The weather is looking less than ideal on Saturday, so this game, like Illinois, will really highlight how much Penn State misses PJ Mustipher. If the offense is able to catch well enough to keep Michigan chasing the game, then I think everything else will go in the Nittany Lions’ favor. They just have to make this an aerial game. But what about last week? This team has demonstrated they really play up or down to their competition and let’s not kid ourselves Penn State did more to stop themselves than Maryland did.
Penn State 20, Michigan 13
I was happily wrong about the score of the Maryland game, but I wasn’t overly appeased by the offensive performance. The start-stop nature Penn State’s offense has taken lately (all season) just doesn’t give me much hope when they play a solid defense. Michigan’s defense is definitely solid, coming in at #3 in the SP+. Maryland, meanwhile, is #61 on defense, and they made the Penn State offense look silly for most of the game. I’m more than a little worried that Penn State continuing to play with fire will result in them getting burned again.
The defense once again balls out, but the offense does not do their part, and the Lions drop a close one at home.
Michigan 17, Penn State 10
To Penn State’s credit they finished the game strong against Maryland when it appeared they were on their way to a fourth straight loss. That said, Michigan is much better than the Terps are and will be hungry when they come to Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Michigan comes in at 8-1, ranked 6th in the College Football Playoff rankings, and they control their own destiny to reach the playoff.
The Wolverines will look to run the ball, and a lot, even if Blake Corum does not play. The last time Penn State faced a team looking to do that a woeful Illinois team ran for 300+ yards and 6+ YPC against the Nittany Lions. Meanwhile, Penn State still can not run the ball. This is not good, especially with the forecast for Saturday afternoon. As Chris mentioned above Michigan’s defense is very good... which also does not bode well for a Nittany Lion squad that can not run the ball and will be looking to ride an at times shaky passing game to victory in cold, rainy weather. There’s very little confidence from me this weekend.
Michigan 28, Penn State 17
The weather forecast for Saturday definitely makes me nervous. Penn State can be pretty explosive through the air, but has struggled (to say the least) to run the ball consistently. If the game is cold and rainy, as expected, this could neutralize the Nittany Lions’ advantage on the outside with Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington, and KeAndre Lambert-Smith. The run defense would also likely be tested all day given the conditions. With all that said, Michigan does have some key injuries, so this will be a very tight game.
Michigan 20, Penn State 17
This one could go either way. To me, it comes to down the fact this game is at the Beav, and Michigan is missing several key guys due to injury, including Blake Corum. This means that Michigan will be pounding it with Hassan Haskins 30-plus times in all likelihood. Meanwhile, PSU will look to air it out and go up-tempo, as Michigan State showcased this Michigan defense struggles with. This will all be dependent of course, on whether the offensive line can stave off Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo long enough to give Cliff a chance to find his targets. Lots of talk about the weather, but I am watching Pitt sling it across the yard against UNC in the rain as I type this, so I think PSU can throw it well enough if given the time. All things being equal, I’ll take the “bend but don’t break” PSU defense to come up with one or two critical turnovers that make the difference in this one.
Penn State 20, Michigan 17
(originally appearing in the Game Preview)
I can see this game going many different way, and none of them too surprising. It’s been that type of year that after nine games, it still seems difficult to get a solid grasp of either team - what they’re capable of, and what may trip them up. It’s been that type of year for nearly every program outside of Georgia.
This game will come down to two things for Penn State - keeping Clifford upright and not allowing Michigan to sustain drives on the ground. Both will be challenging, but the Nittany Lions could prove up to the task, especially in front of a fired up Beaver Stadium crowd and facing the Wolverines when they’ve been bit by the injury bug.
I’m expecting a typical November Big Ten slog of a game. Each team puts together a couple impressive drives, with plenty of punting in between. Both teams have outstanding defensive efforts that help force some momentum-shifting turnovers along the way. In the end, I’ll go with a big play by Jahan Dotson and a crucial stop from the Penn State defense to escape with a tight, and very satisfying, victory.
Penn State 20, Michigan 17