Week 10 Preview: Michigan vs Penn State
When: 3:45 PM EST
Where: Michigan Stadium – Ann Arbor, MI
Line: Michigan -12
Last week, Michigan attacked their bye week with enthusiasm unknown to mankind after putting lil’ bro back in their rightful place the week prior. That game against MSU was impressive. Even if you aren’t impressed by the 21-7 score if you watched the game, you had to be impressed with the Michigan defense completely dismantling the MSU offense. Brian Lewerke threw more passes completed to the sidelines than he did to his teammates and his QBR was lower than the average GPA for Michigan Football players. That was fun. Another notch in the Revenge Tour belt, and onward we go to face Penn State where Michigan is riding a nice 7 game winning streak.
This Penn State team has been all over the place, performance wise. They choked away a game against Ohio State, where they had the game in hand. They lost to the same MSU team that Michigan destroyed. They also played a tight game with Appalachian State but no shade there for obvious reasons. In their last two contests, they played Indiana close and escaped with a win and narrowly, and I mean narrowly escaped with a win against Iowa. A late turnover in the red zone, near the goal line, cost Iowa the game.
Last year Penn State throttled Michigan at Happy Valley and it was not pretty to watch if you were a Michigan fan. PSU Coach, James Franklin even tried to run the score up a bit more at the end. That might have been a big mistake. Harbaugh doesn’t forget these things. Don Brown hasn’t slept well since that PSU game last year and has made it a personal vendetta to right the ship. Michigan is flat out rolling right now and this PSU team is much different from last year’s version. Gone are starRB Saquon Barkley and Offensive Coordinator slash play-calling guru, Joe Moorhead. These two things, among others, have made an obvious impact on how well Penn State plays but they are still a talented team. This game should be very interesting and probably has as many exciting storylines coming along with it as any game so far this year.
Michigan vs Penn State Statistical Analysis
First, we will look at some key statistics.
|Team||Record||Avg Point Diff||Off YPP||Off YPG||3rd Down %||Def YPP||Def YPG||Def 3rd Down %||T/O Diff.||PPG||PPG Allowed|
|Team||Rec.||2ndO Wins||S&P+||S&P+||Rk||Off. S&P+||Rk||Def. S&P+||Rk||ST S&P+||Rk||Last Week||Chg|
|Penn State||6-2||6.2 (0.2)||92.40%||15||10||35.2||22||20.3||21||0.1||61||10||0|
This matchup is very interesting when we break things down statistically. Penn State has a slightly more effective offense than Michigan which we can see from the first set of stats and it’s made even clearer with the S&P rankings. The big key here is that Michigan is far better on third down than Penn State. PSU is scoring 5 points more than Michigan per game but that’s not much because when we factor in the defense, we see that Michigan is allowing more than a touchdown less than PSU is on average.
On paper, the PSU defense is very similar to MSU, statistically. Michigan was able to move the ball efficiently enough to put up 21 points on MSU and it would seem they should be able to do about that against PSU as well. Michigan will simply need the same stout defense that showed up in East Lansing to show up at home in Ann Arbor, tomorrow, to be able to basically cut Penn State’s scoring production to less than half of their average in order to win this game. If we can agree that yards lead to scores in most cases then we should look at what Phil Steele recently put together regarding teams and their offensive production against opponent averages and defensive production against opponent averages.
Top Defense’s in holding foes in ypg below their season average.
1. MIchigan 217.5
2 Clemson 175.9
3 Iowa St ! 148.3
4 Alabama 144.9
5 Iowa 144.2
6 Miami Fla 141.3
7 Miss St 127.6
8 Kentucky 124.3
9 Fresno St 113.6
10 Army 112.4
11 Washington 110.8https://t.co/tOOFcbPp1o
— Phil Steele (@philsteele042) November 1, 2018
Off & Def YPG vs opponent avg’s
1 Clemson +320.9
2 Alabama +310.4
3 Michigan +268.8
4 Oklahoma +200.4
5 Texas A&M +188.9
6 Ohio St +177
7 NCar St +166.1
8 Iowa St +159.1
9 LSU +151.6
10 Georgia +149.7
11 Iowa +146.4
Complete list and explain https://t.co/tOOFcbPp1o
— Phil Steele (@philsteele042) November 1, 2018
Those two tweets tell us a lot and so does the full explanation and list given in the link (it’s the same link) in the bottom of each tweet. Basically, Michigan is holding teams to 217.5 yards less than their opponent normally gains per game. They are gaining more than opposing defenses allow by 50+ yards and combined with the aforementioned stat they are outperforming offensively against opposing defenses and defensively against opposing offenses to the tune of +268.8. This means that Michigan would not shock anyone by being able to put up 430+ yards on offense and holding PSU to 242-ish yards in this contest. If that were to happen, this game at worst is 21-7 Michigan but could quite possibly be much more of a blowout than that. It may be more likely though to look at it like the following. If we take PSU numbers into consideration, they are only trimming like 33 yards off of opposing offensive yards allowed averages and are only outgaining opposing defensive yards allowed averages by 70. If we adjust for those numbers we are looking at Penn State gaining maybe 312 at best where Michigan gains 403.8. I basically subtracted the numbers given for Michigan’s defense against opposing offensive averages from Penn State’s offense against opposing defensive averages and vice versa. While this results in a closer game, potentially, it is still a significant margin of outgaining to be done by Michigan offensively.
