Penn State at Michigan State: Here’s what you need to know about Saturday’s game
STATE COLLEGE — It’s time to turn the page on the Ohio State game, Penn State fans.
The Nittany Lions’ heartbreaking 39-38 loss to the Buckeyes last week in Columbus threw a wrench into their plans to defend their Big Ten championship, and may have scuttled their bid to reach the four-team College Football Playoff as well.
But the season goes on. And on Saturday, Penn State visits another team looking to put a crushing loss in the rearview mirror: Michigan State, which dropped 39-31 decision to Northwestern in triple overtime last Saturday. The Spartans are tied with Penn State in the Big Ten East Division standings; both teams have 4-1 records.
Here’s what you need to know about the game.
No. 7 Penn State (7-1) at No. 24 Michigan State (6-2)
TV: FOX 43
BETTING LINE: Penn State is a 9.5-point favorite
SERIES: Tied at 15-15-1
ON THE LINE: The winner of this game receives the Land Grant Trophy. Penn State won it last year — and clinched the Big Ten East Division championship — with a 45-12 blowout. The Spartans had won the previous three meetings. Penn State is 14-7 in Land Grant Trophy games.
When the Penn State-Michigan State series was renewed with the Nittany Lions’ entrance into the Big Ten in 1993, the Land Grant Trophy was established to go to the winner in what was each school’s annual season finale from 1993-2010 and 2014-16.
The Land Grant Trophy honors Penn State’s and Michigan State’s unique places in history as the two pioneer land-grant institutions in the United States.
Each school was founded in 1855, Michigan State on Feb. 12 and Penn State on Feb. 22. The schools were the prototypes after which the land-grant system was patterned.
ABOUT PENN STATE: There’s no sugar coating it; the loss to Ohio State was devastating for the Nittany Lions. Penn State jumped out to a 14-0 lead after Saquon Barkley’s 97-yard TD on a kickoff return and DaeSean Hamilton’s 13-yard TD reception from Trace McSorley in the first quarter. It was 28-13 at halftime, 35-20 after three quarters, and 38-27 early in the fourth. But the Buckeyes, riding the red-hot passing of quarterback J.T. Barrett, scored the game’s final two touchdowns, the final one coming with 1:19 left.
Barkley added a 36-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, but was otherwise held in check by the Ohio State defense. Still, the junior running back remains a top contender for the Heisman Trophy and is unquestionably the Lions’ top player. Barkley has 801 rushing yards, a team-high 36 catches for 471 yards, and 15 total touchdowns — including two kickoff returns for scores. His 1,650 all-purpose yards lead the nation.
McSorley, a 6-0, 195-pound senior, has completed 164 of 249 passes for 2,071 yards and 16 touchdowns, and is second on the team in rushing with 425 yards and eight scores on 96 attempts. His 47 career touchdown passes rank second in school history and are one short of the record.
Last year against Michigan State, McSorley torched the Spartans for 376 passing yards (a career high at the time) and four touchdowns.
McSorley’s top receivers are wideouts Juwan Johnson (30-362, TD) and Hamilton (29-494, five TDs), and tight end Mike Gesicki (30-285, four TDs).
Penn State is second in the Big Ten and seventh overall in scoring defense, allowing just 13.2 points per game. Opposing offenses average 313 yards per game against the Nittany Lions, who have forced 20 turnovers.
Linebacker Jason Cabinda (59) and safety Marcus Allen (51) are the team’s top tacklers. Cornerback Amani Oruwariye leads Penn State’s secondary with three interceptions.
ABOUT MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans are coached by Mark Dantonio, who is in his 11th season at the helm. Dantonio has guided Michigan State to a 96-44 record. Under Dantonio, the Spartans captured Big Ten championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015 and won the 2014 Rose Bowl.
This year, Michigan State won its first four conference games against Iowa (17-10), Michigan (14-10), Minnesota (30-27) and Indiana (17-9). In addition to last week’s loss to Northwestern, the Spartans have also fallen to Notre Dame (38-18).
Quarterback Brian Lewerke set school single-game records for passing yards (445), total offense (475) and completions (39) in last week’s loss to Northwestern. Lewerke has completed 159 of 259 passes for 1,807 yards and 14 touchdowns with four interceptions this season. He’s also second on the team in rushing, with 343 yards and three TDs.
Lewerke’s top targets are D. Stewart (35-362, TD) and Felton Davis (33-405, seven TDs). LJ Scott (113-536, four TDs) is the Spartans’ leading rusher.
Michigan State’s defense allows just 89.8 rushing yards per game, which ranks fourth in college football. Linebacker Joe Bachie is fourth in the Big Ten averaging 8.9 tackles per game.