Michigan (5-1, 2-1) gets set to take on Penn State (6-0, 3-0) Saturday in Happy Valley. It will be a nationally broadcasted game on ABC at 7:30 PM eastern time, and ESPN College Game day will be airing live from State College at 9 AM. The Wolverines have a three game win streak over the Nittany Lions, but this year Penn State is a 9.5 point favorite.
Will it be a defensive battle?
Michigan possesses the No. 1 total defense in the nation, while Penn State has the No. 1 scoring defense. I believe this game will be a lower scoring game, but not as low as some people may think. The Nittany Lions still have the No. 16 ranked scoring offense in the country, averaging 39.7 points per game. PSU running back Saquon Barkley is the Heisman front runner, leading the nation in all purpose yards per game (217). His only problem this week will be Michigan’s stout defense. The best defenses Penn State has seen this season are Iowa and Indiana, neither of which are in the top 30 total defenses. Barkley will likely have some trouble finding space this Saturday, as Michigan only allows 85.8 rushing yards per game. The Wolverines’ defense is good enough to keep them in any game.
Keys to victory for Michigan
Michigan will give themselves a chance to win if they could shut down Saquon Barkley. The Wolverines’ front four has been able to stop the run without the help of blitz packages this season. They have proven that they can get to the running back before he gets down the field. If they force Penn State’s offense to be one dimensional, they will be able to force plenty of three and outs.
The Wolverines will also need some sort of scoring production to win this game, even if it comes from defensive touchdowns or field goals. The offense continues to struggle moving the ball down the field. Their defense is good enough to win this game, but may need some points in order to do so.
Keys to victory for Penn State
If the Lions can get Saquon Barkley going, I think it will be a really long game for Michigan. But I really believe that Barkley is going to struggle more than he has the entire season. In that case, quarterback Trace McSorley will need to take matters into his own hands. Michigan’s defense showed some bend last week when Indiana pushed the tempo late in the fourth quarter. If McSorley can tire out the Wolverines’ defense with short passes and tempo, they will pull away in the fourth quarter.
I’ll be very surprised if Michigan’s offense is able to score more than one touchdown. This will be the toughest environment that John O’Korn and a lot of the young players have ever been in. The Wolverines will need a defensive or special teams touchdown to give them a good shot at winning this game. When it comes down to it, i just don’t think Michigan will be able to score enough points. Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley will do enough for a 17-9 Penn State win.
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