Penn State

Penn State primed for clash vs. Michigan ☕

Since losing 49-10 at Michigan Stadium in 2016, Penn State has lost only five games, all by three points or fewer.

Miles Sanders runs the ball against Michigan. -- AP

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa — Since losing 49-10 at Michigan Stadium in 2016, Penn State has lost only five games, all by three points or fewer. They’ve also only lost to Michigan State, Ohio State and USC in that timespan.

Last year, it was the Nittany Lions who got the best of Michigan with a 42-13 victory within the friendly confines of their own Beaver Stadium.

Many things have changed since that game, as Penn State enters Saturday’s game in Ann Arbor clinging to a slim hope they can run the table and find themselves back in the Big Ten Championship for the second time in three years.

Michigan, on the other hand, enters Saturday in the driver’s seat of the Big Ten East division. They are undefeated in conference play, though the Wolverines still have a date with Ohio State to end the season with, most likely, that berth in the Big Ten Championship game on the line.

This year’s Michigan team boasts an offense and defense that have vastly improved over last year, and the Wolverines are squarely in the College Football Playoff picture. The growth of the offense under Ole Miss-transfer Shea Patterson has been immense, and that unit looks as though it is clicking on all cylinders for coach Jim Harbaugh.

But on the other side, Michigan is currently No. 1 in total defense in the country with the No. 1 pass defense and No. 8 in run defense. The Wolverines have played stellar football all season long, aside from a disastrous first quarter of the season against Notre Dame in which they gave up all of 14 points.

Do the Nittany Lions have a chance to leave Michigan Stadium victorious for the first time since 2009?

Yes, but there will be nothing easy about it. Penn State needs to finally play a complete game, something they have yet to do this season. The special teams gaffes over the last two weeks have been head-spinning to have happen this late in the season.

This game has all the makings of a knock-down, drag-out, Big Ten classic featuring a boatload of defense and very little offense. It’s a game with the potential to be decided up front defensively and, much like many games for the Nittany Lions recently, come down to the wire.

Against a defense as overwhelming as Michigan’s, it will be interesting to see the game plans for both teams, as Trace McSorley has been dinged up since the Iowa game.

The defense of the Wolverines is predicated on putting the opposing quarterback under duress as a result of man-press coverage against receivers. Michigan, hands down, has one of the most athletic, if not the most athletic, defenses in the Big Ten.

Up front, the Wolverines are led by defensive end Chase Winovich, who played high school football at Thomas Jefferson High School in Pittsburgh’s South Hills. He has a team high three sacks and is third in total tackles with 33.

Winovich will cause fits for the Penn State offensive line Saturday, but if there’s a team capable of taking what the defense gives them, it’s Penn State. The Wolverines will give up quarterback scrambles and yards thanks to their stifling coverage leaving open running lanes.

It will be imperative Penn State receivers get open, and there’s a good chance crossing routes featuring KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson and DeAndre Thompkins will be used to combat the coverage and create separation across the middle.

The complete game that has eluded Penn State week in and week out can be had by staying within the comfort zones of their offense and defense. Keeping it simple defensively will allow the athletes along the Nittany Lions front — Yetur Gross-Matos, Shareef Miller and Kevin Givens — to move freely in attempts to get Patterson down in the backfield.

It’s also important for Penn State to keep Michigan’s offense off the field, as the Nittany Lions’ defense has been on the field for a great number of plays over the last two weeks. The Wolverines, instead, were off last weekend. Wearing down the Michigan offense gives the Nittany Lions a greater chance of forcing mistakes by Patterson and company.

For Penn State to be victorious, it’s as simple as staying simple and putting their athletes on both sides of the football in positions to succeed. If they are able to do that and wear down the Michigan defense, their chance to win should be as good as any team. And with the way these defenses have been playing, this one could be another instant classic.

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chethejet
chethejet

PSU blew the game vs MSU. Iowa I thought should have won missing a number of big plays. Michigan week off, healthy and home is to much for a PSU team that was due to regress anyway. Thought PSU would lose one if not two vs MSU, Iowa and Michigan. Game is in the trenches and PSU is not good at DT or OT. Harbaugh won’t blow this one.

tkelley70
tkelley70

The 110,000 faithful and the defense should be enough. Don’t overlook the offense though the QB is playing good football. I like Penn State too but this week the better team needs to win. Michigan fans deserve a spot in the playoffs. If it were Penn State or Michigan State ranked #5 I’d root for them. I’m just sick of Ohio State and Alabama.

TimOz
TimOz

The 110k at um is like 5ok in Happy Valley. They are a total wine and cheese crowd and will not be a factor.

Screw blue

Koz
Koz

Butthurt Buckeye.

Pens_in_CBus
Pens_in_CBus

I don’t see Penn State breaking off big plays like they did against OSU. Although, with an aggressive defense like Michigan’s, I think McSorley’s legs (and health) will be the key to Penn State’s offense. If Michigan takes care of the football on offense and special teams, I’d give them the edge at home.

Rick B
Rick B

Biggest worry is UM’s run game. PSU run defense has been less than stellar and with a thin Dline, could see PSU wear down late in the game like they did against OSU. Also, Trace’s health will be a big key. If he can run like he did against OSU, could make it interesting. PSU must play a game similar to their game with OSU (but for 60 minutes) to have a chance to win. BTW – still don’t understand how Patterson could transfer and play right away. He’s made a difference for UM.

jshephard
jshephard

He got a “sanctions exemption”. Apparently that’s a thing now.

Koz
Koz

The revenge tour continues. Go Blue !

Zebug
Zebug

Should be a great game and screw all Harbaugh’s

mgw1124
mgw1124

My idea of a dream weekend would have both Harbaugh’s losing, at home, this weekend.