Playing sixth-ranked Michigan State on Saturday will merit the same approach as any other game Penn State (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) has played this season, coach James Franklin said.

Franklin, who will be making his first trip to Michigan State, acknowledged the boost teams can get from being the underdogs. The Spartans themselves may have experienced this Saturday when they matched up against the defending national champions of the Ohio State Buckeyes.

“When you’re going to play that big opponent, everyone’s trying to prove they belong,” Franklin said Tuesday on the weekly Big Ten coaches' teleconference.

And any chip the team may carry to East Lansing on its collective shoulder won’t be anything new, said the second-year coach.

“That's kind of where we are as as a program right now. We’re building a program,” he said. “We’ve had that chip on our shoulder since we arrrived.”

Michigan State coach offers high praise for Penn State

Even if Penn State is the underdog, Spartans’ coach Mark Dantonio isn’t taking the Nittany Lions lightly, he said.

“Penn State has a good football team. Very physical on the defensive line,” Dantonio said. “They’re tough to run against, tackle well. They have linebackers that are thumpers I think with power. The secondary’s skilled. Been impressed with their coverage ability.”

“On the offensive side of the ball, I think they have a dynamic freshman running back in Saquon Barkley and obviously their quarterback has got a tremendous amount of ability and has been very successful there,” he added. “Good skill players that surround them, so I think they have a good football team. They’ve been in every game. You know the games that they’ve lost they have been right there and had some controversial calls in a couple of them.”

The Spartans will clinch the division title with a win over the Lions. The matchup is set to kick off at 3:30 p.m. and will air on ESPN.