Michigan Wolverines vs. Penn State Nittany Lions: Complete Game Preview
The No.17-ranked Michigan Wolverines (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten Conference) head on the road to face the Penn State Nittany Lions (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten Conference) on Saturday.
Penn State lost last week to Indiana, 44-24, surrendering 23 fourth-quarter points.
Date: Saturday, October 12, 2013
Time: 5:01 PM ET
Place: Beaver Stadium (107,282), University Park, Pa.
Series vs. Penn State: 10-6
Radio: Michigan IMG Sports Network
Spread: Michigan by 3.5 TheSpread.com
Live Stats: MGoBlue.com
Last Meeting vs. Penn State: Penn State 41, Michigan 31 (Oct. 30, 2010)
Sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson set the Big Ten season record for rushing yards by a quarterback in U-M’s 41-31 loss at Penn State on Oct. 30, 2010 at Beaver Stadium. Robinson racked up 381 yards of total offense, completing 11 of 23 passes for 190 yards and one touchdown and rushing for 191 yards on 27 carries with three TDs.
* Information according to University of Michigan Wolverine game notes
Michigan Keys to Victory
Pound the ground (with running backs)
After struggling all season to find an offensive identity and relying far too much on quarterback Devin Gardner, the Wolverines fully committed to getting running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green more involved against Minnesota. The result was a comfortable victory, where the running game opened up lanes for the passing attack and allowed quarterback Devin Gardner to regain his confidence after some close calls against Akron and UConn.
Re-tooling their offensive line by moving Graham Glasgow to center and inserting Chris Bryant at guard paid dividends. The Wolverines need to stay committed to running the ball against Penn State.
Pass the Ball
The Minnesota game showed how effective the Wolverine offense can be once the proper balance between running and passing is established. Michigan needs to keep moving tight end Devin Funchess in different positions to create matchup problems for Penn State and throw the ball downfield. Gardner also needs to stop locking on to receivers for the Wolverine offense to be explosive.
Contain the Penn State running attack
Michigan needs to make the Penn State offense one dimensional. Shut down the run and the Wolverine secondary can sit back and wait for freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg to make a mistake. The injury to Michigan defensive lineman Ondre Pipkins will be hard to overcome, but Quinton Washington has the ability to do so. The possible return of linebacker Jake Ryan, who has been cleared by doctors, would also help stifle the Penn State running attack.
Penn State Keys to Victory
Rattle Devin Gardner
A confident Devin Gardner is an offensive machine. Penn State needs to rattle him early by sending the house and forcing him to throw the ball on the run. Turnovers by Gardner helped Akron and UConn nearly defeat the Wolverines.
Attack the edges
The Michigan defense has shown itself vulnerable to intermediate and deep passes. Allen Robinson is one of the top wide receivers in the Big Ten. If quarterback Christian Hackenberg has time to throw, he might be in line to have a career day against the Wolverines. Michigan has a bad habit of making mediocre quarterbacks look good. Hackenberg will need to take advantage a soft Michigan secondary to score points.
Play competent special teams. That means no fumbles on kick returns, no blocked field-goal attempts and not allowing Michigan any long kick returns. Penn State isn't good enough overcome mistakes on special teams.
Michigan Players to Watch
Nose tackle Quinton Washington
With Michigan defensive lineman Ondre Pipkins out for the season, it will be up to Quinton Washington to seal the middle of the Wolverine defensive line. Penn State will use the tandem of running backs Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton to punch holes through the Michigan defensive line. It will be Quinton's job to help stop them.
Quarterback Devin Gardner
Last game, Michigan pulled in the reins on Gardner and the result was a balanced offensive attack that delivered a comfortable victory. Gardner needs to keep spreading the ball around and make better decisions. An incomplete pass or sack is better than a pick-six or a fumble.
Tight end/wide receiver Devin Funchess
Funchess is the wild card in the Wolverine offense. His most important role may be as a decoy for wide receiver Jeremy Gallon who teams have been ganging up on after his performance against Notre Dame. Funchess has the size and speed to cause problems for Penn State.
Penn State Players to Watch
Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones
Opposing teams had shredded the interior of the Michigan offensive line until the recent shuffling. Look for DaQuan to challenge the Wolverines to run the ball inside.
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg
Hackenberg will need to stay calm under pressure and get the ball to his receivers. The Wolverine secondary has been vulnerable this season. If he can find open receivers, Michigan will be in trouble.
Wide receiver Allen Robinson
Robinson is one of the best wide receivers in the Big Ten so far in 2013. He has 38 receptions for 621 yards and five touchdowns in five games this season. Robinson is a Michigan native, and that will provide even more motivation for him to have a big game versus the Wolverines.
What They Are Saying
Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan via mgoblue.com:
I think it's just different because we haven't played Penn State at Penn State since my redshirt freshman year. ... Sometimes we will be standing face-to-face, and I won't be able to hear myself think or hear you talk. So it's a great atmosphere. I am sure it will be a white-out night game. Penn State's awesome; it's a fun place to play.
Number one, I think Bill and his staff have done a real good job keeping that team together when the sanctions came and all those things. They are Penn State; they are going to have good football players. The quarterback kept a lot of his class together that were committed. That tells you about his leadership. They are Penn State; they are a physical football team. It got a little crazy last weekend in Indiana -- there were a lot of points and a lot of yards by both teams -- but I think they are a very good football team.
Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien via gopsusports.com:
[Tom Brady] spoke to the Michigan team a few weeks ago and I texted him and I said, ‘You spoke to the Michigan team. Are you going to come speak to the Penn State team?’ He told me, ‘I’ll do anything for you.’ I said, ‘Yeah, right. You’re going to speak to us before we play Michigan? I don’t think so.’ He loves Michigan...I don’t think he’ll be rooting for us when we play them next week.
Penn State offensive guard John Urschel via pennlive.com, "It's a game we are really excited about. We're going to watch the [Indiana] film, learn from it and then move on to preparing the best we can for Michigan."
Penn State offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach via gopsusports.com, "We are going to learn from our mistakes. And we are going to be ready to go against Michigan."
The Wolverines will overcome their problems on the road and beat the Nittany Lions with a balanced offensive game plan.
Final Score: Michigan 24, Penn State 17