Saturday, October 12, 2013

Preview: Michigan at Penn State

Rush Offense vs. PSU Rush Defense
Michigan altered its rushing offense last week, moving from mostly a zone team to a gap blocking scheme with the insertion of mammoth left guard Chris Bryant. Starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint had his second best rushing effort (17 carries, 78 yards, 2 touchdowns) of the year as the Wolverines showed a new look by running "tackle over," putting two tackles and a guard to one side of the ball. The Nittany Lions have a couple of small-ish defensive ends, much like the Minnesota Gophers; redshirt junior C.J. Olaniyan (6'3", 244 lbs.) and sophomore Deion Barnes (6'4", 244 lbs.) have combined for 31 tackles and 5 tackles for loss, mostly from Michigan native Olaniyan. Redshirt junior Kyle Baublitz (6'5", 292 lbs.) and senior DaQuan Jones (6'3", 318 lbs.) man the interior defensive line, with Jones totaling 30 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. Senior strongside linebacker Glenn Carson (6'3", 235 lbs.) leads the team with 39 tackles. Overall, Penn State's opponents have averaged 3.2 yards/carry and scored 6 touchdowns on the ground. Jones in particular will be a load to handle for Michigan's young interior offensive linemen, and Penn State always has some of the most technically sound linebackers in the country. I think Michigan will have to resort to some more designed runs for quarterback Devin Gardner (56 carries, 318 yards, 6 touchdowns) if they want to have regular success on the ground.

Pass Offense vs. PSU Pass Defense
Gardner (71/118 passing, 1036 yards, 8 touchdowns, 8 interceptions) took a step forward with his passing last week, but his numbers still aren't stellar, especially in the turnover department. The star of last week's game was tight end Devin Funchess (7 receptions, 151 yards, 1 touchdown against the Gophers), but the leading receiver is still wide receiver Jeremy Gallon (24 catches, 367 yards, 4 touchdowns). Wideouts Jehu Chesson (6 catches, 89 yards, 1 touchdown) and Drew Dileo (7 catches, 86 yards, 1 touchdown) round out the crew of frequent targets. The Nittany Lions have allowed just 5 touchdowns and made 5 interceptions on the season. Sophomore cornerback Trevor Williams (6'1", 187 lbs.) spent last year as a wide receiver and now has 6 pass breakups and 1 interception as a starting corner; on the opposite side is sophomore Jordan Lucas (6'0", 193 lbs.) with 7 pass breakups. The safeties have been solid with senior Malcolm Willis (5'11", 215 lbs.) and junior Adrian Amos (6'0", 215 lbs.) combining for 37 tackles and 2 interceptions. Jones and Baublitz each have 2 sacks, and the Lions have 11 quarterback takedowns altogether. Michigan's offensive tackles should hold up fairly well against Penn State's edge rushers, but the interior will be susceptible to a push up the middle, and PSU isn't shy about sending blitzers from the secondary (3 sacks from defensive backs). I'm not particularly concerned about Michigan matching up with the secondary, but if PSU can put rushers in Gardner's face, his turnover issues might reappear.

Rush Defense vs. PSU Rush Offense
Redshirt junior converted fullback Zach Zwinak (6'1", 240 lbs.) leads the team in rushing with 369 yards, 4.4 yards/carry, and 8 touchdowns. Junior Bill Belton (5'10", 205 lbs.) has 284 yards on 6.6 yards/carry and redshirt freshman Akeel Lynch (6'0", 211 lbs.) has 270 yards and 7.7 yards a pop; altogether, those three have 923 yards, 5.7 yards/carry, and 11 touchdowns, which are some pretty formidable statistics. From left to right, PSU's offensive line goes redshirt sophomore Donovan Smith (6'5", 322 lbs.), redshirt junior Miles Dieffenbach (6'3", 295 lbs.), fifth year senior Ty Howle (6'0", 293 lbs.), redshirt senior John Urschel (6'3", 301 lbs.), and redshirt junior Garry Gilliam (6'6', 303 lbs.). Urschel was a First Team All-Big Ten selection last year, while Gilliam started eight games at tight end. Michigan has allowed just 3.1 yards/carry so far and 0 touchdowns to opponents. Sophomore backup nose tackle Ondre Pipkins tore his ACL last week and will miss the remainder of the season, but Michigan stops teams more by gang tackling and solid linebacker play than dominating the line of scrimmage. The top two tacklers for Michigan are the two inside linebackers, junior Desmond Morgan (34) and sophomore James Ross III (32); the other linebacker position has been manned by junior Brennen Beyer and fifth year senior Cam Gordon while Jake Ryan recovers from ACL surgery, and those two have combined for 27 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. Fifth year senior nose tackle Quinton Washington should see more playing time this week against Penn State's pro-style offense, and while I don't think Michigan will hold them to 3.1 yards/carry, I think Michigan matches up pretty well up front.

