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Penn State Football: Get Ready For Defense On Saturday Night

by on October 18, 2017 1:40 PM

There is a certain irony that Penn State football's pivotal game against Michigan this Saturday might very well be decided by defense.

Not that there is anything wrong with that, but after rising to the top of the conference on the back of an explosive offense, the Nittany Lions will almost certainly have rely on the nation's best scoring defense to see out those national title dreams.

After so much change for both programs, it may not get any more "Big Ten" than Saturday night under the lights.

"We've got a tremendous challenge this week against one of the best defenses in the country," James Franklin said on Tuesday. "Should be fun. Should be a great environment. Should be a great game to watch. There's going to be some pretty interesting chess matches going between all the coordinators."

The coordinator battle to watch, Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead against Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. Aggressive offense against aggressive defense. While at Michigan, Brown has turned the Wolverines into one of the premier defensive units in the country. And during this short tenure at Penn State, Moorhead has turned the stagnant offensive attack of the early Franklin years into one of the most explosive in the country.

Not to mention that Saquon Barkley kid.

But as they say, defense wins championships.

"Don's big thing, it shows up on tape, they're going to solve their problems with aggression," Franklin added. "That's something I remember years ago Don talking about. It still shows up on tape. His answer for the game of football is to be aggressive, be aggressive in the way he calls the game, be aggressive in how their players play. They're a big wreck-the-decision-maker, try to get to the quarterback as much as they possibly can and either sack him or make him uncomfortable in the pocket, and don't give any yards away, no free-access throws. That's what he believes. He's done a really good job."

Just look at the national rankings.

Scoring defense: 

  • Penn State: 1st
  • Michigan: 9th

Rush defense:

  • Penn State: 24th
  • Michigan: 6th

Pass defense:

  • Penn State: 9th
  • Michigan: 3rd

Turnover margin:

  • Penn State: 2nd
  • Michigan: 95th

Total defense:

  • Penn State: 9th
  • Michigan: 1st

The list goes on and on. But the point is simple. For all the flashy offensive plays and personnel Penn State has, it won't get much better than these two defenses taking the field.

And for all the talk about big chunk plays and long runs, it might be the guys without the ball that dictate who wins this one. There's a reason why the word defense came up 17 times during James Franklin's press conference Tuesday.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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