As the unquestioned leader of the Penn State offense, Christian Hackenberg knows he must keep a tight focus on preparing for the next game, making sure there are no distractions getting in the way of the Nittany Lions for them to perform at their best on Saturday.

The junior quarterback, however, provided an interesting perspective this week as the Lions prepared for their final regular-season game, at No. 6 Michigan State.

"We're just focused on Penn State and what we need to do to continue to have a great season and win another football game," he said this week. "They obviously have things that they have to do, but we have to approach it from a very selfish standpoint in terms of looking at what's best for Penn State, and winning this game is going to be what's best for Penn State."

Which raises the question: What can be more selfish for Penn State (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) than to defeat a Michigan State team that has so much at stake?

The Spartans (10-1, 6-1) control the Big Ten East after a 17-14 victory over Ohio State last week. They would win the division title with a victory Saturday, and also a date with Iowa in the Dec. 5 conference championship game. A victory there more than likely would earn them one of the four coveted spots in the College Football Playoff.

A lot can go wrong for Michigan State if the Nittany Lions achieve the upset. That could be a difficult task. The Lions have lost to three ranked teams - Ohio State, Northwestern, and Michigan - in the last six weeks, including a 28-16 defeat in their home finale against the Wolverines last week, and are 0-6 in such games under James Franklin.

So call a Penn State upset whatever you'd like - a statement win, a signature win, a spoiler - but don't mention any of those words to Hackenberg.

"I think each week we try to approach it the same," he said. "They're a great football team, and they're going to be a challenge for us. But playing in this league and being successful, especially in our division, you're going to be seeing teams like this week in and week out. So you have to be prepared and ready to play at a high level on a consistent basis."

The Nittany Lions must figure out a way to beat a Michigan State defense that allowed the Buckeyes just five first downs and 132 total yards last week. The Spartans loaded up the box to limit Heisman Trophy candidate Ezekiel Elliott to just 33 yards rushing, and J.T. Barrett had no answer through the air.

If Michigan State applies the same strategy with freshman Saquon Barkley, the Lions will need an alternative plan, but it will be imperative for them to keep Hackenberg upright. The quarterback took four sacks last week - he has 36 on the season - and was hit on at least a dozen other pass attempts, some hard enough to knock him out of the game.

He missed just one snap.

"It is what it is," he said. "You've got to keep working to get better and avoid developing any bad habits that could come from that. Individually, it's mental toughness, but I think the bigger picture is, it's part of the game, and you have to deal with it."

@JoeJulesinq