Pass Defense vs. PSU Pass Offense
Penn State starts a true freshman quarterback in Christian Hackenberg (6'3", 220 lbs.) who completes 59.9% of his passes for 1,367 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Outside of junior wide receiver Allen Robinson (6'3", 210 lbs.), PSU doesn't have many downfield threats. Robinson has 38 catches for 621 yards and 5 touchdowns, which represents 44% of the total receiving yardage on the team. Senior Brandon Moseby-Felder averages just 8.4 yards/catch and redshirt sophomore tight end Kyle Carter (6'3", 243 lbs.) has caught just 11 balls for 147 yards. Michigan has allowed 7 touchdowns through the air and has made 7 interceptions, 4 of which have come from cornerback Blake Countess (1 for a 72-yard touchdown). Michigan has 5 sacks from its outside linebackers and 3.5 from weakside ends, but the interior rush has been somewhat lacking on standard downs. In obvious passing situations, Michigan will put undersized defensive tackle Jibreel Black at nose tackle, and his quickness allows him to put some pressure on opposing quarterbacks to the tune of .5 sacks, 3 quarterback hurries, and 1 forced fumble. Those numbers don't tell the whole story of the pressure Black can create, but it will be interesting to see how much defensive coordinator Greg Mattison can mess with freshman Hackenberg's head.

Roster Notes
  • Players who had scholarship offers from Michigan include DE Deion Barnes, RB Bill Belton, TE Adam Breneman, LB Ben Kline, OG Brendan Mahon, DE C.J. Olaniyan, and DE Anthony Zettel.
  • Redshirt junior linebacker Brad Bars is the older brother of Michigan redshirt freshman offensive guard Blake Bars.
  • Native Michiganders include redshirt freshman LB Charles Idemudia (Grosse Pointe North), Olaniyan (Warren Mott), junior WR Allen Robinson (Orchard Lake St. Mary's), and Zettel (Ogemaw Heights).
  • Linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden coached at Michigan from 1979-1980.
  • Devin Gardner gets sacked twice on pressures up the middle.
  • Greg Mattison pulls out some blitz packages to confuse Christian Hackenberg into 3 sacks and 2 interceptions.
  • Michigan still struggles to run the ball and requires some big plays in the passing game.
  • Dennis Norfleet scores a touchdown.
  • Michigan 28, Penn State 24
Last Time They Played . . . 
  • It was Rich Rodriguez vs. Joe Paterno back in 2010.
  • Denard Robinson had 27 carries for 191 yards and 3 touchdowns.
  • Penn State running back Evan Royster broke out of his slump for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns.
  • Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin threw for 250 yards and 1 touchdown.
  • Penn State 41, Michigan 31


  • La Grange (OH) Keystone TE C.J. Conrad
  • Jersey City (NJ) St. Peter's Prep CB Minkah Fitzpatrick
  • Cincinnati (OH) St. Xavier LB Justin Hilliard
  • Pittsburgh (PA) Baldwin OT Sterling Jenkins


  1. This game will be very much about the coaching. I think we'll learn something important about how well Hoke and Co. can prepare this team for a not-easy, but should-win game on the road. Can they get the team mentally reedy to play, with a solid game plan in place, and will they make smart adjustments during the game? If so, I think we can win comfortably. If we get out-coached, we do not have the on-field talent advantage to overcome that, and will likely lose a frustrating game.

    1. Exactly, Hoke/ Borges must have the Offense in particular prepared for the pressure I expect PSU to bring. They will sell out totally to stop the run and blitz frequently to make Gardner uneasy and throw INT's. The players obviously have a responsibility as well but the play calling will be key to releave the pressure. They should should be able to hit on some big plays if PSU goes all in to stop the run and rush 5 or 6 continuously to get to Gardner. I sure hope we're not on here afterwards saying the game play sucked!

    2. I think Michigan will be mentally ready for this game. Penn State is a name opponent, and it's the first time they've played these guys in a few years. This is the biggest game since Notre Dame in week two, so I don't think focus should be a problem.

    3. Michigan is most definitely not ready to play this game. Gardner is horrible, the Oline is the worst I've ever seen here, and Borges hasn't a clue how to run an offense. Cripes, it's like he only knows four plays.

  2. Phil Steele is betting against us. Anyhow I am worried, but hopeful that we can pull this one out.
    My humble predictions
    1. Gardner throws an int. (or two)
    2. Gardner gets a sack (or two)
    3. Fitz gets 20+ carries and breaks the 100 yard mark
    4. Gardner rushes for at least 50 yards and two scores
    5. the Michigan secondary picks up a pick
    6. Michigan 31 - Penn State 21

  3. I gotta bad feeling about this one. My concern for this game is that Penn State will be able to run on us, thus giving Hackenberg second/third downs with short yardage.

    I don't think Penn State can stop us from running either, especially off tackle and outside as our unbalanced or 'tackle over' or whatever that thing is, formations will cause some problems for another pair of smallish defensive ends.

    Both sets of linebackers better be good as they are gonna be busy.

    I think this is gonna be a low possession (7/8), clock eating, long drive, frustrating, nail biter of a football game with Penn State holding an edge in home field and motivation as they are sick and tired of losing to Michigan at home.

    27 - 24 ..... we lose ..... Hoping I'm wrong.

    1. Well I pretty much got it all wrong except the mail biter part and unfortunately, the winner.

  4. Another great meltdown!! So tired of this team!

  5. So pissed at Al Borges. BRANDON NEEDS TO FIRE HIM. If it looks like he won't get fired, the student section needs to start doing chants about is young daughter. Make him feel so uncomfortable that he leaves on his own.

  6. Oh well. I hope both Hoke and David Brandon realize by now that Funk has to be fired for his incompetence. Fitz had 27 yards at 27 attempts.