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What we learned from Michigan’s dominant victory over Penn State

The Wolverines are who we hoped (and prayed) they’d be.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Fall weddings are the worst. While most were enjoying a beautiful college football Saturday — the luckiest among us doing so in Ann Arbor — I was obligated to be a groomsman. I kicked, screamed, cussed, hooted and hollered, but in the end I performed my service.

Despite being imprisoned by friendship, I was able to watch most of the Penn State/Michigan game uninterrupted before the 4 p.m. walk down the aisle. And as it turns out, what I missed is what I already expected: Michigan is who we thought it was, or better yet, the Wolverines are who we hoped they would be.

For the sixth time in the last 40 years, the Michigan Wolverines are 7-0 after a 41-17 victory over the Penn State Nittany Lions. While the winning margin was smaller than it could have been, the merciful 24-point victory marks the first time since 1973-74 the Wolverines have started back-to-back seasons unblemished after seven weeks.

For a contest billed as a classic heavyweight Big Ten showdown between two teams in the top-10, it turned out to be the same ol’ Michigan, and same ol’ Penn State of the modern era playing in Ann Arbor.

Over the last seven years, Penn State’s three most lopsided losses are: 2016 at Michigan (39 points), 2018 at Michigan (35 points), 2022 at Michigan (24 points).

The Wolverines ran over, around and through the Nittany Lions to the tune of 418 rushing yards. Donovan Edwards led the way and earned his first career 100-yard rushing game in emphatic fashion with 173 yards (he had 174 all of last season) and two scores.

Heisman hopeful Blake Corum was not far behind with 166 yards and two scores of his own. Corum is currently second in the country in rushing yards (901) and first in rushing touchdowns (13).

Furthermore, Michigan’s 418 rushing yards are the most in a single game for the Wolverines since their 78-0 drubbing of Rutgers in 2016 saw them rack up 481 in a game that more resembled a public execution than an athletic contest. But the formerly 10th-ranked Nittany Lions are not even a distant relative of the 2016 Scarlet Knights, which makes this most recent win one of the most impressive wins in all of college football this season.

Coming in, Penn State had been lauded for its physical defense, and especially the ability to stop the run. The Nittany Lions had only allowed 398 rushing yards ALL SEASON before they were run over on Saturday. And to add historical context as salt in the wound, 418 rushing yards allowed is the third-most Penn State has allowed in a game since they started tracking stats in 1947.

Michigan’s dominance was both explosive and methodical on offense.

  • Explosive: 1-play, 61-yard touchdown drive, 10 seconds. Corum hit the hole like a runaway freight train, cut to his right and outran any would-be tacklers on his way to the end zone.
  • Methodical: 15-play, 48-yard field goal drive, 9:28. Quarterback J.J. McCarthy surgically picked apart Penn State’s defense as a compliment to the running game and chewed up almost 10 minutes of game clock to ice the game by putting Michigan up three scores.

The Wolverines did not punt against Penn State, and with better red zone execution could have easily reached the 50-point milestone. Next time, Penn State should try throwing more passes than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Defensively, Michigan was smothering from the first snap. The unit only allowed 10 points and 10 total first downs. Aside from one big play by quarterback Sean Clifford, the Nittany Lions never had an answer for defensive coordinator Jesse Minter.

However, what’s being overlooked is how Michigan was able to be so dominant at stopping the Nittany Lions. This was a team effort, with everyone doing their 1/11. Although Aidan Hutchinson did walk back through the door (Hutch was on the sidelines to take in the game during his NFL bye week), he is not suiting up for the Wolverines.

There are no bonafide stars on the defense, but instead a collection of selfless defenders whose physicality is only matched by their intelligence. All season long the defense has risen to the occasion when it mattered most and again against Penn State, they put together their most complete performance from start to finish.

On Saturday, we learned Michigan is who we hoped it would be. The Wolverines took their first real steps in proving that last year was just the first wave of a multi-year storm of success.

Much like how marriages are a reaffirming of love, Michigan reaffirmed its position as a national championship contender and squashed the narrative of “bUt tHeY haVeN’t pLAyeD AnYOne.”

Congrats Joe and Leslie.