By Andre Monroe
The Penn State Nittany Lions are set to take on the Michigan Wolverines in a Big Ten rivalry. The Nittany Lions head to “The Big House” in Ann Arbor off of it’s bye week. Both teams will face their first ranked opponent when they match up this Saturday.
The last we saw Penn State play was in a slugfest against Northwestern. The rainy conditions proved to be very influential in the game’s performance. James Franklin preached ball security after Penn State fumbled the ball four times.
“I’m never going to allow the weather to be an excuse. We’ve got to protect the football now. If part of ball security is patentable, you have to take all shots with the top of your pads…. The weather will never be an excuse for us.”
The running game against Northwestern was a strength and weakness. The fumbles stalled drives, contributing to the low-scoring match. However, it is also what won them the game in this rainy contest. The freshman duo of Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen combined for 42 rushing attempts and a touchdown. The Nittany Lions will need this duo to come alive against Michigan, just minus the turnovers.
Blake Corum leads the Wolverines offense. Corum has been widely recognized as one of the best backs in the nation and has shown that this season. In his latest matchup against Indiana, Blake Corum rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown. Through six games, Corum has tallied 735 rushing yards on 118 attempts. Might I add his 11-rushing touchdowns, second in the NCAA. The Nittany Lions’ defense will have their work cut out for them, but they have the pieces to counter Michigan’s stout rushing attack.
Penn State’s defense has been a force to be reckoned with in its first six games. Since Purdue, the defense hasn’t allowed more than 14 points. The Nittany Lions rank fifth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 79.6 yards per game. The young guys have been a significant piece in the emergence of this defense. Freshman linebacker Abdul Carter ranks second on the team in total tackles, and fellow freshman Dani Dennis-Sutton leads Penn State in sacks. When asked, Penn State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said, “they don’t look out of place.”
“If guys like Abdul do their job they’re going to play and play well because he’s so physically gifted,” Diaz added.
The secondary has looked equally impressive due to the contributions of veterans Joey Porter Jr. and Ji’ayir Brown, but also young guys like Kalen King and Zakee Wheatley. Penn State forced three takeaways in its win over Northwestern and 11 in the last three games, tallying its most in any three-game stretch since 1996.
Saturday’s game will be won in the trenches. Michigan has benefited from better QB play recently with J.J McCarthy, but the offense still runs through the offensive line and running game. I like Penn State’s chances if they can limit Corum’s explosiveness and disrupt McCarthy’s timing. On the other side of the ball, Sean Clifford has to have a turnover-less game against Michigan’s aggressive pass rush. I expect the run game to be productive, but the passing attack will have to come alive for Penn State to have a chance; they can not be one-dimensional. Ultimately, I expect it to be a close game, with Michigan prevailing.
Michigan 27, Penn State 23
Andre Monroe covers Penn State Football for Insider Institute. Follow him on Twitter @amonroe_ and Contact him at email@example.com.