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Game Preview, Predictions: How Michigan can shift narrative with trip to Penn State

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The Wolverines have a shot — even if it feels slim — to pull this off.

Michigan v Penn State Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Michigan football heads to Penn State on Saturday night looking to back up the claims that they are ready to turn the corner and ascend as a team. The eyeball test may not agree, nor does Vegas, but this game is going to provide the opportunity to shed a lot of bad labels.

Ok, maybe not totally shed, but at least prove some people wrong.

By now, you know most of the stats. Michigan has never won a game as a Vegas underdog under Jim Harbaugh. They have a single ranked win on the road, which came last season at Michigan State. They’re 1-9 against top ten opponents.

Winning is the penicillin to what ails this program.

Michigan has maintained that they continue to improve and find a comfort level in the new offense despite what the results and rankings might see. If ever there’s a time for everything to click, it’s now.

Many fans are treating this game on Saturday night like a death march, but the Wolverines have a shot to pull this off if they take care of the football and can take advantage of some of the big play opportunities that might come available. Penn State is ranked seventh in the country, but they haven’t played an incredibly tough schedule with their signature wins coming so far against Pittsburgh and Iowa. They deserve props for both of those.

However, the Penn State offense is not nearly as potent against good teams. Regardless of what you think about the Wolverines, they are better than the Hawkeyes (they proved it on the field) and Pitt (who genuinely stinks). The Wolverines are going to give themselves a chance if they pack a defense.

They might be onto something offensively if the run game is truly in the process of coming alive with Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins. But there’s nothing they need more than a good game from Shea Patterson.

Patterson played better last week and did some more of the things that we are used to seeing from him, stat lines be damned. There’s no quarterback change coming at Michigan until/unless the bottom falls out and their best shot at truly taking off is if he plays the way he’s shown capable of at times in his Michigan career.

Right now, though, Michigan is playing by the skin of its teeth and through six football games, we have not consistently seen enough to suggest they can put a full 60 minute effort together. And that’s pretty scary heading into the environment that will mirror and potentially surpass the one they experienced in Camp Randall earlier this season.

Michigan wins if: They take care of the football and the defense is lights out in the white out (see what I did there?). If the offensive line continues to perform well and they can keep their quarterback clean and open up some running lanes, Michigan might be able to take control.

Penn State wins if: Michigan does not take care of the football and we see breakdowns from Michigan’s defense, especially in the QB run game. Michigan’s offensive line is in for a long day if the Penn State pass rush gets cooking.

Prediction: Penn State 23, Michigan 14

Michigan hasn’t shown an ability to win a game like this in over a year and they have six games of bad habits and concerns that have yet to be alleviated to suggest that they can go on the road and get this done.

Game Info

Teams: No. 16 Michigan Wolverines (5-1, 3-1 B1G) at No. 7 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 B1G)

Date: Oct. 19, 2019

Location: Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Television: ABC

Radio: 950 AM in the Detroit/Ann Arbor area, see affiliate stations here

Spread: Penn State -9, Over/under set at 47 points

Quick Hits

  • Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Maria Taylor will be on the television call for the game.
  • This is the 23rd meeting between Michigan and Penn State all-time and the Wolverines have a 14-8 record in the series.
  • Michigan is 6-5 all-time road against Penn State all-time.
  • Jim Harbaugh has a 3-1 record against Penn State with a 28-16 win in 2015, 49-10 win in 2016, 42-13 loss in 2017 and 42-7 win in 2018.
  • Michigan has four players from Pennsylvania in sophomore OL Kraig Correll, senior LB Khaleke Hudson, junior DL Donovan Jeter and junior WR Jack Young.
  • This is the 59th game that the Wolverines will have played at night. They have a 33-25 record in those games and they are 2-3 in those games played against Penn State with a 1-3 record at Beaver Stadium.

MnB’s Penn State week preview coverage

Presser recap: Jim Harbaugh praises Josh Gattis, Shea Patterson ahead of Penn State

Putting Michigan’s ‘defining game’ narrative into proper perspective

Josh Metellus vows revenge vs. Penn State isn’t over ahead of Saturday

Getting to know Michigan’s Week 8 opponent: Penn State Nittany Lions

Scouting Penn State QB Sean Clifford ahead of showdown vs. Michigan

Out of the Blue: We’re headed to Happy Valley

Why Michigan’s trip to Penn State isn’t the ‘defining’ game some keep saying it is

Matchup of the Week: KJ Hamler vs Michigan secondary

Recent History: Michigan vs. Penn State

Behind Enemy Lines Q&A with Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries

Three bold predictions for Michigan-Penn State