#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.
Jennifer M Nelms says
Want to know my pet peeve sports commentator vogue expression of the week? It’s “If you’re (insert team name), then you (insert predicate indicating what action the team should be taking in order to demonstrate your mastery of football).” It’s the height of passivity. Just say “(Team name) should do x. y, and z.”
Predictifying this game, I’ll say we’re lucky and go with a score of PSU 20, Moosters 17.
If you’re Penn State, you’re rearranging the trophy case to make room for the Land Grant Trophy!
The Nittany Turkey says
I’m thinking Michigan State shuts down the outside play and double-teams Hamler (all in present tense because sports commentators don’t know about conjugation other than what they pick up at the bar after the game). Then if I’m Penn State I run Noah Cane up the gut. He gives 140 per cent and Penn State wins. (I think da Kingfish could do better with grammar than most sports commentators).
The problem is that people emulate those morons. I’m sure you’ve seen the famous movie, The Pride of St. Louis, a biopic about Dizzy Dean’s career with the Cardinals, both as an ace pitcher and, upon his retirement from the field of baseballic combat, as a radio announcer. Dizzy’s patter was so rife with grammatical atrocities and Arkansas colloquialisms that a teacher was impelled to write to him about his de facto education of the American kids of that era. She complained that he shouldn’t use the word “ain’t” on the air, as it was a bad example to children. On the air, Dean said, “A lot of folks who ain’t sayin’ ‘ain’t,’ ain’t eatin’. So, Teach, you learn ’em English, and I’ll learn ’em baseball.”
Because the Cards are in St. Louis. I got your number, you Sanguinarian.
Lawrence Hamilton says
LUCKY…that’s my take. As an old time fan of the Oakland Raiders, I loved Daryl Lamonica, Cliff Branch and Fred Biletnikof. Lamonica, the mad bomber always seemed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Seems like Clifford is channeling his own mad bomber. That has worked so far. But we can’t count on the opposition’s usually reliable receivers to drop important passes, henna? (Not referring to hair rinse or fake tattoos…..if you need an explanation I’ll know you’re not from Northeastern PA.)
Long, late afternoon shadows, if there’s any sun, cold…gotta be cold in Michigan this time of year, right?, darkening skies and a very hostile crowd don’t seem to be the things that would result in success for a mad bomber. If that’s the case, does PSU have the stuff to grind out a sustained 12 play drive of short passes and strong runs to reach the promised land…several times during this game? I don’t think so. They need a big, bruising back who can pound and punish the other team for that. In fact, I don’t think your vaunted PSU brain trust even thinks this might be a way to notch another victory.
I think the Lions will be flying home with their tails between their legs. I hope I’m sooo wrong. But if I’m right you may acknowledge my football knowledge. Score prediction? I might be pessimistic, but I’m not stupid.
The Nittany Turkey says
Ahhhh, Jim Otto, Otis Sistrunk… THAT was football! And don’t forget The Mad Stork! I’m not from Northeastern PA, but my best PSU friends live in Pottsville. I still don’t have any idea about the henna reference.
Supposed to rain in Lansing on Saturday, with a high in the low 50s. Not perfect football weather for big chunk plays, as you opined. And no, I think the stubborn James Franklin wants his chunk plays to the exclusion of all else so there’ll be no weather-based adjustment, no adjustment for Dantonio’s defense, and no adjustment when whatever the offense does ain’t working. Predictability is a sure path to a loss. The lack of patience to put together sustained drives is predictable.
Aw, go on! Venture a score prediction. Nobody will hold you to it — we’re all friends here and I make an ass out of myself every week!
Lawrence Hamilton says
Henna = short slang for “isn’t that so”; or “don’t you agree”…which morphed from “ain’t it” to hain’t it” and got shortened to “henna”. Some locals often use “ya’mean”…”do you know what I mean?” Like your Pittsbugher’s “y’inz” or the Jersey boys “fuggedaboudit”
My well thought out score prognostication then: MSU 24 – PSU 20…PSU blows a first half lead as the defense wears down from being on the field all night long and PSU coaching staff clearly shows that it has no idea how to play with a lead. This game hands the keys to tOSU on how to crush the Lions in their upcoming contest (as if they would have needed any help with that).
