East Lansing — Michigan State understands its season is far from over even after suffering its first Big Ten loss last weekend at Northwestern and is quickly turning its attention to the toughest two-game stretch on the schedule.
With No. 7 Penn State visiting Spartan Stadium for a noon kickoff Saturday, followed by a trip next week to No. 3 Ohio State, there is big opportunity available for No. 24 Michigan State while there is also great challenge.
And coach Mark Dantonio believes the Spartans (6-2, 4-1 Big Ten) will have the proper approach.
“Got the right kind of mindset as we head into this game,” Dantonio said at his weekly news conference Tuesday. “Difficult challenge coming up. Penn State has an excellent football team, as we all know. Quarterback is outstanding. He buys time in the pocket. He’s a very active runner, as well. (Trace) McSorley, I think he’s the epitome of an RPO-type quarterback, gives you run-pass options, can move in the pocket to throw downfield deep.
“Outstanding tight end, pass-catching tight end (Mike Gesicki), good skill on the outside. (Saquon) Barkley, at the running back position, obviously, he’s their leading rusher and their leading receiver. He’s a feature guy. Has two touchdowns on kickoff returns. Outstanding player in all respects. One of our nation’s finest.”
Barkley is averaging 100.1 yards a game on the ground and leads the Nittany Lions in receiving with 36 catches for 471 yards. McSorley has thrown for 16 touchdowns and is second in the Big Ten in total offense while Gesicki is one of McSorley’s most reliable targets.
The Nittany Lions (7-1, 4-1) are also solid on defense, ranking 19th in the nation in total defense and seventh in scoring defense, allowing only 13.3 points a game.
And there’s the fact they’ll be in a foul mood after losing a late lead against Ohio State last week to sit tied for second in the Big Ten East with the Spartans.
“Got our work cut out for us,” Dantonio said. “(But) to be in this position at this point in time is exciting for the program. Our guys will be ready to play.”