DAN: Welcome back to another Friday afternoon of Mailing it in with Dan and Von.
Alright man, I don't want to dwell on the Indiana game too hard because it was really a tail of 50 and 10 minutes. So let's just revisit what we said was "best case scenario" heading into PSU. You said that you just wanted to see the offense get going in some capacity, it didn't matter which, and I said that I wanted to see a couple big plays. While I'm no where close to the comfort level I'd wanted to be heading in, I'd say Karan Higdon did his best to make us both happy
VON: Yeah man, in my opinion Higdon played the best game of any offensive player this season last weekend against Indiana. 200 yards, three touchdowns, one of which was the game-winner in overtime; he put the team on his back no question about it. The offensive line played pretty well in creating holes for Higdon, so we gotta give credit to the big guys up front, but Higdon's game-winner was all him. Patrick Kugler even admitted he went the wrong way in rush blocking, but Higdon was still able to get to the outside and sprint to the end zone. He should be and will be the starter this Saturday against Penn State. Do you think the offense will be run-heavy again this weekend, especially considering all the issues with the pass attack?
DAN: It has to be, right? Ty Isaac was very good in limited work last week as well so I think you might get more balance in carries this week to keep both of them fresh. Penn State's defense will be more athletic than IU’s and the hits will be harder with that crowd at night. I've still seen absolutely nothing from John O'Korn in his three starts over the last two years that makes me believe he can attack a team that game plans for him. So yes, I expect the running game to carry the day again. Inserting JBB on the right side gives us another bruising run blocker and brings some sideline to sideline balance. I want to focus this week more on the upcoming game than we have in the past because I think there's A LOT to cover on and off the field, but real quick - we finally got a taste of the talent of Donovan Peoples-Jones. He had 4 catches for 34 yards and it should've been a lot more if O'Korn hits him on that deep ball. The backyard scramble and throw to him in triple coverage was an insanely difficult catch for a freshman. Could last week have been the primer for a true breakout performance?
VON: JBB was surprisingly pretty good on Saturday, so I'd say he's probably got that position locked down for the time being at least. But it very well could have been the warm up game DPJ needed before the biggest game of his career so far at Penn State. If John O'Korn can hit on just a few more of those deep throws he missed last Saturday I think DPJ is the go-to guy in the deep passing game. But to get the deep passing game going, JOK has to hit those short-to-intermediate throws to the tight ends, running backs in the flat and Grant Perry out of the slot. And in order for that all to happen, the offense has to balanced and I don't think we will see a very balanced attack, at least early on.
DAN: You bring up a great point with the lack of balance and we'll definitely touch on that when we start really diving into the game, but I want to start off the field. Harbaugh is 2-0 against James Franklin including a 49-10 dismantling last year that probably served as the biggest piece of evidence in the case against PSU in the playoff besides the basically math equation that 2 losses is greater than 1. Maybe there's some cocoon bias here, but am I wrong in say that this game seems oddly personal? The jabs from the two fan bases have been brutal for a game that isn't really a true rivalry. I think this game is going to get chippy early if the pregame mud slinging from the fans is any indication.
VON: It's definitely personal for James Franklin. He wants this win badly. So because of that, it is a tad personal for Harbaugh. I feel like there is a potential for the game to get chippy, but that's how these two coaches are. Harbaugh and Franklin have a reputation for being extremely disliked people that want their teams to play physical at all times. Penn State's fan base has always been that way, though. They are extremely confident that Penn State will destroy the Wolverines, but because of the defense I don't see that happening. I have seen some oddly high score predictions, which dumbfounds me because the over/under is currently at 45. Whoever is expecting a high-scoring shootout, they have another thing coming.
DAN: Yeah, I guess when you put two super-Alpha coaches with rabidly intense fanbases, you're going to get this type of atmosphere. I'll say it even goes back to the Brandon Gibbons implosion game where Happy Valley was enjoying the hell out of their stone-from-glass-house tossing... a game that I truly believe ultimately helped lead to Hoke and Brandon's downfall, but that's a topic for another day. I saw CBS' college football guy predict the over in this game, and I'm with you. WHY? I don't think I'm far off in saying that his defense is even better prepared to handle Saquon Barkley than last year's was. McCray went from the most athletic guy on the front-7 to the "old man" with the infusion of Gary, Winovich, and Devin "Berzerker" Bush. Now, the offense certainly won't provide the rest that last year's unit gave the defense, but if I'm Penn State, I am really worried about where points are going to come from. Between Khaleke Hudson and Bush, Michigan has two guys who can run with Barkley in both the passing and running games, and Penn State's offensive line is nowhere close to equipped to handle Michigan's rush. Greg Mattison and Don Brown have done a sensational job bringing this year's defense up to speed, and there's an argument they're the best D above the Mason Dixon. Obviously offense is a different story, but where do Penn State's points come from? There isn't really a matchup for them to exploit despite how good Barkley is. They only scored 10 points last year!
