Pick – Analysis
And just like that, Michigan State is the favorite to win the Big Ten. The Spartans defied many predictions and beat Ohio State last week and now just need one more win to reach the Conference title Game. However, with Connor Cook still a Game-time decision, the line wasn’t released until late in the week.
MSU will host a Penn State team still looking for a relevant win this season. The Nittany Lions are 7-4, but haven’t beaten any team of significance. They have Four Conference wins, but all of them came at home and Illinois has the best record of those teams, at 2-5 in Big Ten play. Penn’s defense is good, but not elite enough with an offense that is scoring just 24 points per Game.
As for Michigan State, a loss to Nebraska a few weeks ago isn’t looking so bad now if they can pull this one out. If the Spartans can beat PSU and then Iowa in the Conference title Game, a possible Top 4 spot will be waiting for them in the Playoff. They still have some ways to go, as starting QB Connor Cook may not play in his second straight Game.
Cook had been everything to this team in the first couple months of the year, but somehow, someway, the Spartans pulled out a win at Columbus last weekend with backups Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry. They didn’t finish with great numbers, but got the job done. O’Connor completed 7-of-12 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, while Terry was eventually weeded out of playing time, the more success O’Connor had. But Michigan State won that Game against the Buckeyes by dominating the trenches.
Gerald Holmes and LJ SCott combined for 123 yards on the ground and continually moved the chains, while Ohio State’s offense couldn’t get anything going. If the Spartans defense plays the same way against Penn State this weekend, it would be a surprise if the Lions surpassed 10 points. Then again, MSU has struggled against the pass all season long and Christian Hackenberg will likely be forced to throw the ball a ton.
The Nittany Lions have run the ball well for most of the season behind Saquon Barkley, who has 904 yards and 7 TDs, but this could be a repeat from last week. Barkley ran for 68 yards against Michigan as Penn State was behind for most of the Game. MSU’s defensive line should cause all kinds of problems in this Game, whether it’s in the rushing Game or getting to Hackenberg in the passing Game.
The one thing Penn State will need to do is stop the Spartans from running the ball. If they can stop them more than Ohio State did last week, there will be a small chance for an upset. But if Cook plays, that may not end up being a possibility.
The road team has won the last three Games in this meeting with the Spartans dominating this Game 34-10 last year, due to a dominant defensive outing. The same could happen again, although MSU may not be able to Scoreas much. The favorite has covered in Four straight meetings between these schools, while the Nittany Lions haven’t covered in Four straight road Games against a team with a winning home record.
Our Pick – Michigan State is the better team here, however, we have them on top by just TD and that’s WITH a healthy Connor Cook. Penn State +11