#6 Penn State (7-0, 4-0) at Michigan State (4-3, 2-2)
Bring On the Land Grant Trophy
Oh, no! Sure, we want the Nittany Lions to win the game, which is always a battle, especially on hostile turf at East Lansing. However, if we do, I exhort the support staff to somehow lose the Land Grant Trophy (i.e., blow it the fuck up).
Did you ever notice that Brian Lewerke rhymes with Nittany Turkey? Just sayin’.
Anyhow, the Nittany Lions will have their hands full with the Spartans on Saturday. Moo U. will have an opportunity to upset big, bad #6, which is always a motivator. Sparks fly when these two get together, which they’ve done done 33 times, with a 17-15-1 record in favor of the Moosters. Nevertheless, the gambulators like PSU as a touchdown favorite over the Men in Green.
Some say this will be the best defense PSU has faced to date this season, yet statistically, they’re middle-of-the-pack in the Big Ten. Why? They scheduled Murderer’s Row in the middle of their schedule, losing the first two on the road decisively to tOSU and Wisconsin. Now they must deal with Penn State, but at least the game is on their home turf. Still, we here at the Turkey think this defense is much better than the stats would suggest.
The Spartans are middle-of-the-pack in standings, too, joining Michigan and Indiana in the two-loss brigade in the Big Ten East. Subjective rankings place Moo U. right in the middle — not too hot, not too cold.
Like rats off a sinking ship, Michigan State players have been bolting for the ridiculous NCAA transfer portal. (Like, did you choose the institution for the superior education you’d get there or are you there to play football?) The Tweeted words of the inimitable Cardale Jones ring loud and clear: “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS” Yeah, right. And then, after the Big Ten Championship: “I would’ve thrown for 100 more yards if you mothafuckers didn’t keep making me go to class #iplayfootballnotschool #TDsnotdegrees.”
Yeah, and Minnesota will join California introducing legislation to pay these guys, so at least there, the hypocritical game of charades might abate. Anyway, back to the point.
Three Moo U. players have entered the ridiculous transfer portal in the past week: tight end Noah Davis and wide receivers Cam Chambers and Weston Bridges. Previously, running backs La’Darius Jefferson and Connor Heyward, plus linebacker Brandon Bouyer-Randle decided to transfer.
Why don’t we just concede that the NCAA is a thinly disguised pro football operation?
The Phil Simms’ of the World (WTF?)
But I digress. Want to know my pet peeve sports commentator vogue expression of the week? No? Well, tough shit. I’ll give it to you anyway. Hell, I’ve probably hit on it before but my late-onset dementia is impeding my memory read operations. It is, “The ______________s of the world.” Now, what the hell is that supposed to mean?
For example, consider this sentence: “Penn State has a hard time defending against the Jonathan Taylors of the world.” What? The one in Wisconsin is not alone? There are more of them? “They’ll have trouble when they start encountering the J.K. Dobbins’ of the world later in the season.” What is it, already? Some extra words just for sentence rhythm or a mindless thought pause? Or you just want to sound like Phil Simms? Perish the thought!
But I digress. Focus is a scarce commodity this morning.
Moo U. Offense
Offensively — but not as offensive as the abominable Land Grant Trophy — the Spartoons fare unimpressively in the stats. While ranking fifth in the conference in Pass Offense, their anemic rushing offense is down at twelfth, producing an average of 117 yards per game. Ohio State and Wisconsin had a lot to say about that, though. Elijah Collins is their leading rusher, averaging 70.3 yards per game.
The Brian Lewerkes of the world have been a thorn in Penn State’s side for it seems like forever. Lewerke (the one in East Lansing) ranks fourth in the conference in passing behind Nate Stanley, Sean Clifford, and Tanner Morgan (Minnesota). He averages 229 yards passing per game and hits 57.5% of his passes. The Brian Lewerkes of the World have thrown for eleven touchdowns and three interceptions to date this season. The Lewerkes’ primary target, senior wide receiver Darrell Stewart, leads the conference in receiving by a healthy margin with an average of 97.6 yards per game. He averages 14.8 yards per catch.
Coaching always seems to be an issue when the two land grant schools go at it for the big, ugly trophy. (Some of the paradoxical past performances might relate to playing for a trophy no one wants to look at). Mark Dantonio sometimes appears to have memorized the Penn State playbook, staying one step ahead of the opposition strategically, yet he has been known to commit the occasional tactical blunder. Our offensive and defensive brain trusts need to seize those opportunities when they present themselves.
But are we good or just lucky? Wins against Pitt, Iowa, and Michigan suggest lucky. Why is it that after seven games, I still go into these weekly contests lacking confidence? I hear a lot of, “Unlike prior years, these guys know how to win.” Even Dantonio said something like that. But do they? Or are they just hanging on and getting some breaks? Ultimately, if they continue to take the proverbial foot off the gas after establishing a lead, they’re going to get burned. They cannot play that way against the tOSUs of the world. Better learn how to keep the pressure going a full four quarters sometime soon. This game would be the time and place.
The weather gods aren’t making it easy for the two passers of the world. Lansing is looking at afternoon showers with a high of 54°. Overnight low will be 46°. Slippery hands and slippery balls. Draw your own conclusion.
Da Bottom Line
We have a 3:30 nominal kickoff time, which doesn’t provide any clues regarding which quarter the Nittany Lions will sleep through — it could be anytime. I’m thinking it will be a lower scoring version of the Michigan game, which means Penn State will need to be lucky to win.
Do the Sanguinarians deserve to have their bubble burst this week? You bet they do! Let’s look at the gambling lines, which favor Penn State by 6.5, with total point production of 44.5. While that works out to 26-19 or so, you never can know what will happen when you play with slippery balls. Not only do you walk funny, but you scratch a lot.
This is the week for the Mark Dantonios of the world to shine. His Spartans are playing at home and he’s divulged his keys to beating Penn State: shut down K.J. Hamler and don’t allow explosive plays. If they can accomplish that, they’ll win. Moo U. 20, Penn State 17. I got the under.
I’ll be back — to wipe the egg off my face, I hope — sometime after the game is in the record books.