Michigan 42, Penn State 7

Michigan 42, Penn State 7


November 4, 2018

Brandon Watson (image via Freep)

Holy blowout. I thought Michigan would win by about 10 points, and I think this outcome surprised just about everyone. Michigan’s domination of Penn State’s offense wasn’t too much of a surprise, but the Wolverines’ putting up 42 points was. I was thinking more along the lines of 24-14.

Hit the jump for the rest of the recap.

Michigan’s defense is suffocating. Penn State’s offense isn’t as good this year without running back Saquon Barkley and tight end Mike Gesicki, so let’s get that out of the way first. But they still have weapons with quarterback Chance McSorley, running back Miles Sanders, slot receiver K.J. Hamler, and others. Those weapons didn’t matter, though, because Michigan had them on lockdown. Other than a couple slant passes and a bit of late-game yardage against the backups, the Nittany Lions did practically nothing all afternoon. They had 68 rushing yards and 184 total yards, while Michigan forced 3 turnovers and scored on a pick-six. They did have an opportunity for a big play early when Michigan cornerback Brandon Watson fell on a deep route, but McSorley overthrew his receiver.

Quinn Nordin and Co. dodged a bullet. The blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown by PSU (negated by a penalty) was a huge potential momentum-turner that never happened. Even though Michigan was in the process of dominating the field at that time, the score didn’t reflect it (it was 7-0 Michigan at the time). I still think Michigan would have won the game, but that play in itself may have given the Nittany Lions the life they needed to keep it within a couple scores. It also may have quieted the raucous Michigan crowd a little bit.

Dylan McCaffrey shouldn’t have broken his collarbone. This may be an unpopular opinion, but Dylan McCaffrey shouldn’t have even had a chance to break his collarbone in this game. There was a lot of talk during the Rich Rodriguez years about running quarterbacks and whether they’re exposed to more injury or not, and some stats show there’s virtually no difference. I’m not arguing with the stats, but I will say this: In this particular game, McCaffrey should have been handing off the ball to a third- or fourth-string running back and not exposing himself to injury. I think Michigan was getting greedy by running zone read option stuff near the end and hoping McCaffrey could break a big play like he did against Wisconsin, but it cost the team its second-best QB. Michigan should be running the QB when it has to, not just for fun at the end of a blowout game.

When are teams going to figure out Michigan’s zone read? It’s surprising to me that teams like Wisconsin and Penn State haven’t figured out how to stop Michigan’s zone read. Shea Patterson is shifty, but he’s not a dynamic runner. He’s the type of guy who should be gaining yards if you forget about him, or if defensive linemen get out of their rush lanes. But right now he’s a big part of Michigan’s rushing offense, because the Wolverines’ offensive line can’t necessarily be trusted to create holes up front when it counts. Running back Karan Higdon hasn’t shown the ability to consistently find and exploit holes on the backside of those inside zone blocking schemes, so if I were a defensive coordinator, I would be trying to make Higdon beat me on those critical 3rd- and 4th-down plays.

Watch out for Rutgers. There’s no question that this Michigan team is light-years ahead of Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights are coming off two weeks of relatively close games against superior opponents (an 18-15 loss to Northwestern and then a 31-17 loss to Wisconsin). Michigan can’t afford to have a letdown before Ohio State, and even if they win, they might need help to get into the playoff. I don’t think the committee would exclude a 1-loss Michigan team, but a close win against Rutgers and/or Indiana might submarine their opportunity to get in over another 1-loss team. With LSU’s loss to Alabama, that probably solidifies Michigan’s spot in the playoff if they win out, but you don’t want to leave anything to chance, such as Oklahoma creeping up in the rankings or this nightmare scenario:

  • Clemson remains undefeated
  • Notre Dame remains undefeated
  • Alabama loses to Georgia in the SEC Championship game
  • Georgia beats Alabama in the SEC Championship game

At this point we should be rooting for Georgia to lose again.

