Friday, November 20, 2015

Lazy Man's Michigan Preview: Penn State

November is often a magical time for college football fans. Two weeks in and it has yet to disappoint.

Moreover, it’s nice, as a Michigan fan, to be relevant again and back in the conversation; feeling the intensity of every snap. Last weekend’s game against Indiana was gut wrenching and euphoric all at the same time. The fact it was an afternoon game that went to two overtimes forced me to watch the game on my phone while negotiating car repairs at the local Honda dealership. On a side note, I should negotiate all car repairs while Michigan is in double overtime with the season on the line.

Let’s hope this week is less stressful.

(14) Michigan Wolverines (8-2, 5-1 B1G) @ Penn State Nittany Lions (7-3, 4-2 B1G)
Beaver Stadium, Saturday 11/21, 12:30 ET, ABC

If I told you during the Utah game that Jake Rudock would win a game by throwing 6 TDs and running for another, you would have laughed me out of the stadium. Fast forward three months and it looks like Jake has settled down and really gotten a grasp of the offense. It couldn’t have come at a better time as Michigan needs him down the stretch with the run game continuing to struggle.

Penn State has its usually stout defensive line so Michigan’s offensive line needs to up its game if the offense is going to succeed. Jake should continue to spray the ball around to this talented receiver corps to open some running lanes for Smith and Johnson.

Last week I stated I was nervous about Indiana, and the game justified my emotions just not in the way I feared. Indiana was surprisingly adept at running all over the normally good Michigan rush defense.

The good news? Penn State doesn’t run much of the same offense, nor nearly as fast, as Indiana. This is a game where Michigan’s defense can get back to solid play shutting down the run game and forcing Christian Hackenberg to beat you with his arm. That is the formula for success against this Penn State team.

Special Teams
I expect we’ll see the return to solid special team play this week. Last weekend, the guys looked gassed, Indiana has that effect on people. On the 51 yard punt return Indiana returned for a touchdown, Channing Stribbling tried tackling Mitchell Paige’s halo instead of the returner himself. That is a sign of a worn out player.

Let’s see if Coach Baxter can dial up something special for this game.

There is a threat of nasty weather for the Midwest this weekend, but it looks like it may not reach Pennsylvania before this game. That’s good news for Michigan. The last time the Wolverines won in Happy Valley was in 2006.

Harbaugh and his staff are obviously good and they were always going to give Michigan a distinct advantage in certain games. This is one of those games as Penn State’s head man, James Franklin, isn’t exactly a master tactician.

Michigan’s defense will get back to normal this week and flex its muscles in the process. Rudock continues to look like the NFL QB that Harbaugh says he is.

Michigan 24 - 13

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