VON: I think Penn State's points will end up coming from the Barkley/McSorely duo. They will get points eventually, there is no way Michigan shuts out Penn State during a White Out night game, let alone any normal game. But yeah I agree with you, Michigan should be able to handle Barkley for most of the game. Devin Bush and Khaleke Hudson have the speed to keep up with him and keep him in check. Without a go-to receiver this year for McSorely, he will be heavily relying on his Heisman Trophy candidate of a running back to lead the offense and be the point producer. If Bush and Hudson can accomplish that task, and if the trio of Gary, Winovich and Hurst can own the pass rush, there may be an opportunity for some turnovers, which is crucial to Michigan's chances at stealing a victory this weekend.
DAN: You mention turnovers, something the D has kind of struggled with lately. McSorely is a gunslinger through and through. Between the night game, the atmosphere, and Michigan getting two decent warm ups with Ramsey and Lewerke the last two weeks, is there a chance ole Trace (what a name) might get overexcited and toss a few balls up for our back 7 to make some plays on?
VON: I believe there will be some opportunities for that, especially if the aforementioned defensive line can create havoc to an underwhelming Penn State offensive line. Lavert Hill has been playing like an All American, and the duo of Metellus and Kinnel have been great as well. Throw in David Long and the secondary has been secretly, somehow, a really key part to the defense. If McSorely has to dance around defenders and lob up a 50/50 ball, I have more faith in a Michigan defensive back hauling in the pass than a Penn State receiver. The loss of Chris Godwin was a bit worse than the Nittany Lions imagined since no receiver so far this year has really stepped in to take over that lead receiver role, so the secondary better be ready for some of those. What are your thoughts on that?
DAN: I'm in 100 percent agreement. I think I even wrote something in the roundtable this week that the secondary is weirdly the one unit I'm not worried about. Hill and Long have improved every week, and I think made Simmie Cobbs' life miserable last week. The safeties have been excellent and not enough has been written about how good Hudson has been no matter where he's lined up. This defense is a complete unit and is only going to keep improving as the "babies" get better and more experience. Going back to the front 7, Bush was snubbed from the AP All American midway team this week and has heard all week about the unstoppable force he's going up against. There isn't a linebacker in the country I'd take over Devin in this matchup. I think a couple big hits, a sack or two, and a turnover will make this Devin Bush's national coming out party.
VON: Yup I completely agree with you about Bush. These are the games he lives for. Remember Week 1 against Florida, another big nationally televised game? The first play from scrimmage was a beast of a hit from him that was almost a targeting call. He wants to hit the crap out of everybody every given Saturday, and I wouldn't be surprised if he seriously injured someone at any given moment on the field. He is the "Don Brown" of defensive players. But anyways, give me your final thoughts heading into this game. Who do you ultimately thinks wins this game and why?
DAN: I think Michigan shocks the world. I think Drevno has been saving some things in his playbook for this game that Higdon's big day allowed him to keep in his pocket. I think we see screens, sweeps, maybe even McDoom or DPJ in the wildcat - I know, tisk tisk. The offense has been predictable to a fault putting O'Korn in tough passing situations which has just magnified the opportunities he's missed. Those chances were there though against IU, and if he hits either Gentry or DPJ you're looking at a 27-10 game with 10 minutes to go and things are maybe different. I'm still not sold on PSU being the second best team in the country and man for man, are they really better than the Wolverines? Besides the huge gap between McSorely and O'Korn, I'd argue otherwise, though that gap is important. I think this is the best game the Wolverines play all year. Don Brown is going to have them fired up, the special teams or defense will score, and to stay somewhat consistent with the roundtable, let's say 31-17 Wolverines. I know you're not as optimistic as I am.
VON: Damn, that is a wild prediction. I thought you said you'd take the under! Haha. But no, I sadly am not as optimistic as you are, Danny boy. But I do think we will see some trickery on the offense (I sure hope it's not the wildcat). I think this will be a nail-biting game from start to finish. This is going to be a classic Big 10 game where it's ground and pound and defense. The first three quarters will be grueling, but with the way Penn State has been over the last two years, something will go their way and they will come out on top. Plus, Penn State has the clear advantage at QB, so here's to hoping I am wrong! Score: Penn State 24, Michigan 10.
DAN: Yeah, I guess my heart is getting ahead of my brain here! Whatever, this game has me jacked up. As always, leave a comment and we’ll make sure one of us responds to it. Happy Friday y’all and Go Blue!