Who are these guys?. . .
As mentioned, Penn State is a talented team, possibly the most talented team Michigan has faced since Notre Dame. QB Trace McSorley is probably the best offensive player they have and he can do it all. Trace is a decent passer and also can move the ball with his legs. He’s second on the team in rushing yards at over 600 and leads the team with 9 rushing TDs. He’s also nursing a knee injury, possibly an MCL sprain, so that may help the Michigan defense to contain him if he’s limited laterally. It didn’t appear to affect him too much against Iowa since he ripped off a nice run in the 3rd quarter after injuring himself in the 2nd.
RB Miles Sanders isn’t Saquon Barkley, but he’s no slouch either. He too is shifty, has decent strength and speed, and both runs the ball and catches passes out of the backfield. Sanders is the second most targeted receiver that the Nitany Lions feature. Containin the combination of McSorley and Sanders is going to be the key to this game.
Defensively, keep your eyes on LB Micah Parsons who leads the team in total tackles. Not far behind him though, is DB Garrett Taylor who may be the best defensive weapon PSU has. Taylor is second on the team in total tackles, has two interceptions, 6 passes defended, and recovered a fumble that he forced as well. DEs Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney are pretty good pass rushers where they have 12.5 tackles for loss with 6 sacks and 7 TFLs with 5 sacks respectively. PSU leads the B1G in team sacks (noteworthy).
Penn State wins if. . .
James Franklin’s plea to the refs that Michigan DBs hold and grab, works out in his favor. If Michigan is penalized more than usual (hard to do considering they average 7 or so per game) this won’t be good. If Penn State is able to get decent pressure on Shea Patterson and force him to make mistakes things could turn in the direction of Penn State. Most importantly, if McSorely and Sanders end up looking like a De Ja Vu experience similar to Barkley/McSorley 17′ hold on to your seats.
Michigan wins if. . .
The offensive line can protect against the best pass rush they’ve seen all year. Michigan will need a big game out of Karan Higdon because see the picture here along with this section? The Wolverines will also need to contain McSorley in the run game, slow down Miles Sanders, and force PSU to pass the ball more than usual. Michigan has the best pass D in the nation so they need to be able to use that to their advantage. Every game from here out is a playoff game for Michigan, which has really been the case since week 2, but as we move deeper into the season it becomes increasingly evident and important that this is true. Harbaugh, Don Brown and the rest of the coaching staff need to use last year as motivation to continue this year’s revenge tour and they need to put up another statement here to show the nation they are for real. It’s games like this that go a long way towards convincing the playoff committee when it comes to selection.
Injury/Missing Player Report:
Out: P Brad Robbins, DB Benjamin St-Juste, DE Luiji Vilain
Questionable: DE Rashan Gary, WR Tarik Black, OT Juwann Bushell-Beatty
Out/Doubtful: RB Mark Allen
Questionable: RB Ricky Slade, TE Pat Freiermuth, DT Ellison Jordan, OL Rasheed Walker
Probable: QB Trace McSorley
Thoughts From The BluePrint Family
Michigan is coming off a bye week after a wonderful and meaningful win against Michigan State. But now it’s time to switch gears onto the big game against Penn State. Penn State has lost to Ohio State & Michigan State. Trace McSorley is coming off a tough game against Iowa last week where he got injured and there have been rumors that he has an MCL sprain in his knee. He can probably run well in a straight line but with how crazy good this Michigan defense is. McSorley will have a very long day with trying to move when trying to make cuts to get away from every Michigan defender coming at him.
Michigan can’t come out on a flat start after a bye week. We have to win this game this week to continue to be in the hunt for the B1G Ten Championship and then maybe the College Football Playoff. I can see Karan Higdon having another big day running the football. He will get over 100 yards again this week. Tarik Black is going to see his first full game action this week after only being out on the field for what would have been one play against MSU but before he could get some action, they called a timeout and he wasn’t seen again after that.
I expect a huge boost with Tarik being alongside of Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones. I want to see Donovan in the slot a little more while still on the field with Tarik and Nico. Shea Patterson will have another great performance to keep our B1G Ten hopes alive.
Don Brown has been ready to face James Franklin and this Penn State team since the embarrassing 42-13 lost in Happy Valley last season. This is Doctor Blitz’s personal game this season and he will come out swinging until the clock hits 0:00 with Michigan winning the game.
I have mixed emotions when it comes to bye weeks.
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