Preview: Michigan at Penn State

Preview: Michigan at Penn State

October 20, 2017


Michigan is tied at #50 with 185 yards/game on the ground. Junior Karan Higdon has broken out the past two weeks with 37 carries for 265 yards and 3 touchdowns. Penn State is #24 in rush defense with 117 yards allowed/game and #15 with just 3.09 yards allowed/rush. Their leading tackler is Jason Cabinda (40), followed by safety Marcus Allen (34). Defensive end Shareef Miller leads the team with 6.5 tackles for loss. Despite the breakout from Higdon, Michigan struggles up front.
Advantage: Penn State

Hit the jump for more on the game against the Nittany Lions.


The Wolverines are #94 in passing offense (191.3 yards/game) and #110 in passer rating. Michigan quarterbacks have thrown 4 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Michigan only has two active players with double-digit catches through five games, including wide receiver Grant Perry (18 catches, 224 yards, 1 TD) and tight end Sean McKeon (15 catches, 181 yards). Targets for freshman wideout Donovan Peoples-Jones have increased lately, but he only has 7 catches for 94 yards on the year. Michigan is #96 in sacks allowed. Penn State is tied for #23 in sacks. They are #9 in passing defense (168 yards allowed/game) and #3 in passing efficiency rating defense. They have allowed just 3 TDs and have forced 9 INTs. Safety Amani Oruwariye leads the squad with 3 interceptions.
Advantage: Penn State


Michigan is #6 in rush defense (85.8 yards allowed/game) and #5 in rushing average allowed (2.64). Middle linebacker Devin Bush, Jr. leads the team with 49 tackles, and defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, Jr. has 7.0 tackles for loss. Despite having a potential Heisman winner in running back Saquon Barkley, Penn State is just #67 in rushing offense (165 yards/game) and #45 in rushing average (4.76 yards/carry). Barkley himself has 649 yards and 6 touchdowns, and he averages 6.36 yards/carry. He’s their horse – Barkley has over 100 carries, and #2 is Andre Robinson with 9 carries. The Penn State rushing offense is considered to be the offense’s weakness.
Advantage: Michigan


Michigan is #3 in passing defense (138 yards allowed/game) and #1 in passing efficiency defense. They have allowed 5 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. The Wolverines are tied for #11 in sacks with 20, led by defensive end Chase Winovich with 5.5. Penn State is #22 in passing offense (291.2 yards/game) and #20 in passer rating, with 15 TDs and 4 INTs. Quarterback Trace McSorley completes 67% of his passes and averages 8.2 yards/attempt. The leading receiver is Barkley (yes, a running back) with 29 catches for 395 yards (13.6 yards/catch), and the top wideout is Daesean Hamilton (22 catches, 366 yards, 4 TDs). The Nittany Lions will also throw backup QB Tommy Stevens in as an H-back, and he has 2 TD catches, too.
Advantage: Penn State


  • Penn State players recruited by Michigan: S Marcus Allen, OL Ryan Bates, WR Saeed Blacknall, DT Corey Bolds, CB Ellis Brooks, WR Irvin Charles, LB Brelin Faison-Walden, OT Will Fries, WR K.J. Hamler, CB Donovan Johnson, WR Juwan Johnson, DE Daniel Joseph, OT Brendan Mahon, OT Connor McGovern, OT Michael Menet, CB John Reid, RB Miles Sanders, DE Shane Simmons, S Jonathan Sutherland, S Garrett Taylor, OG C.J. Thorpe, CB Lamont Wade
  • S Garrett Taylor was committed to Michigan at one point
  • Michigan CB Lavert Hill and K Quinn Nordin were both previously committed to Penn State


  • Penn State was missing a bunch of players due to injury
  • Michigan held Barkley to 59 yards on 15 carries
  • Michigan ran for 326 yards, averaged 6.7 yards/carry, and scored 6 rushing touchdowns
  • Michigan 49, Penn State 10


  • Michigan goes back to being unable to run the ball
  • Saquon Barkley burns Mike McCray for a long touchdown
  • John O’Korn finally hits a deep pass
  • Penn State 20, Michigan 9


  1. Comments: 228
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    Oct 20, 2017 at 7:00 AM

    Considering that 2016 Penn St.:
    Went to the Rose Bowl and lost to USC by 1 score;
    Won the B10 Championship;
    Had a surprising upset victory over Ohio St;
    Suffered a blowout loss in Michigan Stadium;
    Lost to thier in-state rival;
    Was never picked by anyone to win the B10;
    Lost 2 of its first 5 games of the season………..

