By: Aidan Champion
No. 12 Michigan State will have one last opportunity of its regular season to end on a high note. The Spartans will host a solid Penn State team at Spartan Stadium on Saturday in the battle for the Land Grant Trophy.
Here’s why MSU will be victorious in the matchup:
While the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in scoring defense, James Franklin’s crew still gives up 131.4 yards per game on the ground.
It’s not a secret that MSU’s No. 1 option on offense, Kenneth Walker III, is battling a foot injury, having received just six touches in the Spartans’ blowout loss to Ohio State. It remains to be seen whether MSU coach Mel Tucker will play it safe with Walker’s availability on Saturday, but he’s stressed recently that every player needs to give everything they have if they’re healthy enough to take the field.
Considering the magnitude of this contest, — a 10-win season and a potential trip to a New Year’s Six bowl both on the line — Tucker should use every weapon available in the Spartans’ last Big Ten showdown of the season.
Walker’s chances of bringing the Heisman Trophy to East Lansing are all but out the window at this point, but the Spartan faithful deserve one last dominant showing from the transfer in what will very likely be his last game in Spartan Stadium.
Should Walker’s reps be limited once again, though, running backs Elijah Collins and Jordon Simmons are still reliable threats in MSU’s backfield. But if any production is to happen on the ground on Saturday, it will have to start with the group up front.
Penn State’s resume against ranked opponents
Penn State has a losing record of 2-3 against ranked opponents this season. For a little while, the Nittany Lions were in strong contention for the Big Ten East, having defeated two top-25 teams in Wisconsin and Auburn in a matter of two weeks. Ever since their loss to Iowa, though, everything’s gone down hill. Penn State went on to lose three of their next five matchups, including a loss to Illinois.
The Nittany Lions’ record as of late has made it clear that this team has lost its ability to execute in big games. Even on its own turf in a hostile University Park environment, Penn State still couldn’t get the job done against Michigan.
This factor, along with the home-field advantage that the Spartans will have on Saturday, should play in MSU’s favor ahead of the Big Ten matchup.
MSU wants to go out strong
The entire country watched the Spartans get humiliated by Ohio State on Saturday, and you can be certain that’s not how MSU wants its season to be remembered.
The Spartans have a chance to prove they still belong as one of the top-tier teams in the conference. They’ve exceeded all expectations this season, and it’s safe to assume they’ll do everything in their power to earn that 10th win.
Kickoff between MSU and Penn State is set for 3:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Written by: Aidan Champion
Aidan is an MSU Journalism Student and Spartan Football writer for: impact89fm.org
Photo Courtesy of The Detroit Free Press