Penn State vs. Michigan State Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds
Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan State Spartans
Spread: Michigan State -1
Game time: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Where to Watch: ABC
Penn State vs. Michigan State Prediction
The Michigan State Spartans were in control of their own destiny of a Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff berth entering last week’s game against Ohio State. However, the Buckeyes quickly turned that game into a rout and exposed many of Michigan State’s weaknesses that they did well to overcome to that point. So can the Spartans bounce back and end the regular season on a high note, or will Penn State win for the third consecutive time in this series?
Penn State has alternated wins and losses the last four weeks. In their two wins, they dominated inferior Maryland and Rutgers teams by a combined 59-14. Their two losses were to ranked Ohio State and Michigan teams, losing those games by a combined 13 points. Thus, it would appear the Nittany Lions are a better team than their 7-4 record indicates, despite three losses in their last five games. Penn State ranks fourth in the country in scoring defense, allowing 15.5 PPG, but ranks in the bottom half of the conference offensively in scoring (26.0 PPG) and rushing yards per game (110.5).
This year, Michigan State is a perfect 5-0 at home, outscoring their opponents 190-119 in those contests. The Spartans have scored at least 37 points in all but one of their home games, in large part because of the outstanding season running back Kenneth Walker III is enjoying. Walker III ranks second in the country with 1,498 rushing yards, and his 17 rushing touchdowns are tied for fourth-most. Michigan State ranks third in the Big Ten in scoring (32.1 PPG) but ranks 11th in the conference in scoring defense at 25.5 PPG.
Kenneth Walker III entered last week against Ohio State averaging 147 rushing yards per game, 6.5 yards per carry, and had 40 10-yard rushes. The yards per game and 10-yard rushes ranked in the top two in FBS. Walker also entered the game with 80 forced missed tackles (t-most in FBS) and the most yards after contact in the country. However, Ohio State’s best defense against Walker was to jump out to a huge early lead, as the Spartans fell behind 35-0 with ten minutes left in the second quarter. As a result, Michigan State was forced to abandon the running game, as Walker III finished with just six carries for 25 yards. It was the first time he had less than 22 rushes in the previous seven games.
The good news for Spartans fans is that Walker III will be fresh entering this game against Penn State. In addition, the Nittany Lions do not have the explosive passing game that Ohio State possesses, and therefore will not expose a Michigan State secondary that ranks last in the conference allowing almost 340 yards passing per game.
With Michigan State staying in striking distance in this one, they will give the Nittany Lions defense a steady dose of Walker III. And with the attention paid to Walker, Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne will air it out successfully. Thorne entered last week with a 63% completion percentage, and his 21 passing touchdowns were second in the Big Ten. In addition, his 76 Total QBR ranked fourth in the conference. The Spartans are averaging their best yards per completion that they have had in years, which is a testament to the big-play abilities of wide receivers like Jayden Reed.
While on paper it appears Penn State has a significant edge defensively, the Spartans entered last week ranked second in the conference with 32 sacks. Defensive end Jacub Panasiuk’s 48 pressures ranked first in Big Ten, and he should be able to live in the backfield against an immobile Sean Clifford.
The favorite is 8-2 ATS in the last ten meetings between these teams, and Michigan State is 3-0-2 ATS in their previous five home games. While a Big Ten championship and CFP appearance are out the window, Spartans head coach Mel Tucker will have his guys plenty motivated to end a two-game losing streak against the Nittany Lions.
Penn State vs. Michigan State Pick
- PICK: Michigan State -1 (-110)