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Previewing The Enemy: Michigan Wolverines

For the second consecutive season, No. 10 Penn State football (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) is undefeated and heading into a top-10 matchup.

The Nittany Lions are at an inflection point in the season, as they’ll try to dispatch No. 5 Michigan in Ann Arbor. It will be Penn State’s first time playing in a full Big House since 2018. The only players on the current roster who appeared in that game were Jonathan Sutherland, PJ Mustipher, and Jake Pinegar

Needless to say, the matchup will be monumental. Before noon rolls around on Saturday, let’s take a look at how the Wolverines’ roster is shaking up this season.

The Team

Despite some aggressive rumors of his departure, Jim Harbaugh returns as Michigan’s head coach for his eighth season at the program’s helm. He holds a 67–24 record and led the Wolverines to their first conference championship since 2004 last year.

Michigan rolls with a co-offensive coordinator setup with both Sherrone Moore and Matt Weiss calling the shots. Weiss is in his first season in the role after leaving Harbaugh’s brother, John, and the Baltimore Ravens. Moore is now in his second season and has been with the program since 2018. Michigan’s 43 points per game are second to only Ohio State in the Big Ten.

Jesse Minter leads the defense and is also in his first year in the role after holding a similar position at Vanderbilt in 2021. The Wolverines are allowing less than 12 points per game on defense and lead the conference with 22 sacks.

Offense

Sophomore J.J. McCarthy has emerged as Michigan’s starting quarterback and has thrown nine touchdowns to just one interception through five games. He leads the country with a 78.3% completion rate, making Michigan’s offense one of the most efficient in the country. He was named one of the Davey O’Brien Great 8 Quarterbacks of the Week after throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns last week against Indiana.

Fifth-year wide receiver Ronnie Bell is McCarthy’s go-to guy at wide receiver. He leads the team with 390 yards on 30 receptions but has found the end zone just one time. Roman Wilson leads the team with three touchdowns through the air and has amassed 224 yards of his own.

Michigan is also deep at tight end with Luke Schoonmaker leading the charge. The senior has the second-most receptions on the team with 23 and has found the end zone twice this season. Max Bredeson has 74 receiving yards on the year, and Penn State fans might remember Erick All from last year’s back-breaking home loss to the Wolverines. He’s caught three passes for 36 yards in 2022.

Running back Blake Corum is the centerpiece of Michigan’s offense and will be key to the Wolverine’s success Saturday. He has the fourth-most rushing yards in the FBS with 735 at a 6.2-yard-per-carry average. His 11 rushing touchdowns put him behind only Pittsburgh’s Israel Abanikanda in all of college football.

Corum’s backup, Donovan Edwards, has also added 134 yards and two scores on the ground. James Franklin said Michigan had what was “considered to be the best offensive line in all of college football last year,” and it returns three starters.

Defense

On defense, Franklin said lineman Mazi Smith, who Penn State went after hard in the recruiting process, is the “anchor.” He leads all Michigan defensive linemen with 23 tackles and has added half a sack as well. True freshman Mason Graham joins Smith as the other interior lineman and has 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks to his name.

Franklin was also impressed by edge Mike Morris, who leads the team with five sacks and one forced fumble. He’s flanked by Kris Jenkins, who has 22 tackles and a sack of his own. Michigan’s conference-leading 22 sacks are proof of concept for its explosive pass rush, which remains strong after losing talented players to the NFL last season.

Linebacker Junior Colson’s 44 tackles lead the Wolverines this year. The mike, Michael Barrett, is right behind Colson with 30 stops and also has two sacks.

In the secondary, Franklin was most impressed with cornerback DJ Turner. His three passed defended are tied for the most on the team with nickel Mike Sainristil, and he has one of the Wolverines’ four interceptions. He’s flanked by Gemon Green, who has eight tackles and two passes defended so far.

Starting safety Rod Moore leads the secondary with two interceptions and has 21 tackles to his name. His partner, R.J. Moten, has one takeaway of his own as well.

Special Teams

Jake Moody is the team’s placekicker and has made all 30 of his extra-point attempts this year. He’s kicking 75% from the field and has a season-long of 52 yards.

Franklin said punter Brad Robbins is punting “as well as any punter in the country right now” and has placed half of his kicks within the 20-yard line this season.

Wide receiver A.J. Henning, who is another guy Penn State recruited heavily, has a punt returned for a touchdown this year and has amassed 223 total return yards.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected]

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