Big Ten Odds and Predictions: Penn State Nittany Lions at (5) Michigan State Spartans

Christian Hackenberg has been good at getting the team in the red zone, and getting points, but almost half of the time those points are coming in the form of field goals.
Christian Hackenberg has been good at getting the team in the red zone, and getting points, but almost half of the time those points are coming in the form of field goals.

Penn St- (5) Michigan State
Time: 3:30 PM ET
Spread: MSU -10.5
Total: 44

Odds c/o Pincle

Michigan State is in control of its own destiny. Although it lost to a mediocre Nebraska Cornhuskers squad, Mark Dantonio and the Spartans have every chance to take a Big Ten title this season, while with the proper luck it has an outside chance (very outside) at cracking into the four-team BCS playoffs.

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The Spartans have not had an 11-win season in the last six years, but this has been a big step forward for the program that has catapulted the powerhouse that is Ohio State. Dantonio realizes that the Spartans need a dominant performance to make the playoffs, but beating Penn State should prove to be an easy task. Slaughtering them, however, may not be.

NCAA football oddsmakers have set the line 10.5 points in favor of the Spartans, but Penn State is a good 7-4 club and their 4-3 Big Ten record also attests to how well the Nittany Lions have held up in a very formidable conference.

The Spartans clinch the East division with a victory in this game, and it would be a showdown between the undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes that would await them in the conference title game on Dec. 5 if it does so.

Michigan State knocked off a No. 12 Michigan team on October 17th and the following week it suffered the blow to the Cornhuskers, losing 39-38 on a controversial call. It took down Ohio State last week on a 41-yard field goal that few seemed to doubt would miss.

Moreover, it won the game without QB Connor Cook, which makes it all the more impressive. Cook may not start in this game, but he likely will play. He is nursing a shoulder injury sustained against Maryland and he was unable to go last week against the Buckeyes.

If he is unable to start, look to Tyler O’Connor to try to carry the momentum he had from last week when he split time with Damion Terry. O’Connor had 89 yards on 7 of 12 passing, with one TD thrown to FB Trevon Pendleton. Terry was used on the play as an option.

Dantonio knows the tough task his OL will be facing in keeping PSU away from its QB—whomever takes the snaps. The Nittany Lions are tied for the national lead in sacks with 44 and are a heavy blitzing squad capable of forcing turnovers and setting teams back far from the line of scrimmage. Michigan State won the meeting last year 34-10, and though it is favored by “just” 10.5 points, it will need a much bigger win if it wants to move up in the rankings. Perhaps that goes without even saying, however.

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Dantonio said “the best thing we can do right now is to focus on Penn State.” He knows that Michigan State controls its own fate at this point, and it cannot be looking too far ahead to the potential matchup between Ohio State, Michigan or Iowa.

PSU has lost two straight, but the Nittany Lions are aware of just how good the Spartans are. HC James Franklin said his guys are “fired up” and that a great opportunity awaits his club, and the seniors on the team are looking to enter the postseason on a positive note.

PSU QB Christian Hackenberg has been something of a disappointment this season but he has been money in the red zone, converting 35 of 38 trips into points. However, 15 of those 35 scores have been just field goals, so he is half of the time just getting the team into scoring position and failing to capitalize.

The Spartans have won three straight against the Nittany Lions and it is the first time since 1966 when MSU knocked off Penn State five straight times. While the victor of this game may not be an entirely forgone conclusion, Michigan State seems primed to build on its performance this season while Penn State is mostly just looking to improve its Bowl Game prospects.

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