Game Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions vs No. 12 Michigan State Spartans

By Joel Neuschwander on November 26, 2021 at 9:58 am
Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III runs past Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Jerron Cage during the first quarter at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 20, 2021.
Adam Cairns / USA TODAY NETWORK
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The Land-Grant Trophy is on the line as Penn State looks to end the 2021 regular season on a high note against a reeling Michigan State team.

  Penn State Nittany Lions Michigan State spartans
2021 Record 7-4 9-2
Head Coaches James Franklin (91-47, 67-32 with Penn State) Mel Tucker (16-14, 11-7 with Michigan State)
Kickoff 3:30 PM EDT
Television ABC
Stream WatchESPN
spread Penn State -2

what to watch for

BAG SECURED

Penn State made sure James Franklin sticks around for the foreseeable future with a new 10-year deal Tuesday, just a day before Michigan State's Mel Tucker finalized a monster 10-year extension of his own.

Both schools locked down their leaders for the long haul, and both would love nothing more than to begin new eras on the right foot.

BANGED UP SPARTANS

Coming off a 56-7 shellacking at the hands of Ohio State, Michigan State is hurting in more ways than one, as several contributors' statuses are in doubt for Saturday.

A pair of receivers are dealing with problems: Jalen Nailor hasn't suited up since Oct. 30 with a hand injury, and Jayden Reed left last week's game and was seen with a boot on his foot. The Spartans have also dealt with absences at left tackle and in the secondary.

MICHIGAN STATE'S PASS DEFENSE

A fully-healthy Sean Clifford should give the Nittany Lions a major edge against a defense allowing more yards through the air per game than anyone in the country. In fact, the Spartans' 340 passing yards given up per contest is more than 30 yards higher than any other team.

The unit was picked apart by the Buckeyes' CJ Stroud for 432 yards and six touchdowns  — two each for Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Jahan Dotson could be in line for a day similar to the one he had three weeks ago against Maryland, and the rest of the Nittany Lions' receiving corps should be licking their chops as well.

SLOWING DOWN WALKER

Kenneth Walker III's performance in Michigan State's comeback victory over Michigan vaulted him to the forefront of the Heisman conversation. While a couple of Spartan losses and a nightmare game against the Buckeyes have knocked him down a few pegs in the race, Walker is still enjoying a season for the ages. Despite some injury issues the past couple of weeks, the junior is eyeing a bounce-back day after his lowest yardage of the year.

prediction

Penn State is catching the Spartans at the right time, facing a beat-up team that may still be feeling the lingering effects of last week's loss. Back to full strength, the Nittany Lions will find a rhythm on offense, feasting on the Michigan State secondary, while question marks with the health of several key Spartans put their chances even further in doubt.

PENN STATE 31, MICHIGAN STATE 24
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