The Nittany Turkey says
I’ll have to try out “henna” on Toejam, my Pottsville area friend. Never heard it coming out of his mouth. However, his wife Judy ends sentences with “ain’t?” a lot — maybe that’s a Reading thing, which is her original home. Same ballpark.
I laughed out loud when I read the parenthetical at the end of your post, as that is exactly what I was thinking when I read its antecedent. Another thing I’m thinking pretty much like you is your prognostication for how the game will play out.
If, on the other hand, they show that they can grind out a win, they’ve shown me something — although I fear nowhere near enough to be competitive against tOSU.
It’s Noah Cain of PSU’s world who can really make a difference in the Lions’ progress with the ball if the conditions are slippery! I’ll go with 24-17, Penn State on top!
The Nittany Turkey says
He can, but will the vaunted offensive brain trust ever give him a significant number of carries? Methinks not. I don’t know, Mikey, I think Franklin and Rahne are nuts. The could have some kind of a master plan or perhaps they’re paranoid that one or more of the Committee of Four will enter the ridiculous transfer portal if they don’t get sufficient PT. In any case, that’s a helluva way to run a railroad.
Your prediction is as good as any, assuming Moo U. can make enough mistakes to keep PSU lucky. That egregious drop by Ronnie Bell last week brought back memories of Jackie Smith in the 1979 Super Bowl: one dropped pass at the end of a great NFL career is what Smith will be remembered for. Steelers won. But I digress.
Big Al says
Ever since the preseason, I’ve counted this game and the one in Columbus as losses. Nothing the Kitties have done in the interim has changed my mind. Yes the defense is OMG awesome as long as the opposing qb is immobile and inaccurate (as usual). Yes, Clifford has been better than expected and isn’t as turnover prone as Trace was, but he sucks as a runner and Franklin won’t play the only running back that can run effectively between the tackles.
The SDR arrives on Saturday and Lady Luck has departed. The big play or bust offense finally busts. Take Sparty and the under. Moo U 17 State 13.
The Nittany Turkey says
You think they’ll score 13? Just kiddlng, Al. I think it’s a little low, but maybe not so much in the context of Pitt and Iowa. Narduzzi and Dantonio are peas in a pod. Defense rules. It’s late, so I’m writing choppy, incoherent sentences. You know what I mean.
SDR — yeah, probably. I think Lewerke and the Moo defense can potentially conspire to ruin the day for the Sanguinarians. A quick elevator ride from #6 to #17 may be in the offing, taking the edge off the Minnesota game and sticking us with a noon kickoff for both the Golden Rodents and the Whoosiers.
Again, I’m falling asleep here. Never mind.
K. John says
We won, and continue to win but the recipe for disaster is there. Pitt, Iowa and Michigan generally outplayed us but did themselves in with unforced mistakes. Michigan State has three games worth of relevant film to study and had two weeks to get ready. Sparty’s O-line has been banged up. How many linemen were able to get healthy during the bye? What can they do this year? Sparty is a different animal and a major step up compared to Pitt, Iowa and Michigan. They were two fluke plays away from shutting us out last year. The biggest difference for us is that we have a chance to reliably complete passes on third and long against tight coverage with Clifford, however our route concepts are pretty basic and they can get pressure with four. Is that enough? I kind of doubt it. As with Iowa, I would expect turnovers to be the difference maker. Will Lewerke channel his inner Nate Stanley and literally and figuratively the game away? Again, I doubt it. Will the Sparty defense make stupid mistakes a feature of their game plan giving us enough big plays to win?
Michigan State 20
Penn State 9
The Nittany Turkey says
Reflecting the prevailing lack of confidence in the mighty #6 Nittany Lions, the spread is currently 4.5. The projected rain might have something to do with that, too — Clifford is inaccurate enough without getting his balls wet. Further reflecting the prevailing lack of confidence is that the Nittany Turkey Panel of Experts Consensus is predicting a Penn State loss. Four of you have gone with Moo U., while only two are PSU believers, better known as Sanguinarians.
Lucky or good — that’s what it will come down to, and this year’s PSU campaign has been luckier than good. Probably will come down to luck here again. If the weather and some spottily good PSU defense manage to force some turnovers, they can win. Is the angel on their shoulder again this week?
Because of the weather, I’m going to adjust my prediction by a field goal for both sides. Make it Moo U. 17, PSU 14. (Two early TDs and then nothingness).