Hey, do you guys remember when Penn State would start that "we are...Penn State..." chant that is amongst the lamest in all of sports (I mean really, are we confused as to who the opponent is? Or do they have to remind themselves of who they represent? We all get it - Penn State was on the calander for this date a year ago), and Michigan would start chanting "WE OWN...PENN STATE..."? Yeah, that was a fun time, wasn't it? It always seemed - even in years that Michigan wasn't very good, and Penn State was very good (I'm looking at you, 2005), we'd find a way to beat them. Then it came crashing down. Or maybe it was just one game last year. Either way, a 3-9 season tends to distill some of the arrogance out of a fanbase, and to claim that Michigan owns anything besides the uniforms off their backs and maybe Minnesota is bordering on fan fiction. Ah, the life of a Wolverines fan in 2009.
Penn State's defense is...well...it's really good, at least statistically. As I mentioned (read: drooled over), Penn State has two all-world defensive tackles with names like Odrick and Ogbu. While it sounds like an animated series for the Disney channel (don't mess with Phineus and Ferb, holmes), these two absolutely kill shit in the middle. I expect tons of pressure coming right at Forcier. Typically, this is the best way to disrupt a quarterback. Pressure up the middle is the #1 reason for happy feet, interceptions, and other poorly thought out decisions. However, with Tate being far more effective on the rollout than sitting comfortably in the pocket channeling Chad Henne, this pressure might not be a bad thing. However, it appears that Penn State is going to walk a safety up to the line on all but the most obvious passing downs, and have one of their beastly linebackers spying Tate at all times. If the pressure comes up the middle, Tate is going to have to keep his head about him, because against this defense, if he decides to take off an an ill-advised run, he's gonna get pasted. The LB's are going to try to contain Tate to the pocket, and let the monster DT pass rush up the middle clean up. On the plus side, the Defensive Ends for Penn State are definitely a notch below their NFL talent-types of last year. I look for a lot of Tate Moxie++ type programming of roll outs, buying time, and probably an INT or fumble (or both!) as he tries to make a play and stay alive. I expect plenty of screen-type-substances and play action to try to derail the pressure.
The good news is that, with all the worry of Tate escaping the pocket, I expect the run game to be fairly successful against what heretoforehas been a staunch run defense. With the tackles crashing in, Minor should be able to find some cutback lanes like he did last year when MINOR RAGE was first introduced. Additionally, as mentioned above, I expect that we will probably catch PSU in an all out pass rush at least once, and flip a screen to Brown or Odoms for a big gainer. The outside receivers have, against all but MAC opponents, been rendered fairly incapacitated, and I imagine that Penn State will do the same. If we can get Matthews or Hemingway or Stonum involved in the downfield passing game, it's because something isn't working defensively for Penn State. If any of those receivers catch fire, Penn State will be in serious trouble.
Molk is back. Yay for that. Now, as Brian points out in Mgoblog's preview, he's gotta go get some reach blocks - fundamentally difficult against even mediocre tackles - on the two best tackles in the league. Welcome back, kid. I would not be surprised to see Mooseman moved back to Center for a drive or two should Molk's layoff prove costly conditioning-wise.
What's to say? SCM has detailed some of what Penn State is probably going to try to do to us. I expect a heavy, heavy dose of Royster, and Darryl Clark to be his fairly dependable if not spectacular self. Penn State's starting right tackle is out, and so is his backup, so Brandon Graham has a huge opportunity to really piss off Penn State fans. Clark is dependable, but also dependable on throwing up Stanzi-balls when he's pressured. Graham will see a ton of doubles, which should put Van Bergan and any miscellaneous blitzing LB in good situations. Pressure on Clark will be the key defensively, and will mask any shortcomings in the secondary as our safeties continue to be...well...our safeties.
Meanwhile, Royster was slow to get going at the beginning of the season, but has really come on as of late. I would love to play the "well, look at the defenses they've played!" card here, but uh, Michigan's run defense isn't exactly stellar either, although they are coming off two fairly impressive performances. As much as I dislike thinking about it, I think Royster's going to have a day against us - somewhere in the neighborhood of 135+ yards. This alone isn't enough to kill us, but we need NEED to avoid any Michigan State-esque 115 yard marches that eat 8 minutes of clock. Royster's going to get his, we just need to make sure he's getting it in non-back-breaking ways.
On Zoltan, to victory. Also, because Brian clearly isn't being emphatic enough (witness: Iowa) HOLD ON TO THE GODDAMN BALL.
Penn State: Really good defense; mediocre offense
Michigan: Borderline-really good offense; mediocre defense
You know, if I'm going to roll into a game like this, I like our odds a lot better as such. This offense, when it gets going, is capable of shredding anyone regardless of defensive acumen. Meanwhile, the mediocre Penn State offense faces up against a mediocre Michigan defense, which is a true toss up. Michigan, I believe, is going to score points. What I don't know is if Penn State's offense is going to do the same. As I've said before: if Penn State is settling for field goals, they will lose.
- Michigan busts 1 big play for 60+ yards and a TD
- Tate fumbles once in Michigan territory
- Clark kills at least two drives by throwing stupid passes under pressure
- Royster goes for 140ish yards
- Graham directly causes 3 sacks by making Clark roll into pressure, but doesn't get one himself
- Penn State wins 24-17 by virtue of Royster eating clock and actually scoring TD's
- I hope I'm wrong. I'm confident UM will play well and have a chance to win, but not confident enough to predict it.