The Michigan Wolverines and Penn State Nittany Lions square off in one of the most anticipated matchups of the year. The playoff is on the line, with Michigan needing an upset to stay alive. As we’ve seen in the last two weeks, you can still make it with 1 loss. Favorites were getting upset left and right, so there will an open window there for 1 loss teams.
The Wolverines nevertheless have to spring an upset tonight, and then go undefeated the rest of the way, including a win over Ohio State. They are ranked 19th in the nation, but I think if they can do that, they have an argument for the playoff. For a lot of teams, rankings are pretty well meaningless in October.
Penn State were snake bitten last season in their quest for the playoff. They had a nice resume, and a case to make for the playoff, but were ultimately denied. Penn State had the next best reward, the Rose Bowl against the USC Trojans. It was a wild affair, with USC coming up victorious with a 52-49 win.
The Nittany Lions are thinking more in 2017, though. They are right where they should be in the top 4 and are in control of their own destiny right now. A night game on the campus of Penn State is not an easy chore for opponents. Michigan has had issues on offense, so we’ll see how John O’Korn handles the environment.
The quarterback play for the Wolverines hasn’t been great, but they haven’t had any receivers helping out. Tarik Black breaking his foot was a bigger injury than anyone really imagined at the time. Black was the deep threat for Michigan but without him in the lineup, Michigan has become a one-dimensional offense.
Stretching the field has been an afterthought, as they’ve been forced to just run the ball and hope for the best. The defense doesn’t merely go on the field and hope for the rest, they are very talented and stingy. For Michigan to have a chance Saturday night, they must get a perfect performance and force turnovers. Let’s get straight to our Michigan vs. Penn State pick below.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Betting Odds:
vs. Penn State -9.5(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Michigan vs. Penn State Pick:
Michigan had some turnover this past year on defense. Notably, their most dynamic player, Jabrill Peppers, is in the NFL. It hasn’t had much of an impact, Michigan still rank among the best defenses in college football. In fact, the Wolverines are 1st in the country with regards to yards allowed per game, 224 yards. They are also allowing just 14.7 points per game. They are 3rd against the pass and 6th against the run, so Michigan can hang around in this game with a nice performance on defense.
Penn State has a Heisman ready running back in their stable. Saquon Barkley is also NFL ready, as he continues to stake his claim as the best running back in Penn State history. He has rushed for 649 yards for a 6.4 average. However, this will be the clear-cut hardest test Barkley and the Nittany Lions will have this season thus far. I would say Iowa was the next biggest, and they needed a last second touchdown to win 21-19 against the Hawkeyes.
This is a rematch of last season, and Penn State are going to be looking for some revenge. Michigan demolished Penn State by a score of 49-10. They have gone 3-0 in their last three meetings against the Nittany Lions. Michigan are 5-1, with a loss in a rivalry game against Michigan State, 14-10. Penn State are a perfect 6-0. The Nittany Lions have an underrated defense ranked 9th in the nation. I don’t foresee the Wolverines doing much with their anemic offense. Conversely, the only way Michigan hangs around is with their defense. I can see a low-scoring contest in Happy Valley.
PICK: UNDER 44.5 (-115)