    Hmmmm; but all of the above also apply to the 1969 Wolverines. Schembeckler’s first year at Michigan.
    Almost like something paranormal……………..INTjohn

  2. JC
    Comments: 211
    Joined: 8/17/2015
    Oct 20, 2017 at 7:37 AM

    I like you continuing the theme of Michigan not giving up more than 20 in regulation.

    Here’s hoping it’s 12 or 13 -10, M wins.

  3. crazyjoedavola
    Comments: 191
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Oct 20, 2017 at 8:01 AM

    I am interested in seeing what (if anything) Michigan staff can come up with to take pressure off of O’Korn but have some semblance of balance on offense. Also, if O’Korn is terrible in this game, does he get pulled?

  4. Comments: 177
    Joined: 9/3/2015
    suduri xusai
    Oct 20, 2017 at 8:19 AM

    I really hope we see some semblance of life in offense…

  5. Comments: 995
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Oct 20, 2017 at 9:35 AM

    Have faith, 13-10 UM pulls off the upset

  6. Comments: 19
    Joined: 10/16/2015
    Vienna Jack
    Oct 20, 2017 at 10:13 AM

    27-7 Michigan victory. Won’t be quite as good as last year, but we are far better than the Pitt team that played PSU almost dead even. Can’t believe you give the PSU pass offense (#22 in the country) the edge over the M pass defense (#1 in the country). Don’t know why you think so highly of PSU’s run defense against our running game, either.

    McSorley is a gunslinger, and he is going to sling some INTs on Saturday night. Our D will continue to stuff Barkley. Our CBs cover far better than anything McSorley has seen in any other game this year.

    Ye of little faith.

    • Comments: 143
      Joined: 9/15/2015
      Oct 20, 2017 at 12:29 PM

      pitt played psu even in many stats but they struggled to score TDs and turned the ball over. unfortunately michigan also has trouble scoring TDs and avoiding turnovers vs good teams…if michigan turns the ball over and has to settle for 3 on deep drives it prob wont end well.
      michigan has a great D and theyll obviously need to play well to win but theyll need help. D should be ok but its tough to repeatedly expect 3 and outs with O giving you little in return. and while ST has been pretty good (other than kick return), they need help from the O to avoid field flipping.

      i have a hard time seeing michigan score enough points to win this game. id be thrilled if they did and the first to say i was wrong. but nothing ive seen leads me to believe theyll gain enough first down conversions and chunk plays in the pass game to pull out W. im sure theyll try to get peoples-jones the ball more in space (which is great and hugely necessary), scheme perry open a few times on throws okorn should be able to identify and make, etc but they can only convert so many smash, mesh, 2 man clear out concepts, etc with psu sitting on it.

      psu is very good but not elite squad overall – yet id still be shocked to see 27-7 win, or anything approaching that score.
      its just very unlikely to beat a good team in that type environment with 1 dimensional O (and its not even like they have some season long streak of dominating teams via the run, thats a fairly new development) and michigan is 1 dimensional at best right now – im more than ready to see okorn and pass game break trend and move the chains / rack up points however theres zero evidence thats on the horizon. im all for optimism but 27-7 seems a bit much

  7. Comments: 143
    Joined: 9/15/2015
    Oct 20, 2017 at 12:41 PM

    if i had to predict id go with something like 22-16 but with michigan closing within 1 score down the stretch

  8. Comments: 141
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Oct 20, 2017 at 1:13 PM

    Bush will be on Barkley all day long (like white on rice)… therefore don’t see McCray being burnt by Barkley in coverage.
    Secondly… advantage goes to Mich for pass coverage not PSU. The PSU line will let enough pressure through and our Secondary has the coverage skills to make this a Mich advantage.
    Mich..19 (yes with a safety)

  9. Comments: 531
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    Oct 20, 2017 at 3:39 PM

    I have

    PSU 17
    UM 10

    A competitive game. UM is going to have to play it’s best game of the Harbaugh era. I don’t disagree that UM is going to have a difficult time running the ball since the box is going to be stacked. JOK will have to hit some passes deep.

    UM can win but I haven’t seen a UM team under the Harbaugh era find a way to win on the road against a quality opponent at the end. I don’t count Minny and IU in the same category as OSU or PSU. In fact, I would have to be reminded of a good close road win against a ranked team that probably has to go back to the Carr era?

