Happy Valley will be the last stop for the Spartans, and it may be the most important stop. Michigan State football will reignite their rivalry with Penn State to wrap up the 2014 season.
The last time the Nittany Lions and the Spartans faced off in 2010, Michigan State won, clinching their first Big Ten championship in nearly two decades.
Head coach Mark Dantonio will hope to clinch a Big Ten East Division championship with a win in State College, Pa. during rivalry week.
In his first year as Penn State head coach, James Franklin is looking to continue the upward momentum gained by Bill O’Brien in the years after being sanctioned by the NCAA. O’Brien accepted a job in the NFL for the Houston Texans, and Franklin was hired after two successful seasons as the head coach of Vanderbilt.
Last year the Nittany Lions finished 7-5, and their most notable offensive weapons are quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who threw for 20 touchdown in 2013, and running back Bill Belton who rushed for over 900 yards and seven touchdowns.
Overall, Penn State’s defense has struggled. In 2013, they averaged 29 points allowed per game.
What the Spartans Need
There is a possibility that everything will be on the line in this game. The Spartans may have a chance to be the first ever Big Ten East Division champs with a win in Happy Valley. A trip to Indianapolis for a Big Ten championship game would only be the tip of the iceberg. With the future of Ohio State up in the air, a game on the road against Penn State may ultimately be the most notable conference game of the year for the Spartans.
A win on the road to cap off a zero or one-loss regular season, along with a Big Ten Championship, could springboard them into the first ever College Football Playoff.
At this point it is no longer about X’s and O’s. We all know Connor Cook will need to have a solid performance and that Jeremy Langford will need to carry the load on offense to eat up the time of possession.
Obviously the defense will need to shut down the run game and win the turnover battle. Obviously Michigan State has more talent and experience, and is the better team on paper, but games are not won on paper.
A successful season, let alone a perfect season leading up to this game, could mean trouble for the Spartans if they decide to rest on their laurels.
This game has the potential to be a trap game, but it could also be a statement game. MSU can send a message and prove that the 2013 season was not a flash in the pan. That they are the new force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten.
I know,though,it is still way, way too early to tell.
Predictions: Spartan Redzone: Bradley: 42-38 MSU | Dan: 34-27 MSU
The Pact: Fino: | Yales: 28-27 MSU | Faith: 27-24 MSU | Austin: Lions Den: Higer: | Louis: Walk the Line: Krier: | Ryan:
Way-Too-Early Predictions: Jacksonville State (Aug. 29) Oregon (Sept. 6) Eastern Michigan (Sept. 20) Wyoming (Sept. 27) Nebraska (Oct. 4) Purdue (Oct. 11) Indiana (Oct. 18) Michigan (Oct. 25) Ohio State (Nov. 8) Maryland (Nov. 15) Rutgers (Nov. 22)
Bradley Allen is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports