Penn State-Michigan Game Preview

Mike Pettigano

The Nittany Lions take on the Wolverines for the first time since Matt McGloin's first-career start when Rich Rod was still roaming Michigan's sideline in 2010.

Penn State (3-2) vs. Michigan (5-0)

Kickoff: 5 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The Line: PSU +2.5

TV: ESPN Joe Tessitore (p-by-p), Matt Millen (analyst) Maria Taylor (sideline)

Weather: High of 62 with a low of 49 at night. Mostly cloudy with a small chance of rain.

COACHES:

Bill O'Brien:

PENN STATE RECORD: 11-6, 2nd year

OVERALL RECORD: 11-6

VS. MICHIGAN: First Meeting

Brady Hoke:

MICHIGAN RECORD: 24-7, 3rd Year

OVERALL RECORD: 71-57, 11th Year

VS. PENN STATE: 0-0

...NOW THE FUN PART

MICHIGAN OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE

Michigan runs a fairly balanced attack which helps them make in-game adjustments as needed. Although they don't rack up a ton of yardage they know how to find the end zone, averaging 38.8 points per game. Senior running back Fitzgerald Toussaint was supposed to be a major force this season, but has had an uninspiring season thus far. Quarterback Devin Gardner has only 69 fewer rushing yards, and his 5.7 yards per rush far exceeds Toussant's 4.1. Gardner is having a mostly-impressive season as a passer, with the exception of throwing just as many interceptions as touchdowns (eight of each after five games). Good ol' number 98 is completing more than 60 percent of his passes while averaging just over 200 yards through the air per game. Obviously, what makes Gardner such a threat is his ability to tuck the ball and run for a big gain if he sees an open lane.

Penn State's best chance at a victory is if the Gardner who is prone to turnovers. The Nittany Lions defense has not done much to create takeaways this season, so don't count on this happening.

Gardner has plenty of dangerous targets to throw the ball to when he's on his game. Senior Jeremy Gallon catches just about everything thrown his way and is one of the better receivers in the conference. Drew Dileo, another senior receiver, only has seven catches for the year but is capable of putting up big numbers when called upon. Former Penn State recruiting target Devin Funchess is capable of giving the Penn State defense major headaches, and will continue to improve each week. True freshman Jake Butt will also get in on the action. It's safe to say Gardner will target Butt at some point on Saturday.

MICHIGAN DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE

The Wolverines defense is quietly putting together a fantastic season. They are top ten nationally against the run (9), top 20 in passing efficeincy (20), and top 15 in total defense (13). However, these numbers could dip as the season progresses and they face offenses such as Northwestern, Ohio State, Nebraska, and yes, Penn State.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Michigan has struggled to cover punts and kickoffs, so Penn State could have the opportunity to create a crucial special teams play or two. Senior Brendan Gibbons is one of the most dependable Michigan kickers in recent memory. He is four of five on the season, and is coming off a 2012 campaign where he nailed 16 of 18 attempts, including several clutch kicks.

The Penn State field goal team took a major step backwards against Indiana as they only converted one of three attempts, allowing a block and missing out on another opportunity because of a poor snap. This will need to be fixed immediately, as they will inevitably be called upon when the offense stalls out after getting in scoring position.

PREDICTION

MICHIGAN-34 PENN STATE-24

By the time kick-off rolls around on Saturday, i will absolutely convince myself Penn State is going to win this ballgame. But my rationality right now says that just isn't going to happen. Michigan has the athletes to really attack this Penn State defense and will find the end zone enough times to lead throughout. Penn State will show some improvement from the dreadful performance against Indiana, but the offense will stall one too many times to leave with a 'W.'


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