Know Your Penn State Football Opponent: Michigan State Spartans


Can Michigan State improve on the defensive side of the ball, or will the Nittany Lions once again add to the Spartans’ fall from grace?

Coming off of a 3-9 campaign, Michigan State has more problems than Sparty can shake his sword at.

When Penn State travels to East Lansing to duel with Michigan State on November 4, the most glaring problem with the Spartans will be their defensive line. If Trace McSorely is hurried, hit or even sacked, he’s still pretty good. If given time, he is unbeatable.

Take his line from the final game of the season last year. Against a Michigan State defense which recorded only 11 sacks in the entire season, McSorley was 17-23 for 376 Yards and four touchdowns.

McSorley is lethal when his receivers have time to get down field. The Spartans should have a slightly improved front four, but it might not be enough.

Sophomore Raequan Williams showed some skill as a freshman last year, as did tackle Mike Panasiuk. The key to sacking the quarterback is an edge rusher, and Michigan State is still lacking in this regard.

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Demetrius Cooper would need to make a giant leap this season for the sack total to drastically improve, and even then, he wouldn’t resemble Shilique Calhoun.

Michigan State had a three-season, 36-win stretch led by Calhoun. Since his departure, a true leader has eluded coach Mike Dantonio.

Senior linebacker, and arguably Michigan State’s best defensive player last year, Chris Frey, will need to step into a leadership role this year.

When your defensive line is as useless as a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest, your secondary will feel the effects as well.

McSorley had touchdowns for go 24, 45, 59 and 40 yards in Penn State’s 45-12 win last year. Grayson Miller and Khari Willis make a decent safety duo, and freshman cornerback Josiah Scott has been all the talk out of Michigan State’s camp. If the line cannot create pressure though, they will not be able to handle Penn State’s receivers very long.

LJ Scott will be the focal point for Penn State’s defense. The Running Back has been productive, rushing for nearly 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns in two season.

Brian Lewerke will  be under center for the Spartans. The redshirt sophomore showed some poise and fluidity before his season was cut short due to a broken leg against Michigan in late October.

Scott will be the train for Michigan State to hitch a ride on, but Lewerke will be the engine to make it go.

Michigan State averaged only 24.1 points per game last year. They should improve here thanks to Scott and excellent senior center Brian Allen who will take on a sorely missed leadership role, and get the offensive line up to snuff.

Hunter Rison, the son of former NFL star Andre Rison, is the most talked about freshman on offense. In Rison they have a talented wide out who can make things easier on Lewerke.

The dust has settled on what was a catastrophic season and an even worse offseason for Michigan State. A sexual assault scandal involving players has left questions regarding the culture of the program. Dantonio is seemingly a man of integrity and will have the programed cleaned up.

There is no reason to believe Michigan State can hold their own against Penn State of Ohio State this year. That doesn’t mean another 3-9 campaign is in store.

Next: PSU Position Preview: Secondary

Look for an improved and motivated Spartans, but don’t expect much of a game when they take on Penn State.