Getting that elusive sixth victory is not going to be an easy task on Saturday, when the #5 Penn State Nitanny Lions (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) visit East Lansing fresh off a bye week and sitting atop the Big Ten.
As always, Senior Day for the Spartans will be a special time for the group of 13 players. A win would not only extend their season by one more game but it could possibly ruin Penn State's BCS bowl hopes.
"Hopefully we have enough motivation, alone that it's Senior Day. They will be playing their last game, last game at the stadium and that's the motivation they should have and it should be the necessary motivation," said Coach John L. Smith.
The road to a Spartan victory starts at quarterback with Penn State's Michael Robinson.
"He makes them go. He can kill you running it; he throws it enough to keep you honest. He's their key," said John L. Smith. "He'll get bad snaps and all of a sudden he's gone. He makes plays out of no plays."
As John L. described him, Robinson is an amazing athlete and accounts for much of the Penn State offense. He is a very accurate passer (52% accuracy), throwing for 10 touchdowns and over 1900 yards this season. His most dangerous weapon are his legs, Robinson has scored 10 touchdowns and rushed for 795 yards on the ground this year, second only to running back Tony Hunt (990 yards, five touchdowns).
They pose a threat at all position but he's (Robinson) is real good; he does a real good job of running, passing, real good job," said linebacker Eric Smith. Smith is one of the 12 seniors looking to end on a high note with a bowl berth and avoiding a loss on Saturday.
The closest player to Michael Robinson that Michigan State has seen this season is Ohio State's mobile quarterback Troy Smith. The Spartans managed to contain Smith as a running threat, but he hurt the Spartans with his passing hitting for several big plays downfield.
Michigan State Offense vs. Penn State Defense: What seemed like a major matchup a few weeks ago has lost much of its luster, but it still remains a key. The Spartans have struggled to say the least in the past few games, even against weak defenses including Northwestern and Purdue, who rank among the worst defenses in Division I-A football.
The Spartans didn't help themselves when they dropped six passes to start the game. What was once one of the most potent offenses in the nation now struggles to score a touchdown in the red zone.
The Penn State defense is as solid a bunch as any team in the nation. They are a close second in the Big Ten behind Ohio State in all but one statistical category (Third in Pass Defense). Linebacker Paul Posluszny is fourth in the Big Ten with 106 total tackles and he will have a close eye one stopping Javon Ringer on the ground.
Penn State Rushing: The Nittany Lions rank second in the Big Ten in rushing offense with 2227 yards on 25 touchdowns. Besides the Robinson and Hunt combination, running backs Justin King and Austin Scott have chipped in with production.
Michigan State will be taking on a Goliath of a Penn State team on Saturday, not only fresh off a bye but determined to not let the Big Ten title slip away.
For Michigan State, John L. Smith would like to see that emotion that he has been looking for out of his players for the last six weeks. This is the last chance for this team to go out as a winner and secure a bowl trip for the 13 seniors.
Despite losing four of their last five, all it takes is one win to secure that elusive bowl game and send a group of smiling seniors out as winners on Saturday night.