In a weekend full of huge matchups that will determine conference and playoff positioning, the Penn State Nittany Lions will take on Michigan State in East Lansing. The Spartans are riding high after a huge upset victory over the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus.
MSU has yet to break into the exclusive top-4 despite the fact that they have lost only one game, a heartbreaking one-point loss to Nebraska in Lincoln. They’ve handled the rest of their schedule very well, including a three-point victory over Oregon in early September and the miracle, historic comeback victory in the final seconds against Michigan in Ann Arbor in mid-October.
Last weekend’s victory over the Buckeyes was accomplished by backup quarterbacks, and it is still unclear whether Connor Cook will play in this game. Logic indicates that if the squad is good enough to beat the Buckeyes with a couple backups running the show, it might be a good reason to continue to rest Cook in preparation for a possible spot in the 2015 College Football Playoff. However, if the Spartans lose to Penn State, sitting out Cook will be a very easy move to second-guess.
The Penn State season continues to be a baffling sequence of events that has been equal parts uplifting and disappointing. They went into a mid-October game at Ohio State with a 5-1 record and presumably a legitimate chance to knock off the Buckeyes. After leaving Columbus licking their wounds, they have gone 2-2 in the weeks since while plowing through their conference schedule.
A victory here for the Nittany Lions would be huge. It would take them to 8-4, put them in contention for a late-December bowl game and end the regular season on a high note. It’s no secret that quarterback Christian Hackenberg will have to have one of the best games of his college career to put up a high point total against one of the most talented and confident defenses in college football.
Hackenberg is the author of the 112th-ranked offense in the FCS, which is a bit puzzling considering he was one of the most productive and highly-touted high school quarterbacks when he arrived on campus three years ago.
Expect this game to be ugly, low-scoring and full of field goals. Whether or not Cook plays is obviously a huge factor as to how the game unfolds. Let’s assume that he will. Prediction: Penn State 13 Michigan State 33
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