the Moo U. defense will give it, and not try to force what isn’t there.
Meanwhile, the Moo U. offense is just so-so. They’re sixth in rushing and seventh in passing in the conference. The Penn State defense needs to stand up and be counted.
We’re deeply into the fall weather pattern in the north. The forecast calls for crappy weather — occasional rain with a high of 51°.
Da Bottom Line
This is a tough one for the Turkey, whose mind is wandering all over the place. I cannot get a handle on where I’m going.
I think there’s a chance for PSU to establish an early lead by catching Moo U. sleeping, especially their crappy kickoff coverage unit. Having been moved to a noon start, nobody can be truly awake at that hours. What happens after the early lead is anyone’s guess.
The opening line on this game favored Penn State by 11.5, but it has since nose-dived down to 7 and now it has bounced back to 8, showing that the betting public is vacillating as much as I am. The over/under is currently at 48. This suggest that bettors believe Penn State will win by about 28-20.
Since I don’t know what the hell I’m doing or where my mind is going, I’m going to have to pull one out of um left field. The ball is bouncing, bouncing, bouncing… Wet ball… Passing issues… Aw, hell, I’ll be a homey. Penn State 31, Moo U. 19. Take the over.
I’ll be back after the game with sparkling commentary, win or lose.