Michigan State vs. Penn State preview: Leave frowns in Happy Valley

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Penn State's Saquon Barkley leads the Big Ten in all-purpose yards, averaging 139.8 a game.

Matt Charboneau of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday's Michigan State-Penn State game at Beaver Stadium (3:30, ESPN/WJR).

Nittany Lions to watch

Saquon Barkley, RB: The sophomore leads the Big Ten in all-purpose yards at 139.8, 16th in the nation. He also leads the Big Ten with 16 total TDs and is second in the conference with 14 rushing TDs. In the last six games, Barkley has 825 yards and seven TDs, averaging 137.5 yards.

Trace McSorley, QB: The sophomore has thrown for 200 or more yards eight times, and ranks first in the Big Ten and second in the nation in yards per completion (15.57). McSorley has thrown for 300 or more yards three times this season.

Brandon Smith, LB: The former walk-on has been pressed into duty because of injuries and has turned into one of the most productive Nittany Lions. He’s defended five passes with three breakups and two INTs. He was named Big Ten player of the week after a career-high 14 tackles and one INT against Maryland.


Short memory: Penn State remembers what happened last season when Michigan State showed little mercy in a 55-16 blowout. Late in the game, OL Jack Allen scored a TD out of the backfield — something the Nittany Lions likely haven’t forgotten.

Having a say: Michigan State has no hopes of a bowl game, but will be happy to play spoiler. A Spartans win knocks the Nittany Lions out of the Big Ten East championship game.

Detroit News predictions: Michigan State vs. Penn State

Hardware: It might not be the most prestigious trophy, but Michigan State and Penn State have been playing for the Land-Grant Trophy since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993. MSU leads the overall series 15-14-1, but Penn State has a 13-7 edge since becoming a member of the Big Ten.

Home grown: Six Spartans — S Demetrious Cox and Montae Nicholson, RB Delton Williams, QB Damion Terry, OL/DL Brandon Clemons and OL Casey Schreiner — hail from Pennsylvania and would love to beat the home-state team.

Last time: While Michigan State hopes to build some momentum heading into next season, at least 28 seniors will be playing their final game and would like to go out with a win, especially after winning 36 games in the previous three seasons.

Facts and figures

■ This is the 31st meeting in the series, one in which Michigan State holds a 15-14-1 lead. A win for Michigan State would be the fourth straight in the series, something it hasn’t accomplished since winning five straight (1949, 1951, 1952, 1965, 1966).

■ Sophomore RB LJ Scott needs 65 yards to reach 1,000, which would make him the sixth sophomore in program history to run for that many yards.

■ Fifth-year senior LB Riley Bullough surpassed 200 career tackles last week, becoming the fourth member of the family to record 200 or more in a career (unlce Chuck, 391 from 1988-91; father Shane, 311, 1983-86; brother Max, 299, 2010-13).

■ Penn State sophomore RB Saquon Barkley set the program’s sophomore rushing TD record with 14.

■ Josiah Price needs two catches to become the third tight end in Michigan State history with 100 career receptions. The fifth-year senior has a program record 21 TD for a tight end and a career-high 32 grabs this season.