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Penn State Football: Previewing The Opponent: Michigan

by on October 20, 2017 11:20 AM

If the importance of this game for Penn State's season needs to be explained to you then chances are you only sort of care in the first place. 

But on the off chance you're awaking from a coma or coming back from overseas from a small village where the world wide web has yet to reach, this is what you need to know. Over the next three weeks Penn State will play three games against three currently ranked Top 25 teams. Chances are a 3-0 record means a playoff berth. A 2-1 record a potential playoff berth. Anything else and the Nittany Lions are probably going to be sent packing.

Oh and they're ranked No.2 in the nation.

This weekend is the first leg of that challenge, a Beaver Stadium meeting against No.19 Michigan before traveling to Ohio State and Michigan State. The Wolverines offer the Nittany Lions their biggest test by far, backed up by a stout defense that is generally considered the be the best in the nation, trailed not far behind by Penn State's own defense.

So what to know? Here's the scoop.

Last Week:

Michigan, despite being a threat to Penn State's unbeaten season, is also kind of...well....bad. The Wolverines struggle on offense and probably only have their defense to thank for being a one-loss team. That showed last weekend as Indiana nearly knocked off Michigan in overtime before coming up short tying the game on fourth and goal.

The Offense:

As mentioned above, Michigan's offense is pretty poor. Although not for a lack of trying. Quarterback John O'Korn is streaky but capable despite having only thrown for one touchdown this season. The Wolverines have gotten their best spark on offense from a shifty running back in Karan Higdon who has 401 yards on 70 carries this season. Grant perry leads the way in the receiving corps with 18 catches for 224 yards. 

Despite struggling in the red zone and struggling in general, Michigan has still managed more than 25 points in every game but one this season. 

The Defense:

This is where Michigan makes its money. Led by linebacker Devin Bush, the Wolverines are an aggressive defense that rarely gives up the big play. Maurice Hurst is a dominant defensive tackle and one of many stars on that defensive front. Lavert Hill is a talented corner had has two of Michigan's five interceptions this season.

Special Teams:

This group doesn't usually get its own section, but former Penn State commit Quinn Nordin has turned into one of the best field goal kickers in the game this year. He's reliable, he has a long range and Penn State fans are unlikely to forget that Nordin was once a future Nittany Lion who committed via music video.

The Player To Watch:

This honor has usually gone to an offensive player but this game will be won or lost based on how Penn State can managed Hudson in the trenches. If Saquon Barkley can run the ball, Penn State will be fine, if not, pressure on Trace McSorely might make things a bit dicier. The good news for the Nittany Lions is that the Wolverines will have many of the same issues on the offensive side of the ball, so it might be a wash.

The Prediction: 

Michigan can beat Penn State, the question is if it will. And it's hard to picture that scenario unfolding. At the end of the day Penn State's offense is more complete and its defense is at least comparable to Michigan's. The Nittany Lions don't want this to turn into a field goal contest, but if this game is determined by anything else it favors Penn State. It will be close, but there isn't a compelling reason to pick Penn State to lose as things stand right now. As long as the Nittany Lions don't beat themselves neither will Michigan. 28-14. 

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