Michigan State vs. Penn State Betting Odds, Predictions: Our Top Spread Pick for Big Ten Battle (Saturday, November 27)
G Fiume/Getty Images. Pictured: Jahan Dotson.
Michigan State vs. Penn State Odds
|Penn State Odds|
+100o / -120u
|Michigan State Odds|
+100o / -120u
The last week of the regular season is here, and we’ll be treated to something special in the Big Ten East.
The Michigan State Spartans host the Penn State Nittany Lions this week, and although it doesn’t have Big Ten Championship implications, it should be plenty entertaining for fans and bettors alike.
The Spartans look to pick themselves up off the mat after a 56-7 drubbing at the hands of Ohio State last weekend.
It’s been an up-and-down season for the James Franklin’s Nittany Lions, who at one point sat at No. 4 in the country but now are 7-4. The good news for Penn State fans is that Franklin will not be leaving for USC or LSU after signing a 10-year extension this week.
For Michigan State, everything was going so well — Mel Tucker had signed a 10-year extension, and it beat Michigan in East Lansing.
Last week’s defeat in Columbus has put quite a damper on what has been an unexpectedly solid season for Michigan State.
I’m not sure if MSU will regroup and get up for this division game on Saturday.
The biggest problem in Michigan State’s 56-7 loss to Ohio State was it first went down three touchdowns in the blink of an eye, which meant it had to abandon the run game. As a result, Kenneth Walker III — a Heisman candidate entering the game — recorded only six carries.
Putting the game in Payton Thorne’s hands is not the recipe for victory for the Spartans. Thorne played terribly against Ohio State, averaging 4.4 yards per attempt and putting up a 56.3 PFF passing grade.
The biggest thing about Thorne and the Michigan State offense, as a whole, is it needs explosive plays to be successful.
Thorne’s passing grade on throws over 20+ yards is 92.0, but it drops below 73 on anything under 20+ yards.
Now, he’ll be facing a Penn State secondary that is sixth in the country in explosive passing allowed, so it’s not a good matchup for the Spartans passing attack.
#Huskers@HussleInSilence Picks off Payton Thorne for the INT! RADIO – HUSKER SPORTS #Spartanspic.twitter.com/QF0fDzwJYY
— @DaltonEastNE (@DaltonEastNE) September 26, 2021
Walker has had a good season up until last weekend in Columbus. He’s averaging 6.4 yards per attempt, and the Michigan State attack is 37th in Rushing Success Rate.
However, I question the success of the Spartans’ rushing attack if they’re not able to break off big runs against a Penn State front seven that doesn’t allow explosive rushing plays.
Michigan State’s defensive numbers have been solid against bad opponents, but against Michigan, Ohio State, and Purdue, it allowed over seven yards a play.
Additionally, opponents run an average of 86.2 plays per game against the Spartans, which is the highest average in the country.
Pretty much all of Michigan State’s problems have come in its secondary. The Spartans are allowing 7.4 yards per attempt, rank 105th in Passing Success Rate Allowed, and 82nd in terms of a coverage grade.
Even though Penn State hasn’t been that efficient on offense, its passing attack should be able to move the ball against Michigan State’s secondary.
Nittany Lions Offense
The Penn State offense is very one-dimensional and hasn’t been very efficient, ranking 95th in Success Rate and 103rd in EPA per play.
Penn State has run the ball well at all, gaining 3.3 yards per carry. The Nittany Lions also are 124th in EPA/Rush, 124th in Rushing Success Rate and 118th in Offensive Line Yards. So, offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich has somewhat abandoned the run game, considering Penn State is throwing the ball 52.1% of the time.
Michigan State’s strength is on its front seven, so I’d imagine we will see 40-plus attempts from quarterback Sean Clifford.
Clifford has had a very interesting season and has battled a ton of injuries. He’s averaging only 7.1 yards per attempt and has a 68.2 passing grade with 14 big-time throws and 10 turnover-worthy plays.
Clifford was hurt in the last game against Rutgers, and freshman Christian Veilleux ended up throwing for 245 yards and three touchdowns. We may see both of them at points on Saturday.
The good news is that Michigan State’s secondary is one of the worst in the Big Ten, so the quarterbacks and with star wideout Jahan Dotson should be able to shred the Spartans.
Jahan Dotson 👁 pic.twitter.com/VY4vmy1Dpx
— Pierre (@PierreB3_) November 24, 2021
Additionally, Penn State has the eighth-best pass-blocking grade, per PFF. It will be able to handle Michigan State’s pass rush, which has the 24th-best grade in the country.
Nittany Lions Defense
The Nittany Lions defense is the reason they are 7-4 on the season. Penn State ranks 35th in Success Rate Allowed and 12th in EPA per play allowed while giving up just 4.4 yards per play.
Stopping Michigan State’s Walker is a difficult task, but much like Ohio State, Penn State is well equipped to do it.
The Nittany Lions allow only 3.5 yards per carry, rank 35th in EPA per rush allowed, and sit sixth in explosive rushing allowed, which is huge against a Michigan State rushing attack that sits 15th in rushing explosiveness.
The strength though of the Penn State defense is in its secondary. The Nittany Lions are allowing only 5.6 yards per attempt, rank 21st in Passing Success Rate Allowed and are graded as the sixth-best coverage unit, per PFF.
Thorne will be a great matchup for the Penn State secondary.
Michigan State vs. Penn State Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Penn State and Michigan State match up statistically:
Penn State Offense vs. Michigan State Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Michigan State Offense vs. Penn State Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||27||103|
|Plays per Minute||15||36|
|Rush Rate||47.9% (111)||55.3% (63)|
Michigan State vs. Penn State Betting Pick
Penn State has great advantages on defense in this matchup in the secondary and defending explosive plays, which is what the Michigan State offense is pretty much built on.
Additionally, given how bad Michigan State is at allowing successful plays in the passing game and Clifford’s efficiency in the short passing game, Penn State should be able to move the ball with ease through the air.
I have Penn State projected as a -5.6 favorite, so I love the Nittany Lions at -2.
Pick: Penn State -2
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