Who: Penn State vs. No. 5 Michigan State

When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

Where: Spartan Stadium, Michigan State


Spread: Michigan State -10.5

Matchup to watch: Shilique Calhoun vs. Christian Hackenberg

The Penn State offensive line hasn’t been quite as awful as it was last year, but it’s still ranked 121st in sacks allowed. Against Calhoun, that’s not a good thing. The MSU defensive end was a big reason why Ohio State was held to just 132 yards of total offense last week. Against a pocket passer, the Lions will likely have to use a couple guys to contain Calhoun. He’s one of those playmakers that could easily take over and finish the day with five sacks. He’ll have help, too. Jon Reschke is coming off his best game as a Spartan, and Riley Bullough is plenty capable of doing the damage Calhoun is. This game has potential to be one of those where Hackenberg spends far too much time running for his life.

Thing I’m excited to see: Who plays quarterback for Michigan State

I don’t think I was alone in thinking Connor Cook would get the start last week in Columbus. After he came out of the Maryland game and basically guaranteed that he would be good to go for Ohio State, how could you not trust the senior? Well, they didn’t need him to pull off the win of the year, but you can bet he’s doing everything in his power to give it a go on Saturday. If he can’t, we’ll see Tyler O’Connor again. It’s not the best situation for Penn State because the MSU offense looks significantly different with the two quarterbacks under center. Last week, beat writers were basically giving play-by-play of Cook’s warm-up throws. I imagine we’ll have a little bit better of an idea who will get the start, but Cook could truly be another game-time decision.

Number to remember: 14

That’s how many seconds Michigan State wasn’t winning last year’s game against Penn State. R.J. Shelton returned the opening kick for a touchdown and MSU cruised in Happy Valley. Without much of a run game, Penn State was forced into a one-dimensional offense. Against elite pass-rushers, that didn’t work out so well. This is not a game in which PSU can dig itself an early hole. Saquon Barkley has to be involved because PSU needs the play-action to expose the MSU secondary. Ohio State didn’t even want to take shots downfield against the Spartans. If PSU is going to hang around on the road, Hackenberg is going to need to get time to make a few five-step drops. That won’t happen if the Lions are playing catch-up most of the afternoon like they did last year.

Prediction: Michigan State 27, Penn State 14

On paper, everything I said would point to a Michigan State rout. But coming off the high of last week’s win in Columbus, MSU has everything to lose. I think the Spartans come out timid in this one, no matter who is starting at quarterback. That PSU line will present more pressure than MSU is used to seeing. I’d like Penn State’s chances a lot better if its B1G wins weren’t against teams with a combined record of  4-24. But with a B1G Championship berth at stake, I can’t see Michigan State collapsing after doing what it did last week. The Spartans grind out a win and get to play Iowa in a College Football Playoff play-in game in Indianapolis.