“All White Everything”

Penn State v Michigan

Saturday Spotlight

(16) Michigan Wolverines at (7) Penn State Nittany Lions

Michigan: After that embarrassing loss to the Wisconsin Badgers a few ago, they’ve bounced back nicely. They faced the Iowa Hawkeyes at the Big House following their bye week and won a tough but close defensive battle to hand them their first loss of the season. I called the game in Champaign against the Illinois Fighting Illini a trap game because anyone can be beat on any given Sunday or in this instance, Saturday (just ask Georgia how things went against South Carolina). They handled their business last week although they scared me a little, but they came out on top. Right now, the Michigan Wolverines are a team that I’m still trying to figure out. Around this time last year, they were rolling and clicking on all cylinders. They sit at 5-1 and in third place in the always competitive Big Ten East. I think they’re at their best when they can hand the ball off and run the football and the offensive line is getting that physical push up front. The fact of the matter is, you aren’t going to win the football game if Shea Patterson is taking the game over with his arm. I say this because when he doesn’t have the running game to lean on, he rushes things and that’s when it all becomes nightmarish for him. He didn’t look too bad against Illinois last weekend. He completed 11 of his 22 pass attempts for 194 yards. That may not scream at you, but he did what he could. He threw three touchdown passes but most importantly, he took care of the football and threw no interceptions. For a while, I thought they were going to run away with that game because they put together two 14-point quarters in the first half. There’s only one thing that can get in the way of Michigan and where they want to be. That’s themselves. When they struggle, it’s because they do the wrong things too often. Too many penalties committed, the defense will struggle, or they won’t take care of the football. When they’re clicking, all is well in Ann Arbor, right? This is a huge game for them tonight as they face a team who’s gone under the radar in University Park.

Penn State: I’ve been really surprised with them this year and here’s what’s crazy: They’ve gone under the radar, but I don’t think that matters to them too much. Here the Penn State Nittany Lions are sitting at 6-0 and tied for first place with the Ohio State Buckeyes atop the Big Ten East. They may not have the big names they once had such as Trace McSorley, Mike Gisecki and of course, Saquon Barkley but they’re working with what they have. Let’s meet some of these new offensive weapons for Penn State starting with the man under center, quarterback Sean Clifford. He’s a 6’2 sophomore that can make all the throws from the quick screen passes, the shots over the middle of the field and he can move the pocket to make a throw on the run. Throwing isn’t all that he does. He can scramble and get extra yards himself. He isn’t afraid of contact and he displays excellent, yet quick footwork. Next is a freshman running back named Noah Cain. He’s a freshman with solid shiftiness to get around a defender. He isn’t necessarily the quickest back, nor would I put him in the sprinter category. He’s just a downhill runner with good vision to get into the open field. What seems to not get discussed either is their defense which I think is the best or one of the best in the conference. They never seem to fold on that side of the ball, and they send their message early and often. You can try to run it on us, but if you want to move the football on us, you must earn every single yard. On the season right now, they’ve allowed only 8.2 points per game. When it comes to try and run the ball on them, forget about it. It’s like running into a brick wall with how they’re able to put up that front to shut down the ground game. It’s fun to watch. They had to grind a close game out against the Iowa Hawkeyes last Saturday. It was close and low scoring just as I expected it to be. This won’t be an easy challenge for them tonight with Michigan coming to town.

Michigan Player to Watch: Ronnie Bell– Outside of Nico Collins, he’s one of Shea Patterson’s top targets. He leads the team in receiving yards with 361. With Nico potentially sidelined for a second straight game with an injury, he’ll be counted on to be that reliable receiver for number two. He’s a former basketball player that uses moves from the hardwood on the gridiron.

Penn State Player to Watch: Antonio Shelton– He’s the leader of this vaunted Penn State defense. In the game today, defensive coordinators want their interior guys to be more than guys who just clog lanes up to stop the run. Even if you can’t get to the quarterback to sack him, still pressure him. Antonio does everything for this Penn State front seven. They’ll need everything from him to pressure Patterson.

Final Analysis: These primetime Big Ten games are always fun. We have a good one here. There’s a Penn State team who’s looking for respect. Each year in the Big Ten, you hear about Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. Penn State did win a conference title back in 2016. This is a huge game for both teams, especially Michigan because they have a challenging schedule starting with Penn State tonight, Notre Dame at the big house next weekend and two more division games with Michigan State and Ohio State. This one right here could make or break their season. Iowa was able to take a few shots down the field on Penn State so Michigan will need to do the same because running the ball on this defense isn’t happening. Michigan’s defense will need to keep Clifford in the pocket. The Nittany Lions need to get their running game going. Michigan can’t stop it.

Prediction: Penn State 23 Michigan 20

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