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Penn State coach James Franklin readying for first trip to Michigan

During his weekly press conference with the local media, Penn State coach James Franklin discussed the Nittany Lions trip to Ann Arbor on Saturday.

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

After a much needed bye week, Penn State is ready to face a Michigan team in desperate need of a victory.

Michigan (2-4, 0-2) were left reeling after a 26-24 loss to Rutgers last weekend which saw quarterback Gary Nova throw for over 400 yards against the Wolverine defense and left a team struggling to keep their season hopes afloat.

Still searching for its first conference win, Michigan will welcome Penn State (4-1, 0-1) under the lights at Michigan Stadium (7:00 p.m., ESPN 2).

Despite trying to bounce back from a horrific 29-6 loss to Northwestern, Penn State coach James Franklin is excited for the opportunity to play Michigan for the first time in his coaching career (Quotes via

It also marks the first time since 2009 that the Nittany Lions have played in Ann Arbor.

"We are excited about the opportunity," Franklin said. "This will be my first time going to Michigan. Looking forward to that and experiencing that and that's something we're keeping mental notes as a coaching staff because a lot of our coaches haven't been to a lot of these locations before."

Once an area to take solace in, the Michigan defense has been less than stellar during Michigan's three-game losing streak. As Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison prepares to try and fix the areas that have failed during the recent slide, sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who's ranked in the top-five in passing yardage in the conference, provides an even larger challenge.

However, for Franklin, the Michigan defense isn't something that's new to him in his first year in the Big Ten. In fact, the Michigan defense reminds him of his days in the ACC.

"Greg Mattison is one of the more veteran coaches out there in terms of experience and success, not only in college but also in the NFL," Franklin said. "They are a 4-3 team. They will play quarters and they play a lot of quarter one and a lot of man coverage.

In a lot of ways they remind me of when I used to be in the ACC and you play Florida State and they load the box to take the run away by numbers, and they press you on the outside to take what I call gimmie throws away and really make it difficult on you."

Franklin also discussed his familiarity with Michigan's first-year offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

"Offensively, Doug Nussmeier, who I've known for awhile, in his first year at Michigan, had been the offensive coordinator at Alabama the last couple years. They are a multiple pro offense," Franklin said. "Obviously the quarterback, No. 98 Devin Gardner, big, strong physical guy, was really impressed with his presence at Big Ten media days. He's an impressive guy, 6-4, 216 pounds, is completing 62 percent of his passes, and is very, very athletic in terms of making plays with his feet."

Gardner, who has seen his fair share of struggles this season which included a benching against Utah and was replaced by sophomore Shane Morris against Minnesota, will be relied upon by the Michigan offense more so than weeks past.

With sophomore running back Derrick Green lost for the season with a broken clavicle, it is clear the focus for Franklin has shifted to Gardner.

"The fact that he's a veteran guy and has played a lot of games, I think that shows up," Franklin said. "I think the fact that he's 6 4, 220 pounds and probably one of the more athletic guys; in terms of being able to pull the ball do you know and take off. You saw him do that a couple times the other night and was able to get to the edge of the defense and really make some positive plays for them. And that's challenging, because on defense, there's so many things that you're trying to stop, and now you have to deal with a quarterback, as well."

Follow Joshua Henschke on Twitter.