Homecoming: Moo U. (3-2, 1-1) at #8 PSU (4-1, 1-1)
There’s never a dull moment in Penn State vs. Michigan State games. You never know what to expect. This year’s Homecoming clash features two combatants who started the season with great optimism, which for the Nittany Lions and the Spartans has been tempered by recent setbacks. In Moo U’s case, injuries have all but destroyed their running game, while the Nittany Lions have struggled with several aspects of their game.
Whence Cometh Both?
As you surely know, in their last outing the #8 Nittany Lions’ defense struggled in the money quarter, allowing a 96-yard touchdown drive by the #2 Buckeyes, which sealed the deal in a 27-26 loss in whited-out St. Joe Memorial Penndot Stadium at Beaver Field last week. A couple of bad coaching calls by James Franklin also pissed off this turkey. (I know a guy named Barry Walters who is still pissed off at St. Joe Paterno for a bad fourth down call in the 1967 Gator Bowl. This pique will not last that long quite that long, because neither Barry nor I will be around 50 more years, but I ain’t forgettin’ anytime soon!).
Moo U. is coming off a heartbreaking loss to 1-3 Northwestern, 29-19, in which it could generate only 96 yards rushing. (Pretty funny that number was twelve times the net rushing yards of their opponents, the aerial-only Wildcats). While the passing game was “not too bad”, with junior QB Brian Lewerke hitting 31-52 for 329 yards with one interception and one touchdown, the spartan Spartans were only 4-15 on third-down conversions. Their injury riddled offensive line allowed two sacks, four QB hurries, and six tackles for loss. Michigan State ranks 10th out of 14 in the B1G in total offense and 13th in rushing offense.
The Spartans have a serviceable defense, ranking fifth in the conference right behind Penn State. The standout defensive category for Moo U. is Interceptions, where they have 9 for 140 yards and a touchdown.
On special teams, Matt Coghlin, the sophomore place kicker, is a perfect 8-8 on field goals and 14-14 for PATs.
History Tells Us Nothing in This Series
Last year, the crazy, rain-delayed game saw the Nittany Lions come out flat and getting beat at the final gun. Coughlin kicked the winning field goal as time expired — seven hours after the game began — giving the Spartans a 27-24 victory in East Lansing and thankfully allowing them custody of the abominable Land Grant Trophy for a year. Brian Lewerke passed for 400 yards in that game.
The prior year, Penn State prevailed at St. Joe Memorial Stadium, 45-12, in a horribly crappy offensive performance by the visitors. Lewerke did not play that game due to a mid-season injury.
What of This One, Already?
Well, I’ll tellya. As the title of this article suggests, these Moo U. games are all over the map. Our PSU offensive line, which we thought was a great improvement, let us down under pressure from the elitists at tOSU. I would suspect that Moo U. will throw some similar defense at the Lions, which would mean Miles Sanders likely won’t be able to get umgetrakt.
So, we’re looking at an aerial game, if Franklin can properly adjust this “great” team to what Mark D’Antonio throws at him. Once again, the game will be carried on the broad shoulders of Trace McSorley and his receivers, who better make the easy catches as well as the tough ones. I don’t think the Penn State defense needs to worry much about the run by Moo U., so they can concentrate on pressuring Lewerke and covering his receivers. (He used 10 in the NWU game). That’s the big key to winning this one. And for the love of Pete, how about getting the PSU punting game back on track?
Lemons to Lemonade
I chose lemons as a theme for this week’s watch party. Last game we were dealt lemons; this week, we make lemonade. We will honor the Greek-Ass Spartans with lemon chicken, Greek corn bread, Greek salad, and ouzo lemonade.
It promises to be a standard, crappy Pennsylvania Fall day at the Big Beave, but alumni are used to that. Looks like 51° for a high, with some morning rain following some frost in low spots. Sounds like reasonable football weather unless the rain is heavy. (If you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it will change. Or not.).
Da Bottom Line
To sum it all up, the Spartans aren’t as formidable as we thought they would be two weeks ago. They’re not an “elite” team. But the “great” Nittany Lions better stay great for this Super Bowl. The game might be a strange one, as Moo U. games typically are. Here we have a D’Antonio defense against a back-to-crapola offensive line and a primary receiving target who makes spectacular catches but drops as many as he catches — plus a coach with yellow puddles around his feet when making fourth quarter decisions, and that ain’t lemonade!
Time for the Nittany Turkey’s Official Turkey Poop Prediction, which comes straight from my cloaca and is as good as it smells. We look first toward the betting lines on the game, because money is what it is all about on so many levels. Current line favors Penn State by 13.5 points (and hasn’t budged since it opened there), with an over/under of 53.5 (which has dropped about three points). This suggests a Nittany Lion win to the tune of 34-20, but I’ll stick with what I pontificated to the local watch party group. Penn State 31, Moo U. 20. PSU doesn’t cover. Don’t bet the o/u, because this game tends to be too wacky — there’s never a dull moment!
I’ll be back after the game with a recap and a few mocking statements about the Land Grant Trophy.