What: #12 Michigan Wolverines (8-2, 5-1) at Penn State Nittany Lions (7-3, 4-2)
When: Saturday, Nov. 21 at Noon
Where: Beaver Stadium University Park, Pennsylvania
Michigan leads the series 11-7 and won last year 18-13 in a battle of field goals.
Michigan outlasted Indiana 48-41 in two overtime periods. A win is a win but the Wolverines cannot be happy with giving up over 500 yards of offense and 41 points. Jake Rudock had a career day with 440 passing yards and 6 touchdowns.
Penn State was edged 23-21 by #21 Northwestern when its kicker Jack Mitchell hit a 35 yard field goal with nine seconds left to play.
Players to Watch for on Michigan
Cornerbacks Jourdan Lewis and Jabrill Peppers are phenomenal at their positions and, in general, just great athletes. Lewis now holds the record at Michigan for most pass break ups, has 39 tackles and two interceptions. He is even getting more active on special teams by having some great kickoff returns. Look for him to take one to the house this week because Penn State gives up a ton of return yards. There are writers out there mentioning Lewis for being a possible Heisman Trophy candidate.
On the other corner, Penn State will be looking at super athlete Jabrill Peppers, who I believe can play just about any position on the football field. He too can disrupt passing lanes, has great open field tackling and has the speed to catch any receiver from behind. So the Penn State offensive coordinator will have a tough decision to make, which side of the field will he try to attack? Which shutdown corner do they want to break up the pass or take the interception back for a pick six? If these two guys can lock down the Penn State receivers, than this gives the Michigan defensive front longer to get to the quarterback and record some sacks.
Tight end Jake Butt is having a great season and this shows how important his position is in Jim Harbaugh’s offensive system. Butt is just 50 yards shy of 1,000 in his career. He has 38 receptions for 500 yards this year. He is a trust pass catcher for Rudock and has made big plays all season. He has great size to go over the middle and is able to hold on to the ball after taking a hit. Look for Butt to surpass the 1,000 yard mark this weekend!
Players to Watch for on Penn State
Senior quarterback Christian Hackenberg will be the biggest threat to Michigan on the field tomorrow. He has had a very good career and is being looked at as a first or second round NFL draft selection. This season, Michigan has had trouble with veteran quarterbacks by letting them put up good numbers. The problem is he does not have the most skillful receivers to make the needed big plays. If Hackenberg has to start forcing throws because of the tight defensive coverage, than Michigan should win the turnover battle.
Penn State’s offensive line does give up a lot of sacks on its signal caller so he will have to get rid of the ball quickly because the Wolverines have some talented pass rushers. Hackenberg has been sacked 33 times so far, so I see no reason why the Wolverines cannot add five more. They will need to put constant pressure on Hackenberg and not give him time to connect on big pass plays.
The match up I am looking forward to seeing and one that could decide the game is Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock versus the Penn State defense. The Nittany Lions are one of the top passing defenses in the nation (2nd) and they will need to play like it to cool down the red hot Rudock. He has thrown for almost 800 yards in the last two games with nine touchdowns, and has a couple of rushing scores of his own. If he can continue this hot streak and not turn the ball over, we will see Michigan get its 9th victory. We need him to be the smart game manager that he has been these last few games, nothing fancy but consistent good decisions. Michigan’s offensive line has done a great job of giving Rudock time to throw and read the field. They have to help him out in this critical game so they can keep this top defense out of the backfield.
This will not be a 48-41 game like last week and could be half of the offensive production too. The Nittany Lions will not give up 400 yards passing, and they will definitely not gain 300 yards on the ground. Michigan will start to get the run game going early and try to pull more guys in the box so Rudock can throw downfield. The Wolverines will contain the run but will give up some yards in the passing game. In the second half, Michigan will score off special teams and hold Penn State to a couple of field goals. Michigan will win another tough road game 24-13 to keep them alive in the Big Ten East division.