WHEN: 3:30 p.m., Saturday
WHERE: Beaver Stadium
SERIES: Penn State leads, 14-13-1
LAST MEETING: Michigan State won 28-22 in 2010.
COACHES: Michigan State — Mark Dantonio, 8th season, 73-31 (90-48, 11th overall); Penn State — James Franklin, first season, 6-5 (30-20, 4th overall)
TELEVISION: ABC/ESPN2 (commentators: Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Jeannine Edwards)
RADIO: WQWK 1450, WBUS 93.7 (announcers: Steve Jones, Jack Ham, Loren Crispell)
TIPS TO WIN:
For Penn State — Strike a healthy balance. Michigan State fields as stout a defense as Penn State will have faced this season. There is no way Penn State beats the Spartans with the unbalanced attack it employed against Illinois. Then, Penn State ran the ball 47 times and threw it just 16. Michigan State’s defense is much better at taking options away and if Penn State commits too heavily to one method of attack, the well-coached Spartans will have an easier time defending one particular aspect.
For Michigan State — Neutralize Penn State’s pass rush. Maybe Illinois laid the blueprint for cracking Penn State’s defense? Unable to get pressure on Fighting Illini quarterback Reilly O’Toole, Penn State’s defense gave up chunks of yardage late for the first time in a while. The Spartans’ Connor Cook is a much more dangerous passer and will do damage to any secondary if allowed to get comfortable.
MICHIGAN STATE PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeremy Langford is going for his 16th straight 100-yard rushing game against a Big Ten opponent. He does a little bit of everything and really excels when he gets on the edge. He’s a fun player to watch. His feet seem to never stop moving. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio compared him favorably to his predecessor — Le’Veon Bell.
PENN STATE PLAYER(S) TO WATCH: Geno Lewis and DaeSean Hamilton have not made nearly the impacts they had in the early and middle portions of the season. They’ve struggled to get open and have both dropped passes. As a result, Penn State’s downfield passing game has been nonexistent. They’re going to have to step up, run crisp routes and give Christian Hackenberg some viable targets in this game.
KEY MATCHUP: Spartan defensive ends Marcus Rush and Shilique Calhoun play with an edge and have wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks. They’ve combined for 12 sacks and it will be up to Donovan Smith and Andrew Nelson to keep them away from quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Their technique will need to be flawless because Calhoun, at 6-foot-5, has enough of a reach to blow up the pocket and reach quarterbacks even if he can’t fully disengage from his blocker.