The Penn State Nittany Lions will look to put the cap on an impressive season with a likely victory over the struggling Michigan State Spartans in its regular season finale. Sitting at No. 7 in the AP rankings, the Nittany Lions are likely out of contention for a BCS playoff berth, but it needs to win this game to secure a big Bowl game.
College football oddsmakers have set the line 11-points in favor of Penn State at oddsmaker 5dimes, and the betting total is ’54’ points for the game which will air at 2:30 (CST) on ESPN.
Penn State has won seven straight, with its last loss having come in week 4 to then-No. 4 Michigan. Its other loss this season came to Pittsburgh, but all things said this is a program that has continued to succeed despite the heavy sanctioned levied against it several seasons ago. Last week the Nittany Lions shut out lowly Rutgers and in the week prior they knocked off Indiana 45-31.
The team has been balanced and good. Its pass attack ranks No. 57 while its rush game is ranked No. 51, resulting in an offense that scores 35.3 points per game. It is more than enough with a good defense holding opponents to 23.7 points per contest (tied-No. 39 in the nation) and though Penn State is a tier below the nationally contending teams, it has been a good season for PSU fans and should close on a great note with a victory over Michigan State.
The Spartans, however, are coming off perhaps their best game of the season. Last week MSU lost by just one-point to Ohio State as it tried to get slick and go for a two-point conversion late rather than tie the game up with a PAT. Make no mistake, though, it was a rare bright spot in a season that has seen the Spartans go just 1-7 in Big Ten play.
Tyler O’Conner has been disappointing. He has 1,852 yards on the season but just a 59 percent completion ratio and nine INTs to 16 TDs. The rush attack has been moderately successful, with LJ Scott closing in on a 1,000 yard season, but MSU has just 14 rushing TDs this season and Scott has six of them.
Wide receiver RJ Shelton has had a big year with 715 yards on 48 catches, and he has five of the team’s 19 receiving TDs. Kicker Michael Geiger has not been accurate with longer kicks, going just 5 of 8 beyond the 40-yard line. He does have a long-make of 52-yards and has not missed an extra point this season, though.
Michigan State began the season ranked No. 12 in AP polls and even ascended into the top-10 early, but it is nothing close to that now. The program is going to have to consider looking at some QBs perhaps, but to pin it all on O’Connor is hardly fair either.
The season has just been a disaster for the Spartans, and an improbable victory over Penn State would only start to erase the pain of a 2-7 Conference record, which is the best it can hope for with a victory. It is one pitfall in an otherwise great Big Ten program, but MSU fans will not fondly remember this season regardless of the outcome of Saturday afternoon’s game.
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