Know Thy Enemy is a Q&A where the perspective changes from the eyes of The State News to the eyes of the student newspaper of Michigan State's opponent. This week, The State News' football beat writer Nick Lundberg spoke with football editor Seth Engle of the Daily Collegian ahead of Friday’s Penn State-Michigan State game.
The Michigan State football team will host the No. 11 Penn State Nittany Lions at Ford Field in Detroit for their final game of the 2023 season. MSU comes into the Black Friday matchup with a 2-1 record in their last three games after earning a last second win against the Indiana Hoosiers last Saturday. Kick-off is set for 7:35 p.m. on NBC.
Q: Have you seen any changes in the offense ever since the offensive coordinator was fired after the Michigan game?
A: “It's relatively the same playbook because I don't think you could really just create a whole new set in a six day span and I think the fact that they already had a week with the interims last week probably helps,” Engle said. “We talked to Franklin yesterday and he was pretty happy with the job that they did. It's not like they're interim coordinators, they were involved in the play calling already. Not too much has changed. It's really just the man on top.”
Q: Has there been any let down ever since winning the Big Ten East has been out of the picture?
A: “It was pretty emotional, the postgame after Michigan,” Engle said. “After you win the Rose Bowl last year, that sets a standard. It's like, okay, I went to the Rose Bowl last year. Now it's time to make the playoff and get over the hump. And with that second loss that kind of went out the window. I don't think anyone will tell you it's a letdown, but I remember their tight end Theo Johnson in tears, like sobbing, saying that he let people down. It was a tough loss. And I think for these guys who have been with the program for a while this was kind of the year where it seemed like things were gonna get together and it just didn't really turn out that way.”
Q: Do you think neutral field brings a bigger advantage to PSU than playing in East Lansing?
A: “I'm not expecting there to be too many people at this game,” Engle said. “And I remember I went a couple years ago to Michigan State for the Penn State game. And since it was still the tail end of Thanksgiving break, I don't recall there were too many people in town for that either. So I don't think it makes that much of a difference. Whether it's in East Lansing or State College or Ford Field, I just don't think it makes that much of a difference, especially for a Penn State team that's pretty used to playing in front of 110,000 people. I don't think crowds should really make an impact in this game.”
Q: Defense has been Penn State’s calling card this year, who are some guys that have stood out on that side of the ball?
A: “Manny Diaz is one of the best defensive coordinators and assistants in the country,” Engle said. “When it comes to specific players like you know, their defensive ends have been phenomenal this year. I think the whole defensive line has been really great under first year defensive line coach Deion Barnes, but Chop Robinson's a guy who should go in the first round of the draft. And then opposite him is Adisa Isaac, who's another guy who's taken a huge stride the past two years and he's really just the leader of that defensive line room. The secondary is also pretty loaded. Kalen King, the cornerback, should hear his name called on either round one or two in the draft. Not as impressive as he was last year, but he's still probably one of the best corners, at least in the Big 10. And then Johnny Dixon is a corner to who's more of a pass rushing threat. I believe he now has four sacks on the year as a cornerback. I think he leads all defensive backs in sacks this year. So you know, he's kind of a wild card pick but the whole defense is pretty loaded from top to bottom.”
Q: Score prediction?
A: “I don’t think it’s gonna be close,” Engle said. “I think Penn State will win pretty handily.”
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