14 comments

  1. Comments: 962
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    je93
    Nov 04, 2018 at 10:04 AM

    Outstanding game!

    Agree on Dylan, and I said as much the drive before he came in with Shae still running it

  2. UM_1973
    Comments: 51
    Joined: 10/14/2015
    UM_1973
    Nov 04, 2018 at 10:31 AM

    According to 538, if both Oklahoma and Michigan win out, selection committee is more likely to pick Oklahoma rather than Michigan. This is prob due to Big Ten’s terrible out of conference results.

    • Comments: 962
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      je93
      Nov 04, 2018 at 10:56 AM

      Link? I don’t get it. OU struggled mightily against TTech last night, IowaSt earlier, and even Army! Then there’s that lost to meh-Texas team (that got trounced by Maryland)

    • Comments: 30
      Joined: 8/21/2015
      AA7596
      Nov 04, 2018 at 12:36 PM

      Big 12 wasn’t so hot in non-conference either. Their Power 5 games:
      –Oklahoma beat 2-7 UCLA
      –W. Virginia beat 4-5 Tennessee
      –Texas lost to Maryland, beat 5-4 USC
      –Iowa St. lost to Iowa
      –Oklahoma St. didn’t play any
      –Texas Tech lost to Ole Miss
      –Baylor lost to Duke
      –TCU lost to Ohio St.
      –Kansas St. lost to Mississippi St.
      –Kansas beat Rutgers

      There’s no way that becomes the rationale for the Big 12 champion making the playoff.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2614
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Nov 04, 2018 at 1:09 PM

      I’m not disagreeing with you (or claiming you’re wrong), but if Michigan wins out, they’ll have wins over Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State, plus whoever the West sends to the Big Ten Championship. That includes wins against several teams who are likely to be ranked in the top 25 (Penn State, Ohio State, and the West representative) and a loss only against undefeated (for now) Notre Dame. Oklahoma’s only win over a ranked team would likely be WVU; the best teams remaining on their schedule are 4-loss Oklahoma State and 4-loss Texas Tech.

      In summary, Michigan has a “good” loss and several good wins, while Oklahoma would have a “mediocre” loss and one good win.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3827
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Nov 04, 2018 at 1:21 PM

        I like when people try to apply logic to this. The committee has nebulous criteria that changes from season to season — they can pick anybody they want for any reason. We’re all just guessing.

        When you boil it down we’re still leaving things up to the arbitrary whims of voters, just like 1997 when Tom Osborne campaigned for votes and Lloyd Carr didn’t. I believe that year Michigan had a stronger “strength of record” but Nebraska was a more impressive team statistically (per fancy stats).

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3827
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Lanknows
      Nov 04, 2018 at 1:16 PM

      I wouldn’t take this too seriously. However the model is handling this, beyond the foundation of likelihood of winning out, is by definition pretty coarse. There just isn’t enough data available to make a sophisticated model of the subjective decision-making of the panel.

      In other words, it’s a pretty rough guess, even if it’s based on solid methodology (which is a separate issue that I can’t speak to).

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3827
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Nov 04, 2018 at 1:25 PM

        My 2 cents on the polls/committee: I don’t care right now.

        Beat Ohio State.

        Playoff or Rose Bowl- they both sound great.

        Beat Ohio State.

        I’ll write you a 4,000 word treatise on why Michigan should be in over teams A, B, and Q and or invented reforms to ‘fix’ an inevitably imperfect system, but not until after the game.

        Beat Ohio State.

  3. Comments: 533
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    michymich
    Nov 04, 2018 at 12:56 PM

    I don’t know about the McCaffrey take. Should he be passing and he get hit? Look, it’s football. The problem was he took a big hit (see Garoppolo) and he may need to learn not to take those hits.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2614
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Nov 04, 2018 at 1:12 PM

      No…that’s why I said he should be handing off to a 3rd- or 4th-string running back. You’re acting as if the only two options are a) run your QB and b) have your QB hold onto the ball long enough to get hit.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 3827
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Nov 04, 2018 at 1:12 PM

    Great game. Go Blue.

