Staff Predictions: No. 2 Penn State vs. No. 19 Michigan
Happy Valley is gearing up for its biggest home football weekend in the post-Joe Paterno era. It’s the White Out, College GameDay will be in town for the first time since 2009, and Beaver Stadium is gearing up for its first top 25 clash in six years.
Everything reads like this will be a memorable battle, but our staff sees the Nittany Lions rolling past the Wolverines on Saturday night.
Steve Connelly (6-0): Penn State 21, Michigan 0
I’m way more confident in this one than I should be. There’s just no way that the Nittany Lions could have a let down in a game this hyped with an opponent reeling like Michigan is at the moment. Offensively, the Wolverines have next to nothing going for them at the moment. Now the starting quarterback after Wilton Speight’s injury, John O’Korn looks unsettled — having a game where he threw three interceptions against Michigan State, then followed it up with a 58-yard passing performance against Indiana. The running game might the only area offensively where Michigan can pressure the Nittany Lions.
So why a shutout? The Nittany Lions are coming in motivated.
— Manny Bowen (@mannybowen43) October 16, 2017
On the other side of the ball, the Wolverines have one of, if not the best defense in the nation. It’s going to come down to Penn State’s ability to grab decent field position and take advantage of opportunities off turnovers because there probably isn’t a team in the country that can consistently put together drives against Michigan.
Anthony Colucci (6-0): Penn State 23, Michigan 10
As weak as Michigan’s offense is, this game will not be as much of a blowout as people think it will be. Both teams field great defenses, so expect a field position battle throughout the game. Eventually, Penn State’s offensive firepower, fueled by the White Out crowd, will overcome the stingy Wolverine defense and Saquon Barkley will rattle off a long Heisman moment touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Ethan Kasales (6-0): Penn State 34, Michigan 21
Don Brown’s defense is as good as advertised, but the Nittany Lions should finally break through and put up some points in the second half. One of the more under-looked matchups of the night will be Maurice Hurst going up against Connor McGovern at the point of attack. If Penn State gets things going in the running game, the White Out atmosphere can do the rest.
Elissa Hill (6-0): Penn State 35, Michigan 28
It’s the toughest environment in college football: a Penn State White Out in Beaver Stadium under the lights. Without Wilton Speight, Michigan’s offense hasn’t been quite the same and that won’t go unnoticed against Penn State’s defense this weekend. With a few big plays from Trace and Saquon mixed in, Penn State shouldn’t have too much trouble coming out on top over Michigan. After all, Jim Harbaugh thinks a hot dog is a sandwich.
Mikey Mandarino (5-1): Penn State 41, Michigan 24
Tomorrow’s game will undoubtedly be the biggest game of Penn State’s season so far. Michigan, as much as this pains me to admit, is a great football team. Penn State cannot underestimate the Wolverines in any way, and if this happens, the Nittany Lions will find themselves in big trouble. With that being said, the White Out conditions of Beaver Stadium and a couple more Heisman moments for Saquon Barkley will propel Penn State to a big victory over a conference power, and effectively put the final nail in the coffin of Michigan’s already-dead Playoff hopes.
David Abruzzese (5-0) Penn State 24, Michigan 14
This is the one you circled your calendar for; Penn State enters as the home favorite, but this one might be closer initially than the spread might suggest. Michigan has two extremely talented runners and a highly dependable receiver in Grant Perry, with the only question being how will the offense manage to rack up points against Penn State’s highly talented defense. There’s no other way to put this — it’s going to be a thriller. Plenty of Heisman moments to come for Saquon Barkley.
Nathaniel Pinskey (4-0): Penn State 40, Michigan 9
Coming into this season, I was a lot more worried about this game than I am now. After watching Michigan’s offense all season, I think this game should be won easily for the Nittany Lions. I think the primetime, White Out atmosphere will motivate the team to come out firing right away. Look for the offensive line to get everything figured out against a dominant Michigan defensive line, and Saquon will remind the nation why he is the best player in the country. Last season, the White Out win against Ohio State started a magical run for this team, but this season it will prove to the rest of the country that Penn State is worthy of the No. 2 ranking.
Matt Fox (4-0): Penn State 31, Michigan 13
This game will undoubtedly be the toughest test the Nittany Lions have faced so far this season. Anchored by its front seven, Michigan’s defense leads the nation in total defense. The key matchup in this game will be Penn State’s offensive line against the Wolverines’ defensive line. If the Nittany Lion offensive line is unable to adequately protect McSorley, and open up running lanes for Barkley this game could quickly turn into a nail biter for Penn State fans. Ultimately McSorley and Barkley should make enough plays to outscore Michigan’s inept offense, and the Nittany Lions will roll into the Horseshoe next weekend still undefeated.
Champe Fisher (3-0): Penn State 24, Michigan 10
Michigan’s defense has been as good as advertised this season, but its offense has sputtered, especially after starting quarterback Wilton Speight was lost for the season. Saquon Barkley is averaging 7 yards per carry in between the tackles this season, while Michigan is allowing only .6 yards per carry on runs between the tackle. While all eyes will be on Barkley and the Michigan defense, the game will likely be decided by Michigan’s offense. John O’Korn has had his struggles since being thrust into the starting quarterback spot, and will have his hands full with Penn State’s stingy defense. I think it will be a close game at the half, but Barkley and the home crowd will prove to be too much for a Michigan team that struggles to score.