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Penn State Football: Handing Out The Grades Following Penn State's 45-12 Win Over Michigan State

by on November 26, 2016 11:51 PM

Calling Penn State's season a Cinderella story implies that the Nittany Lions didn't really earn it. That in fact this season was the result of luck and not Penn State simply turning out to be a pretty good football team. For much of the Nittany Lions' 10-2 campaign the question of "is Penn State really this good?" has followed in its wake. And sure, luck is always going to be a part of the equation, but that's true for any team that wins far more than it loses, sometimes you just need a little help.

So yes, Penn State has been lucky and yes some bounces have gone it way, but at the end of the day, the Nittany Lions showed once again that they might just be good and that might be all the explanation you need.

Offense: B+

This was a little tricky to grade out because Penn State has become so much a team of two halves. In the first half the Nittany Lions went backwards on the opening two drives of the game and the ensuing drives did little to change that. By the time Penn State finally woke up late in the half Michigan State had already kicked three field goals from 36-yards or closer. Against a better team (hello Wisconsin) that sort of thing could easily go from three field goals to three touchdowns. Different games and different opponents aren't fair to grade out, but at this point it's the principle of the thing.

Once again though Penn State was brilliant in the second half. It was the Trace McSorley show with the junior quarterback tossing for a career high 376-yards on 17-of-23 passing and four touchdowns. Nine different players caught a pass and Chris Godwin managed 135 yards receiving and two scores. It was a group effort to reach 106 yards on the ground but most of those runs were supplementary to a successful aerial attack.

4-of-10 on third downs isn't bad but it isn't great. Then again Penn State avoided third down all together in the third quarter scoring 21 points in 4:51. All told this unit did what is has done all season, started slow, showed signs of life and then walked away with the game when things got rolling.

Defense: A-

Michigan State gained just 87-yards of offense in the second half and went 9-of-20 on third down. This grade in all honestly could be an A but Michigan State racked up 256 yards of offense in the first half and drove the ball at will. The defensive front lost the battle in the trenches and the push simply wasn't there. Much like the offensive grade, that could come back to haunt you against a team like Wisconsin.

Equally true, Penn State's defense stood strong in the red zone and held Michigan State to four field goals on four trips inside the 25. Brandon Bell was outstanding with 18 tackles and Penn State racked up 10 tackles for a loss. 

End of the day this unit was outstanding, but it played with fire a little bit in the early going. That hurts the grade even if it didn't hurt the outcome.

Special Teams: A

This would have been an A but Joey Julius kicked a ball out of bounds late in the game, again it didn't matter, but it's the principle of the thing. Tyler Davis made a 35-yarder and Blake Gillikin averaged 46.8 yards a punt with a 54 yard long, two inside the 20 and one the goal line.

Miles Sanders was unremarkable on kickoff returns but continues to show potential. Penn State didn't really need special teams on Saturday but for the most part it played well when called on. All anyone can ask for.

Overall: A

Nobody learned anything new about this team on Saturday. McSorley is great, the defense is strong and Penn State doesn't make very many mistakes. You don't get to 10-2 by mistake and Penn State didn't win on Saturday because of luck, it's simply a good football team.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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Penn State Headed To Big Ten Title Game Following 45-12 Win Over Michigan State
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by Ben Jones
Penn State Headed To Big Ten Title Game Following 45-12 Win Over Michigan State
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