No. 11 Penn State vs. Michigan State: Game Preview

The Nittany Lions are looking to complete a 10-win regular season while sending out the seniors on a high note in their final game at Beaver Stadium.

(#11) Penn State (9-2, 6-2) vs. State of Michigan (5-6, 3-5)

Kickoff: 4 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The betting line: Penn State -19 (Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. look for details.)

television: FS1, 4 p.m. – Noah Eagle (play-by-play), Mark Helfrich (analyst) *no sideline reporter listed in game notes

Weather: A sunny and dry day with a temperature in the 50s will greet the fans, which should make up for all of you who watched during the Maryland (and Northwestern) games.


James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 76-36, 9th year

OVERALL RECORD: 100-51, 12th year


Mel Tucker:

MICHIGAN STATE RECORD: 18-13, 3rd year

OVERALL RECORD: 23-20, 4th year



Penn State will have a chance to even the all-time series on Saturday, with Michigan State holding a slim 18-17-1 lead.. James Franklin will look for his 101st career head coaching win after reaching century mark against Rutgers…Michigan State is coming off a loss at Indiana despite gaining 540 yards of offense…Penn State is 7-6 all-time in games played on Nov. 26, coming back to win by 2 -0 over Dickinson in 1891…Penn State defeated the Spartans 45-12 in 2016, winning the Big Ten East Division title during the last game played on Nov. 26…The Nittany Lions and Spartans also met at November 26, 1994, with Penn State coming out on top 59-31 en route to an undefeated season.


Peyton Thorne is back to lead the Spartans offense in his third year with the team. He is capable and makes impressive throws at times, but he also has a tendency to turn the ball over and miss easy throws. Thorne put up respectable numbers this year, but saw them fall without one of the nation’s best players behind him, a luxury he enjoyed in 2021 when defenses had to focus on stopping Kenneth Walker III . His completion percentage improved from 60.4 to 63.4 percent, but his touchdown:interception ratio dropped from 27:10 to 18:10. Thorne is coming off his second-most productive day of the season, throwing for 298 yards against Indiana. He can definitely do some things to hurt you, but the more he has to throw to Penn State’s second center and avoid the pass rush, the better for the Nittany Lions.

Jaden Reed and Keon Coleman are the primary targets, combining for 99 receptions on the season. Coleman exploded in his sophomore season, leading the team with 50 catches, 70 yards and seven touchdown receptions. At 6-4, 210 lb., he has the size and skill set to become one of the Big Ten’s standouts next season. Reid does a good job of stretching the field and already has a 1,000-yard season behind him.

Jalen Berger inherited the running back role from Walker and is averaging 60.8 yards per game on the ground. He is coming off his most productive stretch of the season with 331 yards from scrimmage over the last three games. That includes a 119-yard rush against Indiana on Saturday, where the Hoosiers came up just short in double overtime.

Over the past month, Penn State’s defense has been playing behind the line of scrimmage at an unprecedented rate. Expect them to push for more to eliminate the Spartans’ small ball-handling threat with Berger and force Thorne to drop back and deal with the pass rush and stellar play of the secondary, even without top cornerback Joey Porter Jr. in the last two weeks.


The Spartans were able to overcome some glaring defensive deficiencies last season to cruise to 11 wins. This year, these shortcomings are evident. Michigan State’s defense is allowing 417 yards per game this season, with a run defense that ranks 100th in the nation. There is also the fact that they have been without several of their best defensive players since the brawl in The Big House tunnel, with seven now facing charges.

Despite the results and suspensions, Michigan State has some talented pieces, many of whom have held together despite personnel changes. Linebacker Cal Halladay has been everywhere, already racking up 109 tackles. He has a team-leading 10.5 TFL. Cornerback Kendall Brooks isn’t far behind with 93 tackles and forcing three fumbles. Defensive tackle Simeon Barrow can cause disruption in the backfield and leads active Spartans with three sacks.

Penn State will be without top wide receiver Parker Washington for the rest of the year after he missed the Rutgers game. Sean Clifford looked more often to Mitchell Tinsley and Brenton Strange in Washington’s absence, as well as Harrison Wallace, who hopes to break out as a deep threat in 2023.

The Nittany Lions’ offensive line continues to be in a state of flux after several injuries. However, several young players showed promise and performed better than could have been hoped for at the end of the season.


There’s no good way to put this — Michigan State’s kicking situation is terrible. You may have witnessed this for yourself if you caught the end of last week’s double overtime loss to the Hoosiers. The Spartans essentially ended the game at the end of regulation, but what was essentially an extra point from the left hash went wide. They had another chip shot opportunity in the first overtime, but that attempt was blocked.

The Spartans have used two kickers this season who have combined for five of 11 attempts, including several short-range misses. You can expect some fourth-down gambling on Saturday when Michigan State takes on Penn State.

However, the Spartans have a thorn in the face of Bryce Barringer. The senior is averaging a whopping 48.4 yards per punt, which is identical to his average from a year ago. He has no problem turning the field over 70 yards, doing so regularly with a career long of 78 yards. He has pinned opponents inside the 20 on 21 occasions, compared to just three touchbacks.


Penn State-41, Michigan State-10

There is no doubt that this Nittany Lions team remains focused and motivated as the regular season winds down. We see the effects of a hard working team with the right attitude as each week the players improve from the previous week while allowing nothing but the best of their potential.

This team will be ready to unleash their potential and improve once again, this time in front of a home crowd with the added motivation of sending the seniors off on a high note. There will be some exciting games from the likes of Shaun Clifford and PJ Mustifer to mark the occasion, with some big moments from breakout stars like Abdul Carter and Nicholas Singleton well ahead of their final game at Beaver Stadium.

Michigan State will contend for a bowl game. It won’t be enough against this Penn State team. The good guys roll.

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