Three Nittany Lions to Watch: Michigan State

By Barry Leonard on October 24, 2019 at 8:30 am
Oct 19, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Beaver Stadium.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Who are the Nittany Lions to watch at Michigan State?

After taking care of business against Michigan in the White Out last Saturday night, Penn State is exactly where it wants to be -- sitting at 7-0 with over half the regular season complete. The Nittany Lions have to keep up their momentum when they hit the road this week to face a Michigan State team that has effectively sabotaged Penn State's last two seasons. 

Even when the Spartans are struggling -- like they are in 2019 -- they have given Penn State trouble. The Nittany Lions blew a late lead at home to Michigan State last year and of course, suffered through a grueling experience two years ago in East Lansing thanks to a weather delay that lasted more than three hours. 

Heading into this game, Penn State has seen some great performances from several players. Unfortunately, there have also been some inconsistencies that need to be cleaned up. 

If the Nittany Lions want to get out of East Lansing  with a win, the following players will need to make a big impact. 

CB Tariq Castro-Fields

Castro-Fields had his best game of the year last week with eight total tackles. That was preceded by a six-tackle performance at Iowa. 

The cornerback took a while to get going this season, but he has now rounded into form and is fifth on the team with 31 total tackles. Castro-Fields has shown the ability to play strong on the outside and has done a great job sticking with his assignments. 

Expect Castro-Fields to be busy this week against Michigan State and quarterback Brian Lewerke. The Spartans will likely find themselves behind in the game and needing to pass, and Lewerke has had great success against the Nittany Lions the last two years. 

QB Sean Clifford 

Penn State's signal-caller just keeps doing his thing. If he wasn't a name known nationally before the season began, he's certainly working up to that now. Clifford has yet to lose as a starter in college and has continued to make big plays with his arm and his legs. 

Clifford accounted for all four Penn State touchdowns in the win over Michigan last week,  throwing for three and running for one. He passed for 182 yards and is up to 1,742 yards and 16 touchdowns for the season. More importantly, he's only thrown two interceptions on the year. 

The clear leader of Penn State's offense, Clifford isn't afraid to shy away from the big play. Look for him to make plenty of them this week in East Lansing. 

WR KJ Hamler 

Of course Hamler is on the list this week after his big game against Michigan. The redshirt sophomore caught six passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. That effort earned him  Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors. 

Hamler has 32 receptions for 563 yards and leads the Big Ten with seven touchdowns. He's a dynamic playmaker who needs to be watched on every play. He enters this week's game with a streak of four games with at least one touchdown. 

Quarterback Sean Clifford has a special connection with Hamler, and the two have quickly become one of the most dangerous duos in the country. Clifford and Hamler have been rolling, and that needs to continue this week.