It’s Tuesday, folks. Welcome to Morning Brews. Aside from Football preseason watchlists, the Michigan sports landscape is rather quiet - so this morning we’re going to take a look at a B1G East division foe who some people may not have expected to play a role in the 2017 season. Yes, I’m referring to Penn State. With Michigan State dealing with some internal problems that are spilling onto the field, it looks like the 2017 race for the B1G East will be a three-team contest between Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State. In other Michigan news, a soccer team from Rome stopped by Ann Arbor on Monday to visit with the Wolverines and utilize the practice facilities.
Let’s hit the links:
So, yes - I know. Michigan put one hell of a thumpin’ on Penn State last year. It was glorious. I witnessed it in person. The Wolverines were up 28-0 at half and the kindly, somewhat elderly Penn State couple sitting next to me left early. I even did something I had never done before; left the stadium with time still on the clock. That’s how complete a victory it was (seriously, check out the stats). The following morning, I struck up a conversation with another kindly, elderly Penn State fan at my hotel during breakfast. He turned out to be a PSU Football booster and, let’s just say, he wanted the James Franklin Experiment to be over. I couldn’t blame him.
But then, something happened. Despite starting 2-2 and losing to Pitt., Penn State didn’t lose again for the rest of the regular season. It wasn’t always pretty (here’s looking at you, 24-21 victory over Ohio State that the Nittany Lions didn’t really deserve), but they just won (baby). They beat Minnesota, and they beat Ohio State, and they beat Iowa, and they beat Michigan State, and then they beat Wisconsin in the B1G Championship game. They also came close to beating USC (49-52 Final) in the Rose Bowl, finishing with an 11-3 record. Had you looked at their schedule after the Michigan game, you’d have thought they would struggle to be bowl eligible.
This fall they’re going to be led, again, by Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley. McSorley is coming off a good year (~58% comp., 3,600 yds, 29 TDs, 8 INTs). He’s going to be good again this year. He’ll probably be taken somewhere in the NFL Draft when his college career concludes, and he’ll be good to very good under center until then. Barkley, quite frankly, is a beast (turn your volume down before you click that). The guy is a likely Top-15 draft pick after the coming season. He recorded ~1,500 yds and 18 TDs on the ground last year, plus another 400 yds and 4 TDs receiving. He’s strong. He’s fast. He’s quick. Michigan’s defense achieved a herculean task by holding him to 59 yards rushing and 77 yards receiving last year.
Beyond the coming season, James Franklin is assembling good recruiting classes. Franklin’s 2017 class came in at #15 nationally, 2016 was #20 nationally, and their 2018 class is currently ranked #3 according to the 247 Composite. Now, the 2018 ranking benefits significantly from having 19 commits (9 four star recruits) - so it’s likely to fall a little as NSD approaches - but Franklin nonetheless appears poised to post his third Top-20 recruiting class in a row. Will Franklin be able to develop these recruiting classes in order to replace McSorley and Barkley when they leave? I’m not sure. What I do know, is that Franklin has a one-two punch in McSorley and Barkley that will make some noise in the B1G East this season.
Has Franklin revived PSU and made them a consistent B1G contender? Weigh in using the poll below and down in the comments.
Is Penn State for real?
This poll is closed
Yes, they’re here to stay
Maybe this year, but then they’ll implode
No, they have a long way to go
AS Roma and Paris Saint-Germain are in Southeast Michigan to play the first leg of the International Champions Cup at Comerica Park tomorrow. For those unfamiliar with European soccer, AS Roma is an Italian club that plays in Serie A and Paris Saint-Germain is a French club that plays in Ligue 1. Both clubs play in the top leagues of their respective countries (think MLB vs AAA vs AA vs Single A, etc.). On Monday, AS Roma stopped by Ann Arbor to visit with Michigan Football and utilize the facilities to prepare for Wednesday’s game. Harbaugh says there have been preliminary discussions with AS Roma about Michigan playing a game in Rome.
Tickets are now on sale for two Michigan non-rev. winter sports, Women’s Basketball and Hockey. Kim Barnes Arico looks to have her basketball squad in top form again as Michigan looks to build on last year’s success, which saw the Wolverines win 28 games and capture the WNIT Championship. Michigan Hockey is under new management following the retirement of long-time coach Red Berenson, though long-time assistant Mel Pearson returned to take the helm - so it’s not as though the Wolverines are starting from scratch. How will Pearson fare in his first year? Well, buy some tickets and watch it unfold for yourself. If you’re in the region, I recommend picking up season tickets to both. It’s a relatively cheap way to watch two strong programs for the Wolverines.