Thursday, November 17, 2005

Game 11: #5 Penn State (9-1, 6-1) at Michigan State (5-5, 2-5)

No one thought it was possible for this Penn State team to get this far. Ever since the Minnesota game, the pundits and opposing fans alike have been saying that Penn State is going to trip up eventually and things would end up just like they were in 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. Instead this Penn State team is one second from perfection and one win away from their second Big Ten title and first BCS bowl bid. I was there to witness the victory over Ohio State. It was an emotional night and it really made the "We're Back" statement. Now Penn State has a chance to lay a huge slap in the face of all the doubters and the Big Ten itself. The most important game in Michigan on Saturday is not being played in Ann Arbor, rather it is in East Lansing.

The Michigan State Spartans have but one glimmer of hope going into this game. That is that they are 9-1 against the last ten Top 10 teams that they have faced. Included in that is a 49-14 victory over Penn State in 1997. But you also must consider that Michigan State has lost their last two games to Purdue and Minnesota, teams that Penn State defeated by a combined 48 points. The Spartans has also lost their last three season ending games with a bowl bid on the line, including their 37-13 loss in Happy Valley last season. Drew Stanton may be the best quarterback in the Big Ten and he also gives them a glimmer of hope but the defense has been atrocious and the team as a whole has been in a large decline since the heartbreaking loss to Michigan. The Spartans have only beaten Indiana since then. The Spartans feature some offensive weapons with Stanton, tailback Javon Ringer and wide receivers Kyle Brown and Matt Trannon. However, the defense has been subpar, even when the Spartans jumped out to a 4-0 start. The Spartans led Notre Dame 35-17 before blowing that lead and winning in overtime. John L. Smith has become public enemy #1 in the state of Michigan and Spartan fans have talked of a boycott of the Penn State game. With ESPN's College GameDay coming to East Lansing, how will a pro-PSU crowd effect recruiting? This team is playing for no better than the Motor City Bowl. How motivated can they possibly be for a trip down the road to Detroit?

Penn State comes into this game after a week off following the 35-14 stomping of Wisconsin. This was a good two week break before the season finale to get fully healthy and get a chance to really focus on Michigan State in a game that carries the reward of a BCS bowl game with a victory for Penn State. Nothing major on the injury front other than that Justin King suffered a mild concussion. However, Joe says that he will be ready to go against the Spartans. To be perfectly honest, I don't think it would have made much of a difference if King suited up or not. He hasn't contributed much on offense since Derrick Williams went down. It's too late at this point but I bet that the staff would have left King at corner if they realized that the receiving corps could get the job done without Williams. Michael Robinson will be looking to make a strong case for himself for the Heisman against the Spartans. He should have plenty of opportunity against a porous Spartan defense. Tony Hunt needs only about 50 more yards rushing to break 1,000 yards on the ground. He should be able to easily reach that plateau. I'll be looking to see if Rodney Kinlaw becomes more involved in the offense. We have been seeing more of him lately and he has left me impressed. Another name to look for on Saturday is Lydell Sargeant. He hasn't played much this season but may get some playing time if Penn State finishes off Sparty early on. It should just be business as usual for the defense. Paul Posluszny was recently named as a finalist for the Butkus Award and Lombardi Award. Tamba Hali was named as a finalist for the Nagurski Award as well. We may see some future 2006 starters such as Josh Gaines, Tony Davis, Nolan McCready, Donnie Johnson among others if the game is wrapped up early on. This could be a good opportunity to get the younger guys some valuable playing time.

Penn State's Keys to Victory:
  • Supply a steady pass rush
  • Feed Hunt the ball
  • No careless turnovers

My Prediction:

Penn State 35, Michigan State 17

I think Penn State jumps out to an early lead and buries the Spartans before they even have a chance to get into it. Joe will call off the dogs in the third quarter and we will see some of the back ups in the second half. Michigan State adds a score or two late to make it look closer in the box score


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