Game Preview: Penn State vs. Michigan

Audio/Story posted October 17, 2019 in CommRadio, Sports by Zach Donaldson

Host Matt McClure and analysts Ben Geller, Matt Noah and Caleb Schweiger discuss Penn State's upcoming White Out matchup against Michigan: 

On Saturday night, No. 16 Michigan travels to Beaver Stadium to take on No. 7 Penn State.

Coming off of a gutty 17-12 victory versus Iowa, the Nittany Lions (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) are looking to carry that momentum into this White Out showdown with the Wolverines (5-1, 3-1 Big Ten) who will look to pull off the upset.

For a struggling Michigan team, going into Beaver Stadium as underdogs isn’t ideal. It also isn’t very promising that Michigan under head coach Jim Harbaugh is 1-9 versus top-10 teams, 0-7 as underdogs and 1-6 on the road against ranked opponents since he took over the job in 2015.

Actually, the story line was very similar for the Nittany Lions last week facing then No. 17 Iowa. Going into Kinnick Stadium at nighttime, Franklin had never won a game on the road versus a ranked opponent during his tenure at Penn State but the Nittany Lions ultimately came out on top because of their stout defense. There was also magnificent punting by Blake Gillikin and hard running by Noah Cain.

Through six games thus far, Penn State’s backfield has been a running-back-by-committee. However, it should be evident enough after the win at Iowa that Noah Cain needs to be the lead back going forward. The Nittany Lion’s offense is just a different monster with Cain in the backfield. He’s a hard, downhill runner and the offense seems to move the ball with ease whenever he’s pounding the rock. Cain also leads the team in rushing touchdowns with six. This season the Wolverines are allowing just shy of 123 rushing yards per-game, so that should be something Penn State looks to capitalize on.

It’s going to be crucial that the Nittany Lions are able to run the ball effectively on Saturday night. It’ll open up the field for guys like wide receiver KJ Hamler and take some of the pressure off of quarterback Sean Clifford. Penn State can’t afford to be one-dimensional – it’ll put Clifford more at risk of making mistakes and give Michigan more opportunities to put up points.

Penn State’s defense has been the team’s standout unit all season, which should continue versus Michigan. Freshman running back Zach Charbonnet is having a solid season for the Wolverines, but Penn State’s defense has been suffocating against the run. The Nittany Lions are only giving up 1.6 yards per carry and have let up just one rushing touchdown all season.

Michigan most likely won’t be able to get anything going on the ground. It’s going to be up to quarterback Shea Patterson to make throws against Penn State’s secondary, which at times has shown it can be susceptible to giving up big plays.

Playing in a tough environment like Beaver Stadium, if Michigan wants a chance, they’re going to need to silence the crowd and take away the momentum. The best way to do that is to force turnovers. Penn State’s defense shouldn’t waiver much versus an average Michigan offense. If  the Wolverines’ defense gives Patterson and the offense more opportunities, like putting pressure on Clifford and forcing some turnovers, they have a better chance of pulling off the upset.

Last season, the Wolverines dismantled the Nittany Lions 42-7 in Ann Arbor. This time, at Beaver Stadium, a similar result is highly unlikely.

Prediction: Penn State 35, Michigan 13

 

 

Zach Donaldson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zach.donaldson1@gmail.com.