    It wouldn’t shock me to see UM win but defense is going to have to be lights out with a good performance from the O.

    I wouldn’t mind a quality performance on the road even if they lost. You are a 10 pt dog for a reason even if PSU hasn’t played high level competition but they have the better qb and rb.

    I’ll make this one prediction. If UM can run the ball somewhat they can pull off the upset. Plus 100 yards to give them a chance.

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3928
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Oct 20, 2017 at 6:46 PM

      Hard to imagine a feel-good loss. Maybe if the O really gets going to an expectation-changing level.

      Best played game of the Harbaugh era is probably PSU or Wisconsin last year. And uhh….OSU. ugh.

  10. Lanknows
    Comments: 3928
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Oct 20, 2017 at 6:44 PM

    I gave 10+ reasons why M can win. I think they can.

    But honestly, if I had to put my money on the line… I think it’s more likely PSU embarrasses UM. OL, WR, QB issues (in that order) are too deep. D poised to be exposed. Punt game rickety in both directions. O’Korn’s a risk-taker and we need a game-manager (like that one guy…) PSU goes up early and it’s time for pain… 31 PSU UM 9

    Logic aside, I would love to see a signature Harbaugh upset, Stanford style.

    Go Blue!

    • Comments: 531
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      Oct 20, 2017 at 7:00 PM

      Yes, this. UM can IF, IF, IF, if x happens, if y happens, if a happens, IF IF IF.

      If UM plays a great game. If. As you said, the evidence says PSU has the better offense, is playing home and has the leading men. :_). It has the guys to finish off the game.

      It’s one of those Sugar Bowl VA Tech type games where the ball has to bounce UM’s way. Now, I do believe the defense has the ability to move the needle the other way but so does the PSU offense.

      The best way to describe this game is that UM is going to have to play above their norm on both sides which is a challenge. My friend once told me to never bet on a bad team to play well. Should I bet on a mediocre offense to play well?

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3928
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Oct 20, 2017 at 7:26 PM

        Mediocre is a nice thing to say about the #76 offense in the country — that not even fully accounting for loss of starting QB and WR.

        Harbaugh better have some tricks up his sleave….

        • Comments: 531
          Joined: 9/13/2015
          Oct 20, 2017 at 9:42 PM

          Hard to win on the road with an unreliable offense. Harbaugh is going to eventually get the offense to where it needs to be but something tells me it won’t be this week.

          If UM only had to drive 30 yards every possession then it would be okay. It’s problem is that anything over let’s say 7- 8 plays is just too much before a mistake is made.

          A couple of short field turnovers…6 pts. A big play 7 pts. Grind out another 1 fg and punt the ball then a victory is possible. What I think is great about Harbaugh is he wants a diversified and high powered offense. His biggest shortcoming is that the ego might not allow him to win ugly.

          Harbaugh may be over qualified to coach this team.

    • Comments: 531
      Joined: 9/13/2015
      Oct 20, 2017 at 7:05 PM

      Here is where I would disagree assuming I understand your point of view. I don’t think UM get’s blown out. It’s not their MO under Harbaugh. Their defense is good enough to keep PSU somewhat under control. The only way they get blown out is if their defense can’t control the game and UM has to start throwing the ball.

      This is where we probably agree 100%. The only way UM gets to the end game to win it is by not taking the bait and trying to outscore PSU. This isn’t IU where they are playing hurry up. PSU isn’t going to want to turn the ball over and feels like they have the better team and should win. They are going to want to ride Barkley and not have the blitz turned on them.

      So why not get into a first half slug fest where the score is 12-7? I love UM. I will root for my team as always but I would bet anybody anywhere and take PSU if they want to bet straight up.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3928
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Oct 20, 2017 at 7:33 PM

        It was their MO against FSU. Until Speight led the comeback. I don’t think they have the horses to do that right now.

        FSU was #2 offense last year. Best they played before that was 23 (OSU). No Peppers, yeah, true. No Peppers now either.

        PSU #13 offense this year. Air Force #44 is best M has seen.

        We’ll see about the blowout. Keep it close early and drag them into a fight and we’ll have a shot. Play from behind and have to pass to get back in it and things could go bad fast.

        • Comments: 531
          Joined: 9/13/2015
          Oct 20, 2017 at 8:13 PM

          Did Speight lead the comeback or was it Evans?

