Friday, October 29, 2010

Preview: Michigan at Penn State

This must be how the remainder of Penn State's two-deep feels.

This is a big Saturday for me.  Not only does Michigan get a chance to avenge two consecutive losses to Penn State and earn a bowl berth, but I live in some fairly heavy Penn State country and these people talk a lot of smack.  I have some friendly bets with some of my players - the loser(s) have to run a mile after practice on Monday.

Rush Offense vs. Penn State Rush Defense
In comparison with a similar offense to Michigan's, the Nittany Lions gave up 282 yards on only 54 carries against the Illinois Fighting Illini two weeks ago, and that defense has further been depleted by injury.  Interestingly, Michigan has the #7 rushing offense in the country and averages . . . 282 yards a game.  Despite that outburst, Penn State sits at a middling #52 against the run.  As one might expect, Penn State's bad opponents (Kent State, Youngstown State, Minnesota) have run the ball poorly, and the solid opponents (Alabama, Illinois) have gashed them.  I have not been impressed with Michigan's running backs this season, but with PSU's injury issues on defense, I expect Denard Robinson and the Running Back du Jour to have a great day.
Advantage: Michigan

Pass Offense vs. Penn State Pass Defense
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has suffered a lull in his passing efficiency over the past couple weeks, turning in subpar passing games against both Michigan State and Iowa.  Iowa has the somewhat unique quality of being able to stick to their game plan and do a pretty good job of stopping whatever offense the opponent runs.  Whereas Michigan flops between several defenses, Iowa just played their base personnel and Cover 2 defense and they were able to stifle the previously explosive Michigan passing game.  Prior to the season, I suspected that Tate Forcier would become more valuable when the Big Ten season arrived; true to form, Forcier stepped in once Robinson got hurt in the third quarter and rallied the Wolverines to 21 points.  However, opponents are completing 63% of their passes against the Nittany Lions, and leading interceptor Nick Sukay will miss the game with an injury.  And not that defensive linemen have much of an impact on Denard Robinson, but the injuries to Penn State's defensive ends will make it difficult for Penn State to add to the total of only 4 sacks allowed by the Wolverines this season.
Advantage: Michigan

Rush Defense vs. Penn State Rush Offense
I don't know what to think here.  Running back Evan Royster has torched Michigan over the past couple seasons, rushing for something like 500 yards on 2 carries.  On the one hand, Penn State's offensive line is made up of wet Klee-nex, Stefen Wisniewski, and a balloon animal.  On the other hand, replace "Stefen Wisniewski" with "Mike Martin's sprained ankle" and that's a pretty good description of Michigan's defense, too.  Considering that Michigan hasn't been able to stop the run at all this year, I have to assume that Penn State will gash the Wolverines once again.  It will be the #86 rush offense against the #54 rush defense, but keep in mind that teams feel like they can beat Michigan through the air whenever they want; just ask Indiana and Notre Dame whether the running game was important for running neck-and-neck with Michigan.
Advantage: Penn State

Pass Defense vs. Penn State Pass Offense
Penn State is the #71 pass offense and the #93 pass efficiency offense.  So . . . they're crappy.  Recent reports indicate that freshman starter Robert Bolden will miss Saturday's game with concussion symptoms.  I got a chance to see former Michigan commit Kevin Newsome back in the spring of 2009 when he enrolled early at Penn State, and he looked like me playing quarterback, except only if I drank a fifth of whiskey first.  That means that redshirt sophomore, former walk-on Matt McGloin will likely get the start on Saturday.  McGloin's career stats are 6 completions on 15 attempts, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception.  And now that we're aware of the mediocrity that is Penn State's pass offense, you should expect at least 350 yards passing and a few touchdowns.  Okay, maybe not.  I'm feeling gutsy, so . . .
Advantage: Michigan

Final Predictions
  • A healthy Denard Robinson runs for 180 yards
  • Michigan exploits the middle of the field for 220+ yards passing
  • For only the second time this season, Evan Royster rushes for 100+ yards
  • One of Michigan's inexperienced cornerbacks gets his first career interception
  • I won't be running a mile after practice on Monday
  • Michigan 42, Penn State 24


  1. Magnus,

    Can you see the defense turning in an impressive performance relative to how they've been burned so far? Say like keeping PSU under 350 yards and under 25 points?

    Also, how important is gaining bowl eligibility to the confidence of this team? Do you think that getting the monkey off their back will allow them to play with more confidence and swagger the coming weeks?

  2. @ Alex 9:31 a.m.

    Maybe it's just me, but I have a hard time imagining that I'll be impressed by tomorrow's performance, even if they do hold PSU to less than 350 yards and 25 points. The thing is, Penn State is so beat up that they SHOULD be held to those marks or lower. "Impressive" would be the wrong word for shutting down an offense with no tight ends and a walk-on QB.

    I do think that becoming bowl eligible would give this team more confidence. While they say all the right things, it has to be painful for the seniors (Dorrestein, Mouton, Ezeh, etc.) who were around when Michigan was in the national title hunt and/or beating up Florida in the Capital One Bowl. That would alleviate some pressure and give them a chance to concentrate on beating teams like OSU and Wisconsin just for the sake of beating them.

  3. I agree with your prediction (mine is 38-21 good guys). If I were a betting man, I would have taken MSU and Iowa big in those games, but this week, I'd take Michigan. Only favored by three with PSU's crappy run defense, walk-on QB, and sieve offensive line? If turnovers are easy in this game, we'll win solidy. If we're -3 again, we'll still be in it late. If we're +3 in turnovers, it's going to be a slaughter.

  4. Who do you think is better: UConn or Penn State

  5. I also see this as a fairly comfortable win for Michigan. Do you have any thoughts on why Vegas disagrees with us?

  6. I like the prediction but I see a closer game. What do you think of Rich Rod saying they were looking into a medical RS for Gardner? I know you were very much against him playing this year. Do you think RRod had this planned all along and the "back" is just a way to punish Tate and get Devin his RS?

  7. @ Big Boutros

    I haven't seen UConn since Week 1. Based on that performance, I'd have to say that PSU is better than UConn. But not by much.

  8. @ Andrew 5:26 p.m.

    Well, so far Michigan has, what, 3 or 4 wins in the Big Ten under Rodriguez? And they're 0-2 against PSU under Rodriguez? And Michigan has lost two straight games? I can see plenty of reasons that Vegas would disagree with us. In my opinion, those things don't override what's going on with each team right now, but they can't be completely ignored, either.

  9. @ Anonymous 7:09 a.m.

    I think the Devin Gardner redshirt thing is shady, but a lot of teams do it. I have a very hard time believing that Gardner's "back injury" is serious enough - and timely enough - to keep him out of the final eight games of the season. I said this at the time, but I think Gardner playing over Forcier was completely related to Forcier's attitude, and the coaches potentially sacrificed Gardner's fifth year to punish Forcier. I think that's a stupid reason to play with someone's football career like that.

    However, it looks like Gardner's medical redshirt request will be approved and he'll get a fifth year, anyway. At least that's what the mods on a couple of the premium sites think.