Penn State Likely To Cover Spread In Road Game Against Michigan State

Penn State Likely To Cover Spread In Road Game Against Michigan State

Penn State Vs Michigan State Preview

Okay folks, I promise you I’m not from the future, but so far this season, I’m 8-2 in predicting Penn State games so far this year (spread & total points). Last week, I predicted a 23-17 victory for Penn State and it turned out to be 28-21. So far, my only losses were last week when the game went over the total and I got the spread wrong by a half-point in the Purdue game. Regardless, we are on fire this season and so are the Penn State Nittany Lions, the #6 team in the nation.

Penn State is a 6 point favorite against Michigan State on the road on October 26th, according to the PlaySugarHouse PA online sportsbook. Got a feeling for where this game is headed? Place your bet today.

A brief look back at the Michigan game

Last week’s game was about what we expected, minus the deep connections from Clifford to Hamler. I wasn’t surprised from the connections, but I was surprised at the separation Hamler was getting each time. Hamler’s blazing speed was too much for the defensive backs of Michigan. On the other side of the ball, Michigan’s Ronnie Bell and Nico Collins were too much at times for Penn State as well. Though I didn’t expect the Nittany Lions to challenge Michigan deep like they did, it was nice to see Clifford making two out of three deep balls to KJ Hamler in situations where it was critical.

Penn State did exactly what I thought they would do, which was contain Shea Patterson and force him to make hard throws from inside the pocket and it turned out to be a relatively successful plan. We’ve yet to see a lot of consistency from Clifford this season, but he made the throws — for the most part — when he needed to in this huge conference win. Now, Penn State is lining up its schedule perfectly for a November 23rd showdown against Ohio State to determine who will go to the conference title game.

Penn State @ Michigan State preview

Before the season began, this appeared to be a real challenging road test for the Nittany Lions. Now, it looks more and more like an opportunity for Michigan State to put a big upset on their resume. Is it a trap game? I don’t think so, because from what I’ve seen this season, Penn State appears prepared and focused for most of their opponents. However, a few lapses in play could change all that and we’ve certainly seen bigger upsets before in college football.

Michigan State is another Big 10 molded team, running to set up play action and historically dependent on their defense to set up their offense. This season, their offense has looked out of sync, at best, and their defense has gone MIA for long stretches of games. The defense looks nowhere near as dangerous as it has the past decade, and that has put tremendous pressure on the offense thus far. In their last two games against Wisconsin and Ohio State, Michigan State has surrendered 72 points and scored just 10. Offensively, they lean heavily on one running back, freshman Elijah Collins. As a team, the Spartans are very young. There are only 15 seniors on the entire roster and there are plenty of freshmen starting on both ends of the ball.

Citing the Pitt game from earlier in the season, Penn State collapsed the pocket from the edge all game long, unfortunately, the Pitt quarterback was able to step up and either run away or step forward and complete a nice throw downfield. Penn State can’t let that happen again. I believe Penn State needs to pressure Patterson through the inside, clogging up the run lanes and forcing Patterson to one side or the other. Spying the quarterback would also help with containment, but I think Penn State may actually benefit most if they can bait him on defense without blitzing and letting him try to make the throws. I don’t think Patterson is capable of throwing on a defense like Penn State, so stopping the run and containing Patterson will be the key on defense.

Penn State must run, run, and run even more

Last week, Penn State averaged just 3.5 yards rushing on offense. Anytime the rushing attack isn’t potent, it opens the offense to a higher level of variance for consistency because the frequency of fumbles is far less than the frequency of drives ending due to sacks, strip sacks, and interceptions. From a predictions standpoint, you’ll get more accurate predictions by analyzing teams who feature strong rushing offenses, versus those who spread it out and air it out.

Michigan State averages over 117 rushing yards allowed per game. To put that into perspective, Penn State averages just 66. However, Michigan State averages just 185 yards to opposing passers while Penn State averages 215. Alright then, we’ve identified Michigan State’s rush defense is the weakness. I’m willing to bet we will see a plethora of run plays and various rushers again this week on Penn State’s end. With rushing being the key formula for taking out the Spartans at home, I’m expecting a lot of Penn State running the ball, sprinkled in with some Clifford scrambles on play-action, and I expect KJ Hamler to get at least one deep ball touchdown in this one.

Penn State should be aggressive on defense

Penn State has a great pass rush and a solid run defense. In this game, Penn State won’t have to bee too focused on stopping the run or pass in particular. They need to be aggressive on defense and force some early turnovers to quiet the crowd down and get into a rhythm on the offensive end. Of course, they could always just play it like the Iowa game, where they just sit there and lock down the rushing defense and force Michigan State to pass it on them. That’s certainly an option, but the risk there is that the Spartans get a few broken plays and get the lead early.

If you’re Michigan State, you probably know you won’t be able to get a lot on the ground in this game, so they’re likely planning to attack Penn State in short to intermediate passes to nullify Penn State’s blitz. If I were game planning against Michigan State’s offense, I would attack them on a series of exotic blitzes, leave the corners on man coverage, and show Michigan State a variety of zone looks in the short and intermediate area of the field to take that option away from Michigan State.

Prediction

Penn State is a favorite at -6 on the road, a questionably low spread and the over/under at 43.5 points. I think Penn State will grab control in the second half and pull away in this one. There will surely be some conservative playcalling to start off this game. I think coach Franklin will call a conservative gameplan on defense until he zeroes in on where Penn State needs to focus their attention. Offensively, it just makes too much sense that Penn State will be running the ball until Michigan State can prove they can stop it. I think Penn State pulls away and covers in a nice road win.

Final Score: Penn State 27, Michigan State 17