    My reaction to the McCaffrey injury is: at least it wasn’t Shea. My grumble is that Patterson was in so late (and still running the ball and dropping back to pass) well after things were decided. I know Michigan was trying to rub it in to make a statement but I don’t like exposing a TTB-rank #1 type player like that. I don’t think they have to worry about protecting the backup. But they should be keeping an eye out for the starter.

    Hopefully Milton will keep his red-shirt but if he’s really ahead of Peters they may want to give him as much live work as they can these next couple games. I believe he’s only played in one game (wisc) so there is cushion available.

    Peters may still be relevant!

  5. Lanknows
    Comments: 3827
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Lanknows
    Nov 04, 2018 at 5:05 PM

    So many things to enjoy from that one. Everything is coming together at once. My favorite things from this game:

    +Rashan Gary back. With Gary in the starting lineup, Solomon rounding into form, and Uche blowing up – the DL looks at full strength. This gives Michigan the freedom to rotate Paye in at either DE spot or as a pass-rush specialist at DT. The DL depth concerns are in the rearview and the only question is who deserves to get how many snaps and when.

    +Tarik Black back. With Collins and DPJ looking solid and Grant Perry looking like Grant Perry, WR looks like a position of strength again. The depth concerns are gone here too.

    +The OL can run-block. They were carving holes for Higdon early against a legit D. Wisconsin wasn’t good but these results against MSU and PSU are telling. Warriner, stability in personnel, and the QB run game have combined to turn this into a quality running team. It’s not a juggernaut that can run on anyone but getting over 4ypc consistently from the run game is major progress. Hallelujah.

    +Safeties in coverage. Hamler might be the most dangerous slot Michigan faces all year and they shut him down (1 catch/20 yards). Don Brown’s strategy: lock Metellus on him and give help with Kinnel. It worked great and a supposed weakness of this team looks to be more than fine.

    +Uche – Beast.

    Least favorite things:

    +McCaffrey gets hurt. Part of the game but it stinks to lose him. Peters wasn’t good last year. Milton is a freshman. That said, the goals have been reset to a point where we need Patterson to achieve them regardless. On that note:

    +Patterson exposure. 28-0 in the 4th quarter and the game is already decided. Patterson’s throwing passes and running the ball. No need for it. Either hand it off or get the backup in there.

    +Home field advantage. Like the Wisconsin game, there were a few marginal calls in this game that went Michigan’s way. These are the kind of things that can turn a lopsided game into a scrum on the road. Or decide a close game. Michigan’s averaging over 40 points a game at home but there are no more big games in Ann Arbor this year. On the road: 17, 21, and 20.

    +No shutout. Doesn’t really mean much but the game looks better on paper if that last drive had been snuffed out.

    +The Game. The wait. The anticipation is going to be epic.

    • Blue in NC
      Comments: 42
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Blue in NC
      Nov 05, 2018 at 1:36 PM

      I agree generally with your points here. Good post.
      Just a couple of comments.
      On the calls, I was again surprised that Michigan could not create a single holding call on a very mediocre OL for PSU (unless I missed one late).
      On Patterson – I would have preferred he exit earlier but I can understand getting him snaps because he is still rounding into form in this offense and the additional reads and exchanges are still probably making him better. This was maybe the last “tough” defense before the OSU game (although IU has gotten better). I agree that I hope he doesn’t play into the 4th quarter in the next two games.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3827
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Lanknows
        Nov 05, 2018 at 4:05 PM

        Good point about Patterson playing the last quality D before OSU. That said, I’m not convinced that’s how the coaching staff was thinking about it. IMO they have a recurring habit of keeping starters in a bit too long.

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