This is the 12th and final entry in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.
Week 12: At Penn State
Time and Date: TBA, Nov. 29
Venue: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pa.
Nittany Lions at a glance
Coach: James Franklin (First season)
Last season: 7-5 overall, 4-4 Big Ten (3rd, Leaders Division)
Returning starters: Nine (three offense, six defense)
Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 10-2 overall, 6-2 Big Ten (3rd, East Division); ranked No. 22 nationally
Lindy’s: 4th Big Ten East; ranked No. 38th
Sporting News: 4th Big Ten East
Why they’ll beat the Spartans
Other than a win to clinch the share of the Big Ten title in 2010, MSU has had miserable experiences in Happy Valley. The Spartans are 1-8 there since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993, with losses by 28, 23, 54, 24 and 31 points among the defeats — though this is a different era for both the Spartans and Nittany Lions.
Penn State may be hindered by scholarship limitations, but it has terrific players and strong position groups, notably sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg and a talented defensive line. That’s a good place to start for any team. Hackenberg was the Big Ten’s freshman of the year, passing for nearly 3,000 yards, 20 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Penn State’s top three running backs are back as well, bringing with them more than 2,000 yards rushing combined from last season.
Why they won’t
Depth and timing. MSU gets the Nittany Lions last. By now, with a roster short on scholarship players due to deep-cutting NCAA sanctions, Penn State will have endured almost an entire season.
Just as with Nebraska last season, it’s important MSU conquered its Happy Valley bugaboo in 2010. This staff and its older players — fifth-year seniors who were on that team — will know winning at Penn State has been done. They’ll be able to picture it.
The Nittany Lions also lost substantial high-end talent from last season, including star wideout Allen Robinson, twice the Big Ten’s receiver of the year, and longtime middle linebacker Glenn Carson.
It’s impossible to know the state of the minds, spirits and bodies of these two teams 11 games and more than three months from now. There’s a decent chance, however, MSU is playing this one for the right to play the following week in Indianapolis. For Penn State, it’ll once again be the final game of the season.
Senior day against Rutgers on Nov. 22 – Damon Dowdell’s revenge
A venture into the new Big Ten, at Maryland on Nov. 15
Prime-time showdown with Buckeyes on Nov. 8
Desperate Wolverines visit on Oct. 25
A dangerous visit to Indiana on Oct. 18
Spartans look to avoid letdown at Purdue on Oct. 11
No easing into Big Ten play, as Huskers visit Oct. 4
Impressive new coach adds intrigue to Wyoming’s Sept. 27 visit
New coach, same EMU Eagles visit on Sept. 20
A telling test at Oregon on Sept. 6
Rose Bowl encore begins with Friday night lights vs. Jacksonville State on Aug. 29