Spartan Red Zone: X-Factors for Penn State


Michigan State will travel to State College to play No. 8 Penn State on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST. Penn State can clinch the Big Ten East with a win and a Michigan loss. This game might not mean a lot to MSU, as they will not finish bowl eligible, but players should be playing for spots for next year.

The defense will have their hands full, as Penn State has the third best offense in the Big Ten led by quarterback Trace McSorely and running back Saquon Barkley.

The success for McSorely has come from the fact that he’s first in the Big Ten and second in the FBS in yards per completion at 15.57 yards. He has the ability to throw the deep ball and has been successful all season long. The deep threats for the Nittany Lions have been wide receivers Chris Godwin and Deandre Thompkins, who can beat their defenders and get down the field.

Although the passing game has been so effective, the running game has been just as good with Barkley in the backfield. He leads the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (139.8 ypg), which makes him more of a threat as a receiver coming out of the backfield. This offense has put up less than 24 points once this season, and that was against Michigan when they lost 49-10.

The high-powered attack that the Nittany Lions have will bring trouble for the MSU defense. MSU hasn’t been able to get pressure on the quarterback this season, and that has been a big factor behind their 3-8 record.

Last week, the X-Factor for MSU was the defense because of the offense that OSU had. This week, it’s the same because fans saw what happened when the defense stepped up last week and gave their team a chance to win the game.

MSU recorded three sacks last week against the Buckeyes, two of those three came from the d-line. Demetrious Cooper had one, while Robert Bowers and Mike Panasuik each recorded half of sack each. These players will have a big role in containing this Penn State offense.

As mentioned earlier, Penn State can throw the ball deep, which means they will attack MSU’s cornerbacks and safeties. Players such as Demetrious Cox and Darian Hicks will be playing in their last game, while Justin Layne will continue to learn from these big games. Being the last game for the seniors, fans should look for extra effort and pride from those players.

The seniors will have to use their experience, the underclassmen will use their heart and the coaches will have to put it all together. If the Spartans want to pull off the upset and ruin the Nittany Lions hope of winning the Big Ten East, they will have to play their best game of the season.