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Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. Michigan

The biggest game of the season is here. Penn State hosts Michigan Saturday in the White Out. Will this be the signature win that’s eluded James Franklin, or will the nation’s No. 12 team avoid the upset? Our staff is split on the subject.

Ben Berkman (season record 9-1): Michigan 20, Penn State 17

James Franklin said two weeks ago that he doesn’t care about signature wins. Care or not, Franklin has yet to accrue one during his Penn State tenure. Saturday will be another opportunity for Franklin’s first major win…but I don’t see it happening.

Michigan – aside from the last second misfortune of a poor snap, and first game under new coach jitters – has found a way to win. It steamrolled the same Northwestern side Penn State came out flat to, 38-0. And it defeated an Indiana team on the road that gave national title contender Ohio State an equal amount of trouble.

Penn State meanwhile failed to close out its one close loss of the year, and, though 6-0 at home for the first time in a decade, has some narrow home victories (read: Army) over teams far interior to the Wolverines.

Franklin’s first signature win won’t come for at least another week.

Patrick Koerbler (season record 8-0): Penn State 19, Michigan 17

Michigan is a good football team that’s led by Jim Harbaugh, one of the elite head coaches in college football. This is a guy who built Stanford into one of the premier programs in the nation, and then took a 49ers team with Colin Kaepernick as its quarterback to the Super Bowl. So it’s not surprising that he already has the Wolverines playing this well just one year into his tenure.
That being said, there’s three factors in Penn State’s favor come Saturday. First, the Nittany Lions are well-rested after a bye week and Michigan could still be feeling the effects of a double-overtime battle against Indiana. Second, this could be a lookahead spot for the Wolverines, who may already have their eyes set on next weekend’s matchup with rival Ohio State. And lastly, Michigan is a different team away from the Big House. In six home games this year, the Wolverines are outscoring their opponents 204-57. In their four away games, the Wolverines are only outscoring their opponents 122-91. That’s a significant difference.
Michigan is rightly the favorite, but as a senior, I can’t pick against Penn State. Deep down, I believe the Nittany Lions will pull off the upset.

Doug Leeson (season record 7-3): Michigan 24, Penn State 17

The difference between Penn State and Michigan looks like one loss, but there’s a reason why Michigan is ranked No. 12 and Penn State is nowhere near the rankings. Michigan, in every sense except reality, beat Michigan State the same night that Penn State was outplayed by Ohio State.
Vegas has the game’s line at 41.5, and I think the two teams will just about reach that. Michigan will lead the entire game, both teams’ defenses will look great, but Penn State will fall a touchdown short. It hurts to write this, but the Wolverines are great thanks to Jim Harbaugh. The good news is Penn State matches up with Michigan State pretty well — there’s a pretty decent chance we see a good game in East Lansing next week.

Jacob Abrams (season record 8-2): Penn State 21, Michigan 19

The Nittany Lions have their toughest test at home this Saturday facing off against the No. 12 Wolverines. Led by Iowa graduate-transfer Jake Rudock, the Michigan aerial attack will be the main focus to pulling off a huge upset in Beaver Stadium.
The White Out crowd could possibly witness Christian Hackenberg’s final game in Happy Valley, which will be a challenging one against this tough Michigan defense. The Wolverines are sixth in the nation in points against, only allowing 14.8 points per game this season.
Penn State is going to win by abandoning the pass for the majority of the game and strike Michigan on the ground. The Wolverines’ defense is stout against the pass and more lenient against rushing attacks, which should allow Saquon Barkley an opportunity to have a nice game. The White Out environment could help rejuvenate Barkley’s play, similar to the Stripe Out, as he is more dangerous at home – 7.5 yards per rush at home versus 5.3 yards per rush on the road.
The Nittany Lions’ defense will have some trouble against Rudock and Co., coming off a 48-point performance against Indiana last weekend. Playmakers like De’Veon Smith, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt will need to be stopped in order to get a win on Senior Day. Penn State has the ability to beat Michigan at home, and can do so with the intense White Out atmosphere. It’ll be a close one, but the Nittany Lions will come out victorious by two points before finishing the regular season in East Lansing next weekend.

Ethan Kasales (season record 7-2): Michigan 27, Penn State 17

What a difference a year makes. Under Brady Hoke, Michigan looked hapless, and as recently as this preseason prognosticators were skeptical of a quick turnaround in Ann Arbor. Jim Harbaugh, despite his quirks, has changed everything. Plus, graduate transfer quarterback Jake Rudock’s confidence figures to be at an all-time high after tossing six touchdowns in last weekend’s shootout win over Indiana.
As much as I’d love to see Penn State pull off another trademark thriller against the Wolverines, sending the senior class out in style, Michigan is just too polished at this point in the season. And then there’s do-it-all redshirt freshman Jabrill Peppers, one of the most dangerous athletes in the nation.
Both sides boast stout defenses that should be amped up for Saturday’s noon contest, especially in front of what I believe to be the greatest spectacle in college football, a raucous White Out crowd. However, special teams will be key and the Nittany Lions haven’t exactly worked wonders in that department for quite some time.
I really hope I’m wrong, but the Wolverines are rolling right now. Penn State’s undefeated home record is encouraging, though, and James Franklin’s bunch should at least keep this one close for a while.

