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Michigan Wolverines Preview

Don't let their 1-2 record fool you. Michigan is a dangerous opponent this weekend. They are a wounded animal backed into a corner. Now with conference play starting they have new life. Make no mistake. They intend to run the table, win the Big Ten, and go to the Rose Bowl thumbing their nose at everyone saying they suck. Penn State will have their hands full if they intend to beat the Wolverines. With that, here are the keys to the game as I see it.

First and foremost, Penn State has to contain Mike Hart. They cannot allow him to dominate the game. If he has 30 carries and 200 yards we're in big trouble because that means Michigan is controlling the pace of the game.

When Michigan is forced to go to the passing game, the Nittany Lions have to get into the head of Ryan Mallett. Tom Bradley is a master at disguising his blitzes and coverages. They need to keep Mallett off balance and unsure of himself. I'm looking for heavy blitzing and tight coverage early to try to rattle the kid. But even then, there are going to be several times when Mallett just heaves it 50 yards down the field and hopes that Manningham and Arrington can use their size and athletic ability to go up and get it. The Penn State secondary is going to face their toughest test they will see all year in this regard. Scirrotto and Davis will have to be alert to not let any plays get behind them.

On offense, it's essential that Penn State come out firing on all cylinders from the beginning. We can't have another game where we have no points after the first quarter. If we can get the running game going early and get a score or two we can force Lloyd Carr's hand and take Mike Hart out of the game. We also need to make sure the home crowd has nothing to cheer about. I want to see more pictures of Michigan fans sitting in the stand shaking their heads in disbelief.

In the passing game we have to exploit the middle of the field like Appalachian State and Oregon did. The Michigan safeties are a liability and their linebackers do not cover well either. Andrew Quarless and Jordan Norwood should be our major weapons of choice. I said before I'm expected a monster day from Quarless.

Of course we need to take care of the football. Michigan isn't going to turn the ball over. So we can't have Morelli throwing into coverage and Austin Scott putting the ball on the ground. This just goes without being said for every game.

Lastly, and this is my most important key to the game, we need to win the special teams battle. Kevin Kelly has to keep putting kickoffs four yards deep in the endzone. But more importantly he has to come through on field goals. We can't afford to leave points on the field in this game. One missed field goal could end up being the difference in this game. We also need to win the return/coverage game. I'm not convinced our offense is capable of going 80 yards in a hostile environment yet. So I would like to see scoring drives of 50 or 60 yards. Likewise, we can't give Michigan the short field. I really think when we're looking back on this game we're going to say the team that won the special teams battle won the game.