UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 7 Penn State Football is set to wrap up the 2016 regular season at home, hosting Michigan State Saturday in a Senior Day matchup at Beaver Stadium.
The Nittany Lions (9-2, 7-1) and the Spartans (3-8, 1-7) are set to meet for the 31st time in program history in a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPN.
"We're playing a good football team," Penn State head coach James Franklin said. "They're talented. They're well-coached. It's going to be a real challenge for us. We're going to need this place rocking on Saturday."
Ranked within the top 10 for the first time since 2009, Penn State has won its last seven consecutive games, including a 39-0 win on the road at Rutgers last week. The Nittany Lions will also look to extend their home winning streak, entering the matchup with a 6-0 mark at Beaver Stadium this year, with wins in 12 of the last 13 games at home.
Last week, the Nittany Lions limited Rutgers to just 87 yards of total offense on the way to their largest road shutout since joining the Big Ten Conference in 1993.
Quarterback Trace McSorley led the way with 265 yards of total offense, completing 17-of-33 attempts for 210 yards through the air and one touchdown. The Nittany Lions were also productive on the ground, totaling 339 yards and three touchdowns.
Kicker Tyler Davis also logged a career-high performance, logging four field goals and three extra points for 15 of Penn State's 39 points to earn Big Ten Co-Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
The Spartans are led by head coach Mark Dantonio, who is in his 10th season at the helm.
"We're playing the defending Big Ten championship team," Franklin said. "We're also playing a team the last two weeks that has played really well. They played the No. 2 team in the country and lost by one point. The week before they scored a bunch of points and shut people out."
Michigan State enters the matchup coming off of a 17-16 loss to second-ranked Ohio State last weekend. The Spartans secured their lone Big Ten victory the week before, shutting out Rutgers 49-0 at home.
The Spartans own a slim advantage in the all-time series against the Nittany Lions at 15-14-1, having won last year's regular season finale in East Lansing. Michigan State has claimed wins in each of the last three meetings, including a 34-10 win in the Spartans' last trip to Happy Valley in 2014.
Pregame Reading -
What To Watch For: Penn State
1. Led by quarterback Trace McSorley, Penn State is averaging 35.8 points per game, which ranks third in the conference. Within the Nittany Lions' seven-game winning streak, Penn State is averaging 39.7 points per game, having scored in each of the last 17 consecutive quarters. McSorley is at the helm of the offense, as he enters the week ranked first in the conference and second in the FBS national standings with 15.57 passing yards per completion.
2. Another key to Penn State's potent point-scoring offense is running back Saquon Barkley, who leads the conference with 139.8 all-purpose yards per game, also atop the league standings with 1,205 rushing yards on the year and 109.5 per game. Barkley's 16 total touchdowns on the year are ranked 10th nationally and first in the conference, slotted as the most by a Nittany Lion since Larry Johnson had 20 in 2002.
3. Postgame at Rutgers, James Franklin noted that although he prefers not to make it a signature part of the program, the Nittany Lions have been tremendously successful in the second half. On the year, Penn State is outscoring its opponents 140-40 in the second half, with the the Nittany Lion offense ranked tied for third in the FBS in second half scoring (21.73) and fourth in fourth quarter scoring (12.91).
What To Watch For: Michigan State
1. Franklin stressed earlier this week that the Spartans have been playing some of their best football in the last few weeks leading up to Saturday's matchup at Beaver Stadium. That's not unusual for the Spartans though as Dantonio has guided his teams to a 25-9 record in November. With the shutout against Rutgers and a near victory against No. 2 Ohio State, Michigan State has won 19 of its last 25 games in the month of November.
2. The Spartans have rejuvenated their ground game in the second half of the season having totaled more than 200 rushing yards in four of their last five games. Most recently, Michigan State rushed for 207 yards against the Buckeyes led by a career-high performance from LJ Scott, who scored on a 1-yard run to put the Spartans within one, 17-16, with less than five minutes to play.
3. A sophomore running back, Scott has been the highlight of the Spartan rushing attack this year. Entering Saturday's matchup just 65 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark this season, Scott has 935 yards on 168 attempts with a team-high six rushing touchdowns on the year. He closed out his career-high effort against Ohio State with 236 all-purpose yards, including 160 rushing yards and a career-long 64-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.
The Final Word -
When the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993, the conference established the Land Grant Trophy between Penn State and Michigan State, presented to the winner in what was each school's yearly regular-season finale up until 2010. The Land Grant Trophy honors both programs for their unique place in history as pioneer land-grant institutions in the United States.
The Land Grant Trophy is one of two conference trophy games the Nittany Lions have played this season, having claimed the Governor's Victory Bell following a 29-26 overtime win against Minnesota in early October.