Matt Coleman (season record 6-3): Michigan 21, Penn State 17

As much as it pains me to say this, Michigan will come into Happy Valley and beat the Nittany Lions on a Senior Day that will honor the final Paterno recruiting class. The Wolverines have two losses this season. The first came in the opening week against Utah, and the second one came from a miraculous ending for Michigan State.
Even after a close game last week against Indiana (a team Penn State dominated), the Wolverines are too talented for the Nittany Lions. Quarterback Jake Rudock has been impressive all year for the Wolverines. Head Coach Jim Harbaugh is the mastermind behind the quick turnaround for this Michigan football team, and a win against Penn State would be second only to beating Ohio State this year for the Wolverines.
Although Penn State’s defense has been solid this year, the last few weeks, big plays downfield have hurt the Nittany Lions, and a talented passing game for Michigan is more than capable of hurting Penn State this week. Even though Penn State has a few of its own weapons to hurt the Wolverines’ defense, I don’t believe it will be enough in the end.
All in all, Michigan will beat Penn State on Senior Day in front of one of the smaller crowds Beaver Stadium will see all year, and quite frankly, that’s just disappointing to even say. I hope Penn State comes out and proves it’s a better football team than Michigan, but I just don’t see it happening this week.

Tim Reams (season record 5-1): Penn State 14, Michigan 10

Penn State is talented, we all know that. Saturday afternoon will be the final game for the seniors in Beaver Stadium, and it will be held in White-Out fashion. The final recruits from Paterno’s recruiting class will walk through those gates, and it will be a sentimental day for the players and fans alike. While he isn’t a senior, there is a strong likelihood this is Christian Hackenberg’s final game in State College. There will be an electricity in the air, the stakes are higher, and players will perform at a level that just doesn’t seem to be matched by any other game.
The last time Michigan and Penn State matched up in 2013, the Wolverines were ranked No. 18 and the tattered Nittany Lions were by far the underdogs, but pulled off the astounding upset in front of a 107,000 person White Out crowd. Saturday will bring a game that is bigger than individual players, and every Nittany Lion is going to play their heart out. With that being said, Harbaugh and Co. are extremely sharp mentally and dominant physically. The matchup will bring an exciting defensive showdown, as both teams are heralded on their defensive prowess. The game will be low scoring, but in the end I see Penn State pulling off the upset with the 12th man on its side.

Kaitlyn Dividock (season record 7-2): Penn State 23, Michigan 20

Ah, yes. It’s finally time for the Wolverines to make their much-anticipated return journey back to Beaver Stadium. By the looks of my prediction, I know what you’re all thinking. “Another upset? No way, you’re crazy!” And yeah, you’re probably right…but with my being a senior, and this being my final game standing with my friends in the greatest student section in the country, it’s clear as day that I’m not going against the Nittany Lions.
So how is Penn State going to pull off a victory against the No. 12 team in the country? It goes without saying Michigan’s defense is stellar, and with Jim Harbaugh at the helm, this feat isn’t going to be an easy one. But the Wolverines pose one weakness that Penn State can take advantage of: a mediocre offense. This is going to sound like such a hot take, but I genuinely believe the Nittany Lions present a stronger offense — that is, if their stars show up to play. Christian Hackenberg is likely playing his last home game in a Penn State basic blue, so I expect him to show out and put up big numbers for his home crowd. And if Saquon Barkley breaks a few long runs for touchdowns, this conquest is set in stone.
As I break out my White Out gear, face paint, and shaker for the last time, I know it in my heart that Penn State won’t back down from Michigan without a fight. And with that mindset going into Gate A, and the glorified 2013 upset still fresh in my memory, an upset against this Big Ten rival isn’t so much of a fairytale as one might think.

Cade Reed (season record: 4-1): Penn State 38, Michigan 35

This game is the most important of the season. So much hinges on this game – we know it, the coaches know it, and the players know it most of all. Not only would a victory boost Penn State’s reputation in the eyes of the bowl selection committees, it would mark a massive recruiting win for the program. With two Michigan commitments in the fold, James Franklin knows that this win is crucial in their retention.
This game will also serve as a springboard into the season finale against Michigan State. A win here would go a long way in creating momentum going into East Lansing. Christian Hackenberg, in what could be his last game at Beaver Stadium, will show up in a big way while the senior-heavy defensive line will take care of any Michigan offensive threats. The game will be close, but the good guys will pull one out when we need it most.
What’s your prediction? Let us know in the comments below.

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