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Previewing The Enemy: Michigan State Spartans

By David Abruzzese and Ethan Kasales

The Nittany Lions hit the road again this weekend to hopefully bounce back and continue its winning ways. This year’s Michigan State squad is vastly different than the one that went 3-9 in 2016 — a season that included the Spartans missing a bowl game and dropping seven-straight contests at one point.

The Team

Michigan State is tied for second in the Big Ten East along with Penn State, making this weekend’s contest crucial to the Nittany Lions’ Big Ten Championship hopes as the last true (apparent) test of the year.

Offense

One of the bright spots of last season, running back L.J. Scott, is back for more, and he poses a significant threat to the Penn State front seven. Scott’s totaled 511 yards on the ground and four touchdowns, plus one receiving touchdown. He’s a unique weapon, and adds to a long list of talented Michigan State backs that’ve come through the program in recent years

Under center is talented dual-threat passer Brian Lewerke, who’s totaled 1,807 yards, 14 touchdowns, and three interceptions on the year. On the ground, he’s compiled 343 yards and three touchdowns — checking in as Michigan State’s No. 2-leading rusher. He’s created an essence of stability in the backfield after last year’s disaster. Expect to see plenty of Lewerke in either capacity, as head coach Mark Dantonio finds ways to utilize his talented redshirt sophomore QB.

Lewerke’s top targets are Darrell Stewart Jr. and Felton Davis III, both of whom figure to factor heavily on Saturday as the team’s No. 1 and No. 2 targets, respectively. Stewart Jr. leads the Spartans with 35 catches for 362 yards and a score, while Davis III’s compiled 33 catches for 405 yards and seven scores — a mark that leads the team. Both of these players will be heavily involved, and figure to make a significant impact on Saturday against Penn State’s talented secondary.

Defense

Michigan State’s defense runs through sophomore middle linebacker Mike Bachie, who leads the team with 71 tackles through eight games. He also has an interception and two forced fumbles so far. Juniors Andrew Dowell and Khari Willis have played exceptional football for the Spartans as well this season, delivering 55 and 49 tackles, respectively.

Dowell’s twin brother, David, paces the defense with two picks, while adding four pass breakups. Sophomore corner Justin Layne, another Ohio native, should be tasked with defending Penn State’s top receiver, whether that’s DaeSean Hamilton or Juwan Johnson.
Senior linebacker Chris Frey creates a difficult matchup for opposing offensive lines, making his presence felt in the backfield often. His seven quarterback hits ranks first on the team and he also has four tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries.
Sophomore defensive tackle Mike Panasiuk was a long-time target of the Nittany Lions in their 2016 recruiting class and should provide an interesting dimension to the team’s efforts to stop Saquon Barkley.

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