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Stat Breakdown: Where Michigan ranks compared to Penn State

We take a look at the Penn State and Michigan’s team stats and try to see if the Wolverines can somehow pull off an upset in Happy Valley.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Illinois Michael Allio-USA TODAY Sports

Stats aren’t everything, they don’t always tell the full picture, but they certainly mean a lot. When it comes to the Michigan Wolverines and Penn State Nittany Lions, Penn State ranks higher than Michigan in most categories.

Let’s take a look.

Michigan-Penn State Team Stats

Category Michigan Penn State
Category Michigan Penn State
Total Offense 84th (387.3) 28th (465.3)
Total Defense 14th (283.3) 4th (259.7)
Red Zone Offense 111th (0.724) 7th (0.960)
Red Zone Defense 36th (0.786) 63rd (0.818)
Time of Possession 109th (27:50) 83rd (29:20)
Team Passing Efficiency 73rd (133.98) 18th (162.85)
Sacks Allowed 53rd (1.83) 45th (1.67)
Scoring Offense 58th (30.3) 9th (42.0)
Scoring Defense 15th (17.5) 2nd (8.2)
Passing Yards per Completion 21st (13.73) 17th (14.18)
Passing Offense 73rd (231.2) 36th (274.2)
Rushing Defense 38th (122.8) 3rd (53.8)
Rushing Offense 80th (156.2) 43rd (191.2)
Passes Had Intercepted 39th (4) 12th (2)
3rd Down Conversion Pct 91st (0.370) 30th (0.442)
Team Sacks 12th (3.50) 2nd (4.50)
Sacks Allowed 53rd (1.83) 45th (1.67)
Passes Intercepted 51st (5) 51st (5)
3rd Down Conversion % Defense 23rd (0.318) 11th (0.287)
Passing Yards Allowed 9th (160.5) 49th (205.8)


  • While not every metric was included in the table above, the only two categories Michigan is ranked higher than Penn State is in red zone defense and passing yards allowed. Other categories they share a similar ranking, such as total defense, sacks allowed, passing yards per completion, team sacks, sacks allowed, and passes intercepted.
  • An interesting stat where they’re similar is passing yards per completion. Michigan may need to hit big plays more frequently in the passing game, but averaging 13.73 yards per completion is really good. Penn State is just marginally better at 14.18 yards per completion. Quarterback Sean Clifford has been more accurate than Michigan’s, which is a reflection of the disparity in the passing offense rankings, where PSU is 36th and Michigan is 73rd.
  • Keep an eye on the sacks allowed numbers, as Clifford and Patterson have struggled when pressured. Michigan’s offensive line has fared much better in pass protection of late, while Penn State struggled mightily stopping Iowa’s pass rush last week.
  • Something’s gotta give when looking at Michigan’s red zone defense (36th) versus Penn State’s red zone offense (7th). Michigan’s defense has really buckled down and made opposing offenses settle for field goals more often than not, and they’ll need to continue that trend in Happy Valley.
  • Clifford has struggled against good defenses, and Michigan has had an elite pass defense so far this year, ranking 9th in the nation. Along with Michigan’s improved pass-rush, maybe Clifford won’t have as great of a day as many pundits are predicting.
  • Yes, Penn State on paper is the better team, and they’ll have home-field advantage on their side, but there’s no such thing as paper victories, they have to go out and earn it. While Michigan is the underdog, and rightfully so, there are certain areas of the Penn State team that Michigan can possibly exploit to leave Happy Valley with a win. It boils down to execution and playing fundamentally sound, physical football.