          • Lanknows
            Comments: 3928
            Joined: 8/11/2015
            Oct 21, 2017 at 4:39 PM

            Excellent illustration of recency bias.

            4th Q, 7:50 left. M down 27-15. Speight leads a short-field TD drive where the run game contributed -4 yards.

            Next drive Speights runs and passes M to the FSU 39 with the run game contributing -5 yards.

            Two Evans runs later and it’s 29-27 Michigan with 1:57 left.

            Evans wasn’t even in on most plays. But he scored the 30 yards TD so that’s that I guess.

            • GKblue
              Comments: 271
              Joined: 8/11/2015
              Oct 21, 2017 at 6:26 PM

              Analyzing the game by series is not at all a unimportant skill. But, we can never forget the overall team game and contributing when we are called.

              I do not object to Michy’s or your conclusions, however I thought of this parallel in basketball.

              The team went seven deep and looked to be falling short of the win with only a couple of seconds left in regulation. The skinny kid on the end of the bench is called on after the star fouls out. Immediately the kid is fouled and sent to the line. The opposing coach freezes him with a time out knowing he has zero game experience.

              The kid bounces the ball and lofts the first of two nothing but net. The game is tied we’re headed for OT. The second of the one and one rattles the rim but goes in, victory.

              The kid off the bench is lofted on to the star’s shoulders. Does it matter to the team leader if the kid gets to be the star today?
              Nope. To an analyst, maybe.

              Killin’ time before the night game, I am.

        • Comments: 995
          Joined: 1/19/2016
          Oct 21, 2017 at 6:46 PM

          Speight was awful in the Orange Bowl. The OL was worse, but our biggest plays came from McCray, Evans, and Allen/mettelus on SpTms
          Speight & Hill were able to connect on a beautifully designed play though, caught the Holes completely off guard

  11. Comments: 9
    Joined: 10/8/2017
    Oct 21, 2017 at 8:43 AM

    Kind of a homer and half glass full perspective…
    I am glad game day is at PSU with all of the extra distractions..
    looking forward to seeing how jimmy and crew respond to being underdogs and having the opportunity to surprise the pundits on national TV.
    These are the games as a player you play for.. I believe all of the pressure is on PSU and if MI comes out more hungry that they can win..
    my guy tells me 2 things today.
    Indy upsets Sparty and MI takes down PSU 23-17
    Go blue!!

  12. GKblue
    Comments: 271
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Oct 21, 2017 at 9:06 AM

    Considering the chaos that is a white out at Penn State I would hope that JH and crew is emphasizing “no pressure on us”, all on them.

    That said the offensive game plan needs to be designed to keep JOK in play with RPO, complete a deep pass and do not abandon the run too soon. I suspect we will rely on Nordin for several field goals and that is ok if it gives our D a blow and keeps Barkley and McSorley on the sidelines.

    Limit turnovers, or we are in trouble.

    • Comments: 9
      Joined: 10/8/2017
      Oct 21, 2017 at 9:16 AM

      Yes,,Hoping there is some RPO’s,, get okorn out in space where he appears to be more comfortable when going to 2nd and 3rd read… when he is in pocket, it’s 1 and done..
      I believe this is jimmys biggest game since being here,, has a real opportunity

  13. Comments: 531
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    Oct 21, 2017 at 2:25 PM

    Whatever happens tonight I am still on the Harbaugh bandwagon. Love what he is doing at UM. I support him as coach 100%.

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3928
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Oct 21, 2017 at 4:41 PM

      Same. Wouldn’t trade JH for any coach anywhere.

  14. Comments: 531
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    Oct 21, 2017 at 11:36 PM

    LK was right. Defense isn’t nearly as good as we thought (most of us). PSU is elite.

    UM needs a couple of high end tackles, a big time qb and development of the wr’s.

    Even if UM had a much better qb it would have lost because PSU is an elite team. PSU showed UM exactly what a great team looks like. They have a solid defense with two leading men. UM has supporting actors along with a swiss cheese OL.

    I really think it’s time to start thinking about getting Peters some on field time here and there. Hey LK, let’s assume the defense is the same next year and doesn’t have to face Barkley. Let’s assume a couple of changes on the OL. Do you believe Speight is going to be able to win a BT championship? Maybe but from what I have seen, this program doesn’t have the horses on the OL to cover up for Speight even though his wr’s should improve.

    • Comments: 995
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      Oct 22, 2017 at 12:14 AM

      They were waaay better. No doubt, this sucks

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