Primetime Big Ten Clash

Saturday Spotlight

(19) Michigan Wolverines at (2) Penn State Nittany Lions

Michigan: When they decided to hire Jim Harbaugh, everyone thought that this was the move that would put Michigan over the top and back into the elite conversation. It hasn’t really panned out that way because they start fast and when the large portion of their conference schedule begins, they don’t show up and since Jim has been the head coach, they’ve yet to beat the rival, Ohio State Buckeyes. I’ve seen a few of their games this year and even when Wilton Speight was under center at the beginning of the year, he was struggling. Now that John O’Korn is the quarterback for the remainder of the season, their offense has still struggled and you would expect them to be down some considering the fact they’ve returned only four starters. They have a lot of talent on the offensive side. They have a three-headed running back committee that consists of Ty Issac, Karan Higdon and Chris Evans and Harbaugh normally has the guy who has the hot hand and the momentum going for him at that particular time. Their defense hasn’t missed a single beat and I honestly think they are better this year than they were last year. They currently lead the nation in total defense, giving up just 223.8 yards per game, and also rank first in pass efficiency defense, third in passing defense, sixth in rushing yards allowed and sixth in sacks. This is a huge game for them tonight as they get set to take on the Nittany Lions of Penn State.

Penn State: Everybody thought that last year was a fluke. You thought wrong. This team is the real deal and they are the second-best team in the country behind the Alabama Crimson Tide. They’re so well coached under James Franklin, they have the best player in the country and the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy in Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley has put together a very nice season and has shown that he can take a game into his own hands and not many people know about this young man considering who he shares a backfield with. The biggest improvement has been the Penn State receivers and their ability to free themselves to get open off the line of scrimmage. One thing that doesn’t get enough credit is their defense and they are absolutely phenomenal on that side of the football. They currently lead the nation in scoring defense and they give up only nine yards per contest (you read that correctly). Another big improvement has been their secondary which has really stepped it up this year. This is a very fast, yet aggressive defense. They fly to the football to bring the ball-carrier down and they mix up the pressures to rush the passer. They can get to you with a loaded box, they can send a safety or a cornerback on a blitz and that’s the hardest blitz to defend because those secondary guys are so difficult to block and chip away. Beaver Stadium will be rocking tonight.

Michigan Player to Watch: Sean McKeon– You have to love your tight ends and since O’Korn has stepped onto the field, he’s become his go-to guy. For a guy that’s 6’5 and 250 pounds, he moves exceptionally well. When O’Korn played well, Sean contributed to that and I see Big Blue trying their best to get him involved early and often.

Penn State Player to Watch: Mike Gesicki– This Penn State offense has a big three. We obviously know about Trace and Saquon, now, let’s introduce you to Mike Gesicki. He’s the best red zone receiving tight end in college football. He’s healthy and rested after the bye week. Let him work over the middle and up the seam.

Final Analysis: This is a huge game for both teams and I’ll explain why. Michigan has yet to win that big game under Harbaugh and this is one of those. If they want any shot at winning their division and getting to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game, these are the games that you must win. For Penn State, this will start a tough stretch for them. They face Michigan tonight, they have a battle with Ohio State at the shoe in Columbus next week and then a battle with Michigan State in East Lansing on Saturday, November 4th. All three of these games will tell us more about them and two of them are on the road which makes it even more interesting yet challenging. I see this being a very physical and aggressive showdown. This will be the best defense that Penn State’s offense has seen all year and this will be the best offensive player that Michigan has seen.

Prediction: Penn State 24 Michigan 21