One of these teams is coming off back-to-back wins against ranked teams and the other is coming off back-to-back losses by a combined 72-10 score line. It’s not hard to predict which team is favored, but Penn State was a somewhat small -6 point favorite with an over/under of 44.5 for the trip to East Lansing.
This spread is low because Penn State isn’t blowing everyone out with three of its wins coming by seven points or less. In its last road game, it barely beat Iowa in a defensive 17-12 slug fest. This one could be similar because that’s the only thing Michigan State can do.
That said, the MSU defense has kind of lost its heart and has allowed at least 31 points in each of the last three games. The talent is there, but if the Nittany Lions get a couple early touchdowns, the confidence this team once had could result in another blowout.
The Nittany Lions don’t have the most dynamic offense. They’ve had moments and were up 21-0 against Michigan, but that was about all they could do in a 28-21 win.
Quarterback Sean Clifford is having a great first season as starter, averaging 9.5 yards per attempt for 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He hasn’t looked good against better defenses and that could show up again in this spot, especially if the ground game doesn’t work.
They average 4.6 yards per carry as a team, but no one from their stable of running backs could get anything going last week. If that happens again, it’ll be up to Clifford to run the show and that’s harder to bet, especially on the road.
MSU last held Wisconsin’s running game in check, but couldn’t stop the pass. After a week off, there’s a chance the Spartans rebound, but there are still questions on the offensive side.
It doesn’t help that the Nittany Lions aren’t allowing anything, giving up 282 yards and 10 points per game. To cover, MSU will need to score at least a couple times and that’s not a given after getting shut out at Wisconsin.
Brian Lewerke hasn’t had a terrible season with 11 touchdowns and three picks, but he’s been bad against good defenses and that’s what PSU brings to the table. If he struggles, the offense struggles because the ground game hasn’t been good enough to score by itself.
Running back Elijah Collins has decent numbers, rushing for five yards per carry, but he hasn’t rushed for more than 76 yards in the last five games and with an inconsistent passing game, that’s not enough.
This game is home and coming off a bye for the Spartans, but the program is under a lot of pressure to succeed and they haven’t lived up to the preseason hype. With a loss here, they’ll be .500 with a losing record in Big Ten play. As for the Nittany Lions, they need a win to stay even with Ohio State.
The under is 6-1 in Penn State’s last seven conference games. The Nittany Lions have covered their last five following an ATS loss, while the Spartans have failed to cover in their last four against a team with a winning record.
MSU is 5-1 ATS in the last six meetings between these schools, including winning the last two as an underdog. Revenge will surely be on Penn State’s mind for this one.
Our Pick – Penn State -5