I’m probably in the minority, but I absolutely loved when the line opened so heavily in Michigan’s favor. James Franklin has made his career coaching up the underdog. He may still be learning how to handle being the big dog, however, giving him the opportunity to coach as the little guy brings out his strengths. I don’t know if it showed on tv, but this team was different in the wake of Nick Scott’s interception last week, the entire sideline was bouncing, the dancing returned following the game, the weight that this team had been dragging since Ohio State was seemingly lifted. Winning on the road is always difficult in the B1G, so I can’t guarantee a win, but I would also not shocked if this team came out on fire, gave Don Brown another year of bad dreams, and made Michigan’s deliberate offense chase them.
Penn State 34, Michigan 24
After a 30-24 victory over Iowa last weekend the Nittany Lions appear to have their confidence and swagger back. For the first time since 4th & 5 the team was dancing on the sidelines, making plays, and they appeared to be having fun again. Getting this confidence and swagger back could not come at a better time as the 14th ranked Nittany Lions prepare to head to Ann Arbor to battle 5th ranked Michigan.
The Wolverines have emerged as the new favorite in the Big Ten, but they still have plenty of questions. While the Michigan defense is arguably the best in the conference, they have question marks at defensive tackle and a ton of injuries. Also, while improved, their offense has struggled against the only two good defenses they have faced this season in Notre Dame and Michigan State.
The weakest link on Michigan’s offense is their offensive tackles which plays right into Penn State’s hands. The Nittany Lion defensive ends, led by Yetur Gross-Matos, have really come on in recent weeks. Dual-threat quarterbacks like Trace McSorley have given Michigan DC Don Brown problems in the past.
Michigan enters this game as a double digit favorite and everyone is picking the Wolverines. My head tells me to join the crowd, but, screw it, I’m going with the Nittany Lions in an upset.
Penn State 24, Michigan 21
Penn State definitely responded well against Iowa and you can see the team is definitely working to clean up the mistake, but there’s still too many of them. If you allow Michigan the start that Iowa was afforded, the Wolverines will put you in a hole you won’t be able to climb out of.
Additionally, I have concerns about how healthy Trace McSorley is or isn’t going into this game.
If Brent Pry’s defense can have a big game, the Nittany Lions can stay in this one, but the offense also needs to give the defense time to rest, something it hasn’t done well this season.
I just don’t feel good about this one and for the first time all season I’m predicting a Penn State loss.
Michigan 30, Penn State 17
Michigan is a better team offensively than Iowa, and their defense has the capability to make Penn State one-dimensional (even without the Trace McSorley injury). Make no mistake, the Nittany Lions showed in the second half against Iowa that when they are executing at a high level, but I have too many questions about if they can put a full game together on both sides where they dominate both lines of scrimmage and maintain time of possession.
Oh, and Shea Patterson is better than Nate Stanley, sorry.
Hate to say it, but I’m taking the Wolverines in this one.
Michigan 27, Penn State 17
Michigan’s offense is certainly improved from a year ago, but they still seem to struggle against defenses with a pulse. That being said, it is imperative that the same “bend, but don’t break” that we saw against Iowa last week continues to have success this week in Ann Arbor. Otherwise, it could be a long afternoon. I do think however, with Yetur Gross-Matos builds on his breakout performance from last weekend and the PSU front seven does not make life easy for the Wolverines.
On the other hand, that Michigan defense is as ferocious as ever, and if Ricky Rahne tries to force the run with Trace McSorley (whose knee is still a question mark) and Miles Sanders, the Wolverine defense will feast all afternoon. Trace will need to air it out to give PSU a chance, and his receivers will have to build upon last week’s performance where the drops were kept to a minimum. Getting the ball to folks like KJ Hamler in space and allowing them to create will be key. Really, they need to find ways to keep this Michigan D off-balance, and if they can do that, they certainly have a chance to steal this one.
Unfortunately, I just can’t trust this offense to be consistent enough. It wouldn’t surprise me if Michigan’s defense forces a turnover or two in PSU territory that gives them a short field for their offense to work with, setting up some critical points that will make all the difference in the end.
Michigan 26, Penn State 20
I’m not saying Michigan isn’t good. I’m just saying that I don’t think Michigan is as good as everyone is making them out to be. Their best win is... 21-7 over an injured Michigan State squad, fresh off an emotional win over Penn State? 38-13 over a reeling Wisconsin squad? Color me unimpressed.
Also, this whole revenge tour thing. GTFO. You don’t get to claim you’re exacting revenge on teams that beat you last year, when the year before that you were putting the hurt on those same teams. How fragile is your ego that you have to perceive a loss as something that needs to be avenged? Ugh.
All of that to say, I still think Penn State has a few too many flaws. The defense has improved greatly since the Ohio State game, but they’re still susceptible to rushes up the middle, which is what Michigan does. The offense has sputtered while playing some high quality defenses - to be expected - and I think a dinged up Trace McSorley could slow the offense down even further. The Nittany Lions will hang around, but ultimately don’t have enough to pull off the upset.
Michigan 28, Penn State 21
Penn State’s offense is going to have a tough time moving the ball against Michigan’s stout defense, so I think the Penn State defense needs to have an outstanding game against Shea Patterson and company if the Nittany Lions are to grind out a win. It’s possible given how the Lions have played at their best, but I don’t see the defense being consistent enough to keep Michigan off the scoreboard for long. The Wolverines run a more efficient version of what Iowa runs on offense with lots of play action and throws to the tight end. The problem is that Shea Patterson won’t let Penn State off the hook the way that Nate Stanley did.
Michigan 23, Penn State 16
Penn State doesn’t need to play a perfect game to beat Michigan. The Wolverines are very much beatable -- I just don’t think they’ll fall to Penn State this Saturday. I’m expecting a close game into the 4th quarter, when Michigan pulls away due to a fatigued Penn State defensive line.
Michigan 20, Penn State 14
Certainly there are reasons for hope. But there are also a lot of match-ups I don’t particularly like.
If Penn State’s offense is to put it together for a complete performance, this is the week to do it. I believe they are capable of putting up enough to outpace Michigan, but it’s hard to believe they will be able to move the ball consistently and avoid costly errors to put up enough against a loaded Wolverines defense.
If the Nittany Lions can create a few big plays on offense, get some quality returns from Hamler and Thompkins, and create at least two turnovers, they can definitely pull off the upset. There’s just too many “ifs” and not enough evidence from the last few games to give me enough confidence. I believe they will play Michigan very tough, but in the end just won’t be able to come away with the victory.
Trace McSorley will give it his all in his final go-round with Michigan, running for 80 yards and a touchdown, and tossing for another by connecting with Pat Freiermuth. On defense, Yetur Gross-Matos continues his hot streak with a sack and three TFLs, while Shareef Miller gets a sack and forced fumble. John Reid also picks up where he left off with a big interception in the first quarter to give the Nittany Lions some early momentum.
Michigan 24, Penn State 20