The Michigan Wolverines (8-1) will be traveling to Beaver Stadium on Saturday to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions (6-3). Michigan’s only loss came against Michigan State in a battle of the, then, unbeaten. The series between Michigan and Penn State is an even 6-6 at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions have gotten the best of the Wolverines in the last five of six matchups. Penn State is favored to win the game by one point. The only way that happens is if the Penn State defense can hold for another tough battle. The Nittany Lions are second in the nation in touchdowns allowed this season. However, the ability to score touchdowns has plagued Penn State throughout 2021. That will need to be fixed heading into the final games of the season. Penn State vs Michigan is usually a good one and this weekend likely won’t be any different.
Penn State vs Michigan
It is no secret that the Nittany Lions have struggled to run the ball this season. The three leading rushers, Noah Cain, Keyvone Lee, and John Lovett, each have not had a 100-yard rushing game. In most games, Penn State struggles to even reach 100 yards rushing. Lee has the highest single-game rushing yard total with 74 yards. Collectively, the Nittany Lions only have three games this season with a 100-yeard rushing game. These came in wins against Ball State, Indiana, and then the loss to Iowa. The run game was seven yards away in the most recent win against Maryland last week.
This is likely toward the top of the list to be fixed to continue winning in the Big Ten East the rest of the season. Michigan has allowed 124.3 rushing yards per game this season. If Penn State quarterback, Sean Clifford, is healthy enough to use his legs, this will be the game to do it. On the other hand, the Wolverines have Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo that combine for 15 sacks on the season. Clifford will have to have a quick release and quick decision-making this week against those two. While Penn State’s defense is very good in the red zone, Michigan struggles in that area. Just like the Nittany Lion offense. This could be a good week to snap the red zone woes for Penn State.
Can the Defense Hold?
The Penn State defense has had a bend don’t break attitude all season. And it has worked to an extent. There was a slight hiccup after PJ Mustipher went down with a season-ending injury, but since the Illinois game, the defense has gotten back to dominance. The red zone defense has been especially fun for fans to watch. It takes a lot out of an offense to go the entire length of the field and not come away with a touchdown. However, this takes a lot out of the defense too. Penn State’s defense needs to figure out how to get off the field sooner. With the matchup against Michigan this week and then another game against a highly ranked opponent, Michigan State, in two weeks the defense needs to shorten drives.
This week, the defensive front will have to account for Hassan Haskins. Haskins has rushed for 829 yards this season with 11 rushing touchdowns. All of that was accomplished with shared time on the field. It is still unknown if Blake Corum will be good to go on Saturday, but Haskins seems more than capable of carrying the load.
What to Watch For
Outside of the actual football game happing on the field, Penn State has decided to try a Helmet Stripe-themed game. This is essentially the same as a White Out, but there is a single blue stripe going down the center of Beaver Stadium. From above the stadium should look like a Penn State football helmet. Ideally, this will have the same effect as a White Out. However, it is a noon kick-off. While the stadium will undoubtedly be loud, the intimidation factor of an (almost) all-white stadium at night won’t be there.