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Roundtable: Who needs this one Saturday more?

This isn’t the game any of us expected to be preparing for.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 03 Penn State at Michigan Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

During the holiday week, we caught up with members of the Maize n Brew staff to preview Saturday’s game against Penn State. Here’s what was on everyone’s minds this week heading into game No. 6.

Cade McNamara is the guy at quarterback now. What do you need to see from him to feel like what happened at Rutgers wasn’t a fluke?

Jacob Shames: To state the obvious: there’s the Rutgers thing. McNamara’s gotta prove he can move the ball against a team that isn’t Rutgers. (Although now that I think about it, Penn State may not be any better than the Scarlet Knights this year.)

But more importantly, he’s the *guy* now. We know it. The Wolverines know it. The Nittany Lions know it. They’ll have prepared much more than the Scarlet Knights did for the dimension McNamara brings. McNamara can’t rely on his mere presence infusing Michigan with life. He has to be in command from the first snap to the last against a Big Ten defense that knows who he is and what the Wolverines’ offense wants to do with him behind center.

Taking all of that into account, I’m definitely not expecting McNamara to carry Michigan to victory, and I don’t think Michigan wants him to have to anyway. I think Josh Gattis’ game plan will be more balanced and more suited for a game where McNamara won’t be taking his first snap down 17 points. I think all McNamara has to do is not make mistakes and do the things he’s supposed to. There’s a difference between being a one-game miracle man and a week-in, week-out quality starter.

Andrew Bailey: Simply, execution. McNamara does not need to be a dynamic play maker to keep my trust. If McNamara continues to play within the offense, make the correct reads, and not force anything, this job is his in sharpie the rest of 2020.

Von Lozon: More of what we saw last week — patience, pocket awareness and accuracy. McNamara seems very confident in his abilities, which is a truly underrated trait to have as a QB. If he is able to pick up where he left off a week ago, I think McNamara has a shot at leading U-M to a couple more wins this season and having some decent momentum heading into the offseason.

Anthony Broome: Just keep running the offense and moving the football. Be quick and decisive in your decision making. Nobody’s asking him to be Baker Mayfield. Just be yourself within the framework of what you are being asked to do. It’s less about the stats and more about the demeanor and execution.

Trevor Woods: I need to see him play the same against better opponents, develop a pattern of week-to-week consistency. If McNamara can keep playing like he did a week ago, he’ll give Michigan a fighting chance to win some games.

Heading into 2021, who do you think has an easier way out of its problems between Michigan and Penn State and why?

Jacob Shames: Whoever wins Saturday will go a *long* way in answering that question for me.

Andrew Bailey: Michigan simply because of the emergence of Cade McNamara. Penn State is still searching for their starting quarterback and while Michigan does not have all the answers, they have found the answer at the most important position.

Von Lozon: I think Penn State does, and for one reason alone — the defense. Michigan and Penn State will both have continuity on the offense next season at a lot of key positions, but Michigan has a slight advantage with both Journey Brown (medical retirement) and Pat Freiermuth (likely NFL bound) moving on. I have no intel on this whatsoever, but I expect there to be changes for Michigan on defense. I don’t think Penn State will go through these same changes, so for that reason alone, I would say Penn State has the “easier” way out of its problems going into next year.

Anthony Broome: I guess that depends on what we define this as. It’s going to be really difficult for Penn State to move on from James Franklin given his massive buyout and there’s a lot more to suggest that what’s going on there is an aberration compared to what is going on in Ann Arbor. With Jim Harbaugh not under contract past next season, there is a far easier way out of that if you deem both of these teams to have coaching problems.

Von Lozon: By virtue of Michigan being 2-3 and Penn State being 0-5, Michigan has an easier way out of the hole they dug themselves in. Penn State’s season is doomed, even if they beat Michigan. The Wolverines still have a chance at .500 or better. I think Michigan’s offense gives them a fighting chance going forward if they continue to get above average quarterback play along with an efficient running game. Defensively, however, not sure if there’s an easy way out of its problems.

Give me your prediction for Saturday and what you think a win does for either school.

Jacob Shames: I think a win would be more or less the same thing for either school: a confidence boost and a reason to say “Hey, things aren’t totally broken.” The bar is maybe six inches off the floor. Michigan wins, 27-21. Please don’t let it take more than three hours.

Andrew Bailey: Michigan 41-38. A win either way builds momentum for a team in desperate need of it. Penn State is somehow winless so this could be a rallying point and for Michigan, the team would suddenly be .500 again.

Von Lozon: I expect this to be a slugfest with tons of points scored and not very many good plays by either defense. I’ll take Michigan by 4 points.

Anthony Broome: For Penn State it would basically be, “well everything went to hell this year, but at least we beat Michigan.” The Wolverines grabbing a win would actually give them something that resembles momentum for the first time since the season began. I think Michigan wins a tight game by a score of 28-27.

Trevor Woods: A win for Michigan gets them to a record that isn’t completely embarrassing and some needed momentum heading into the last two games of the regular season. While many may deem the season a major failure not matter what happens here forth, Michigan fans will still find joy in the Wolverines sending James Franklin to an 0-6 nosedive. As far as predictions go, I think there’s going to be big plans on offense for both teamsalong with ugly defense. I’m expecting a high scoring affair and a Michigan win that gets them to .500. 35-31 Michigan.