Penn State Preview

Saturday, October 11th  •  Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI (109,901)

Time TV Announcers Weather Line Series Last Meeting
Mark Jones
Rod Gilmore
Jessica Mendoza 
0% precip 
UM -1 
UM Leads
PSU 43 UM 40 (4OT)

Penn State by the Numbers
     4-1 (1-1)
Head coach: James Franklin
     Career: 28-16
     at PSU: 4-1, 1st year
     Rush: Bill Belton (49-189 yards, 3 TDs)
     Pass: Christian Hackenberg (113-195, 1,477 yards, 4 TDs)
     Rec.: DaeSean Hamilton (36-502 yards)
     Tackles: Mike Hull (53 tackles)
     Sacks: Anthony Zettel (3.0-18 yards)

Reason to be Concerned
The Penn State passing offense averages over 300 yards per game. If you've watched Michigan's first 6 games, that stat alone should be incredibly alarming. Michigan has had a propensity for making opposing quarterbacks look like Joe Montana, and the problem is Penn State's Christian Hackenberg could very well be the next Joe Montana. Okay, maybe not so much this season, but he's still a big tall quarterback with a big arm.

In terms of where he ranks nationally in yardage, he's 1 behind Miami's (NTM's) Andrew Hendrix and 3 ahead of Everett Golson of Notre Dame who is 9 spots ahead of Rutgers' Gary freaking Nova. So to put it simply, Michigan will need to shore up it's passing defense right quick.

Defensively, Penn State leads the B1G in scoring defense, allowing only 14.6 ppg. Senior linebacker Mike Hull leads the team in tackles with 53, good enough for 6th in the league. And as a unit, Penn State ranks 2nd in the conference and 9th in the nation in total defense giving up just 288 ypg.

For Michigan, the dream of wanting to be just a simple power rushing offense with a pure drop back QB are over. Like Denard, Devin Gardner needs to just let it loose and be who he is. Now, that might mean throwing a pick or scrambling into a sack from time to time…but it also means he'll tuck the ball and run for 25 yards when there's nothing left to do. It might mean he'll run for two touchdowns or chuck the ball up to Funchess the way he should. Its not a perfect scenario to let an ultimately flawed QB run wild, but he's far better on his own than trying to squeeze into a system that he obviously not built for. Hey, its the cost of doing business, you just have to accept it.

Derrick Green is out for the season with a broken collarbone, so primary rushing duties will fall to De'Veon Smith who's had some some flashes of brilliance so far this season. He'll likely share the load equally with Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson. So far this season Michigan has shown they would like to run the ball, and they do so efficiently early in games, but when things start to break down, the rushing game which can average 5-6 yards a pop will suddenly disappear.

Penn State has a stout defense that will challenge Michigan in a lot of ways. But as we've seen time and again, Michigan's biggest obstacle is often themselves.

Reason to be Confident
Somehow, oddsmakers have made Michigan a 1 point favorite tomorrow. When you're running out of reasons to be confident, I guess we'll take it. Other than that, I'm really at a loss as to what to put here.

Like many teams Michigan has played this year, Penn State doesn't run the ball all that well. Averaging just over 100 yards per game, one can easily see where the strength lies with the Nittany Lions' offense. Michigan will need to bring their pass rush tomorrow. We saw some glimpses of it last week against Rutgers, but it didn't really manifest into sacks the way we'd like it to. Hackenberg has regressed slightly from his breakout freshman year. So far he's tallied only 4 touchdowns to his 6 INTs.

For Michigan to be successful in games like this which can easily go either way, they need to do the little things right. They need to pass block well, run clean crisp routes, kick the ball well, field punts properly…put 11 guys on the field would be a nice start!

And the big one…create turnovers. Man, I can't tell you how incredibly bad a -13 turnover ratio is. You can't beat anyone when you're so busy beating yourself. It has to get better eventually, right? Guys?

When you have a team like Michigan, which...let's be honest is probably better than their 2-4 record would indicate, things have to eventually click into gear. Last week saw noticeable improvement on offense. Can that continue this week?

5 Predictions
• Smith will look good at times running the ball, but ultimately Gardner will be asked to do everything, with expected results.
• The turnover monkey sits on Michigan's opponent's face for the first time this year.
• M fans who demand perfection will find a reason to boo at some point.
• #UTLGodofGoodFortune v3.0
• Michigan 28 Penn State 24

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