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Preview: MSU football gets chance to end season on a high note against No. 11 Penn State

November 22, 2023
MSU's offense pushes Thorne into the end zone, scoring MSU's fourth and final touchdown of the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Spartan Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
MSU's offense pushes Thorne into the end zone, scoring MSU's fourth and final touchdown of the game against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Spartan Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. —
Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

In the final game of the season for the Michigan State Football team, the Spartans will face off against No. 11 ranked Penn State at Ford Field in Detroit for a special Black Friday game.

Coming into the matchup with a 4-7 record, MSU has had many tales of their long season. The Spartans picked up a quality comeback win in their last contest against Indiana, winning 24-21. With the Nittany Lions coming to town however, it is going to be difficult to maintain momentum that Michigan State has generated over the past week or so. 

One of the most obvious trends of MSU’s season is their collapses against ranked opponents. Michigan State is 0-3 against teams ranked in the AP top 25, and they have been outscored 128-10 in those games. 

Penn State has proven over the course of their season that they are one of the best defensive teams in the country, allowing the second fewest yards per game in the entire nation with 238.7 on average. The Nittany Lions have only allowed 20 points or more in a game to a team just three times this season, and have generated 42 sacks and 11 interceptions as a unit over the course of the year. 

This type of production from PSU seems to formulate a similar recipe for disaster from Michigan State’s offense compared to what we have seen in past matchups versus destructive defenses.

Fortunately for MSU, redshirt freshman quarterback Katin Houser had arguably his best game as the starting quarterback against Indiana. Houser threw 245 yards and three touchdowns and earned himself Big Ten Freshman of the week honors. Houser did throw two interceptions in the win, but he looked a lot more poised and showed signs of improvement both in the air and on the ground. 

Since Houser took over under center in week seven, the offense has seemingly reduced in production. The performance against the Hoosiers gives a better sign of hope going into the matchup against one of the nation’s best defensive units. 

Penn State’s offense will also raise some questions. Following their loss to No. 3 ranked Michigan, the Nittany Lions fired offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich as the team scored fifteen points against the wolverines. 

Sophomore quarterback Drew Allar has been the starting quarterback for PSU all season, and has shown positive signs, but also some potential drawbacks. There has been visible inconsistency from Penn State’s offense all season, which could have also contributed to the firing of Yurcich. The offense has put up a season high 63 points in wins over Delaware and Umass this season. The concern has been production against elite defenses, and the Nittany Lions put up just 12 points against No. 3 Ohio State as well.

When Allar isn’t getting going as easily, PSU has their ground game to rely on rather safely. Sophomore running back Kaytron Allen and sophomore running back Nicholas Singleton have led the rushing attack splitting carries and have given the offense balance. Allen is the leading rusher for the Nittany Lions with 714 yards and six touchdowns, but Singleton is right behind with 584 yards and seven touchdowns on the year.

Michigan State’s defense has contained opposing running backs rather well, with the other team’s leading rusher going for over 100 yards in the game just twice this season. The drawback to that success has been the struggle to cover the ball through the air.

MSU has mostly lost the games they have due to their incapability to consistently shut down opposing quarterbacks through the air. Allar is still a young and somewhat inexperienced quarterback, but he has shown that he can dominate and put away games. Michigan State will have to come out with their best coverage in order to prevent another dominant game by the other team's quarterback. 

With not much to play for other than pride, the Spartans have one more chance to play spoiler and upset the Nittany Lions. 

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday and will be televised on NBC.

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