In a Top 25 Big Ten matchup, the Michigan Wolverines will travel to take on Penn State in a game with a lot of playoff implications. Michigan has been questioned a lot this season for its overall lack of success under coach Jim Harbaugh, and a win on the road here could silence a lot of the doubters.
Needing A Signature Win
Michigan is ranked 16th in the country with a 5-1 record this season, their only loss coming against a ranked team as well. There have been questions surrounding this team all season, and they will have to establish their identity if they want to keep up with Penn State in this one.
After taking a tough loss against Wisconsin and barely escaping Army in a double-overtime thriller, Michigan needs a big win here to keep its playoff hopes alive. The Wolverines are coming off a win over Illinois that was closer in the fourth quarter than most anticipated, but they were able to walk away with a 42-25 victory.
The Wolverines are currently posting 30.3 points per game while racking up 231.2 passing yards and 156.2 rushing yards. Their defense, which was once considered one of the best in the country, is now allowing 17.5 points per game, along with 160.5 yards passing and 122.8 rushing yards.
Michigan is led by Shea Patterson at quarterback. The senior has posted 1,246 yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions over the first six games. Getting it done on the ground for the Wolverines has been freshman Zach Charbonnet. Charbonnet is listed as questionable for this week’s game after being forced out of the Illini game with an undisclosed injury. Over the first six games, Charbonnet has rushed for 376 yards and nine touchdowns on just 79 attempts, giving him a very solid 4.8 yards-per-carry average.
Michigan’s defense has stepped up in its last two games against Illinois and Iowa. Their undersized front seven has managed 25 tackles for loss and 14 sacks over the last two weeks, and they will need that intensity to quiet the crowd in Pennsylvania.
Looking For Perfection
The Nittany Lions are undefeated so far this season, and, while they have only played one ranked opponent, they have handled their schedule with ease. They took down Purdue and Maryland by a combined score of 94-7 then followed it up with a 17-12 win over No. 17 Iowa.
While they have not suffered a loss yet, the Nittany Lions would make a statement to put them on the map for the College Football Playoff with a win in this game. It seems all roads from the Big Ten lead through Ohio State or Wisconsin, but this game could decide the important next team up in the conference’s East Division. Penn State is currently ranked No. 7 in the nation, and a win here could keep them right on the edge of the top four.
Sean Clifford has been under center this year for Penn State, and the sophomore has thrown for 1,560 yards, 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions over the first five games of the season. Noah Cain has been getting the job done on the ground this year with 310 yards and six touchdowns on 57 attempts. The freshman will look to help Penn State establish the ground game early in this game against the tough Michigan defense to allow the Nittany Lions to control the tempo.
Penn State comes into this game as a nine-point favorite with home-field advantage. This should provide a good test for them to see where they stand in the Big Ten hierarchy heading into the second half of the season.
What To Expect
I believe this will be an old school, tough, defensive, Big Ten battle from start to finish. Look for Penn State to make fewer mistakes and come away with a victory in this one, although I think it will be by less than nine points.