Previewing The Enemy: Michigan State Spartans

This is it.

No. 11 Penn State football will face the Michigan State Spartans at 7:30 p.m. at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. It’s the last game of the regular season for the Nittany Lions, and a win would likely seal the deal for a trip to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

James Franklin’s team is favored heavily to win, as the 21-point spread has increased since betting lines opened earlier this week, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Penn State enters the game after defeating Rutgers 27-6 last week, but there’s uncertainty about who will start at quarterback after Drew Allar left the game with an injury. Regardless of who starts under center, the Spartans await in the Motor City to close out the regular season.

The Team

Michigan State has had a rough season with a 4-7 overall record and a 2-6 Big Ten record. However, the Spartans are coming off a 24-21 win over Indiana, and their only other conference win was a 20-17 rout of Nebraska on November 4.

Arguably the primary reason for Michigan State’s lackluster season is the off-field turmoil. Former head coach Mel Tucker was suspended and then fired for cause earlier in the season as the result of a sexual misconduct investigation. Harlon Barnett replaced Tucker as the interim head coach on September 10, and he’s considered one of several candidates for the permanent job.

Meanwhile, Scottie Hazelton is in his fourth season as the defensive coordinator, while Jay Johnson is also in his fourth season as the offensive coordinator.


Michigan State’s quarterback situation is complicated. Noah Kim was the starter entering the season, but he was benched in week seven in favor of redshirt freshman Katin Houser. While Kim amassed 1,090 passing yards and six touchdowns, his six interceptions and 56% completion rate prompted a change. Houser, meanwhile, has 1,045 passing yards, six touchdowns, a 58% completion rate, and four interceptions.

Jalen Berger is the primary running back. He has 798 rushing yards but only four touchdowns. Houser also rushes occasionally, as he has 109 yards and two touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Montorie Foster Jr. leads the team with 541 receiving yards, while he also has three touchdowns. Maliq Carr is behind him with 320 receiving yards as well as three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Tre Mosley, Jaron Glover, and Christian Fitzpatrick share reps at the third spot.

Brandon Baldwin and J.D. Duplain start at left tackle and left guard. Nick Samac is the center, while Spencer Brown and Kevin Wigenton II start at right tackle and guard, respectively. Geno VanDeMark typically starts at right guard, but his status is uncertain after he missed last week’s game.


Cal Haladay leads the defense with 81 total tackles. As for interceptions, Jaden Mangham has four-of-nine total for the Spartans. Meanwhile, Aaron Brule leads the Spartans with four sacks.

Joining Haladay at linebacker is Brule, who has 59 total tackles and two pass breakups. Additionally, Jordan Hall has 55 total tackles and a breakup.

Michigan State’s secondary is banged up, as Dillon Tatum and Marqui Lowery both missed last week’s game. Tatum leads the team with seven pass breakups. Chance Rucker starts at left cornerback, and he has 22 total tackles, three breakups, and one pick. Opposite of Rucker is Chester Kimbrough, who also has 22 total tackles and three breakups. Mangham starts at strong safety, while Angelo Grose starts alongside him. Grose has 62 total tackles, five pass breakups, three tackles for loss, and two interceptions.

Jalen Thompson and Zion Young are the primary left and right defensive ends. Meanwhile, Derrick Harmon and Simeon Barrow Jr. are at left and right defensive tackle, respectively. Brandon Wright, Avery Dunn, Jalen Sami, and Ben Nelson are also in the mix.

Special Teams

Ryan Eckley is the primary punter, and he’s averaging 45 yards per punt. Meanwhile, Jonathan Kim is 13-for-18 on field goal attempts and is averaging 63 yards per kickoff.

Tyrell Henry is averaging six yards per punt return, while he’s averaging 17 per kickoff return.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a senior journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland. He's an avid D.C sports fan and loves going to games in his free time. Nolan mainly writes about Penn State football, men's hockey, and baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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