The 18th ranked Michigan Wolverines head to Happy Valley this Saturday to take on the Nittany Lions of Penn State. Historically, this has been a tough match-up for the Wolverines especially on the road. It seems hard to believe that this series only started back in 1993 with the Wolverines having an edge on the overall series 10-6.
Regardless of where these two programs stand today, one word will always come to mind when these two programs clash…TRADITION! Both schools steeped in tradition, this Saturday promises to exhibit everything we have come to expect from a classic Big Ten match-up between two storied programs.
Penn State enters this week following a very tough loss at Indiana. In fact, this is the first loss for the Nittany Lions against the Hoosiers of Indiana in the last 17 meetings. Although a major disappointment for Bill O’Brien and his program do not think they will enter Beaver Stadium against the Wolverines and be complacent. On surface, it may be difficult to get passed another L in the loss column…but there are a number of things the Penn State football team can take from that loss.
First and foremost, the threat that is WR Allen Robinson. Robinson earned “Ironman of the Week” honors for the second time this season after his performance at Indiana in which he had 12 receptions for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns! Robinson has been dominating the competition and at this point in the season there has yet to be a secondary he has faced that can truly keep him contained.
True freshman QB Christian Hackenberg tallied career highs in completions, passing yardage, and touchdown passes last week in the loss to Indiana. If Hackenberg comes out with the same type of performance, and with the home crowd behind him, the Wolverines young secondary could be in for a very long day.
The Penn State defense has had its moments this season, albeit somewhat inconsistent. What will remain to be seen is if they rise to the occasion under the pressure, or will they falter and let the Wolverines control the clock and essentially the game.
For the Wolverines the game plan remains the same. Continue to establish the running game with RB’s Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green. The offensive line has consistently shown great improvement in recognizing their assignments game after game which has led to breakout plays.
If this trend continues, it will only help QB Devin Gardner open up the passing game and continue to settle in as the QB Michigan fans have been patiently waiting for! Last week Michigan had zero turnovers…can you believe it?!? ZERO TURNOVERS! If this offense can continue to improve while limiting the turnovers it can spell disaster for opponents.
The Wolverines need to continue to utilize the pure athleticism of TE Devin Funchess. Giving his size and strength, and of course his breakout game last week against Minnesota, teams will either be forced to put another defender on Funchess, or roll the dice and take their chances. Last but not least, the heart and soul of the defense LB Jake Ryan has finally been cleared to play! It remains to be seen if Coach Hoke will actually let him see some playing time.
My guess is that Jake Ryan will not leave Coach Hoke alone until he finally gets his way and steps out onto that field. Look for the Michigan defense to be inspired upon Jake Ryan’s return and that pure raw emotion will be displayed against the Penn State offense.
Either way, look for Michigan to struggle early on account of the Penn State faithful, but settle down in the second half and take control of the game.
Prediction: Michigan wins 35-21.