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Staff Predictions: No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 5 Michigan

This week, No. 10 Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) returns from its bye, hopping right into a highly-ranked matchup on the road. The Nittany Lions will match up with No. 5 Michigan in the Big House.

After the team’s less-than-encouraging performance against Big Ten foe Northwestern, our staffers are split on who will emerge victorious from the top-10 matchup.

Nolan Wick (5-0): Penn State 27, Michigan 24

Why do I believe? Franklin has only won three times coming off the bye week, and this particular trip to the Big House is among his most difficult games post-bye. However, Michigan has recently struggled to put away less-talented teams. The Wolverines seem to lack momentum, which isn’t a good sign heading into a game against another top-10 team. Therefore, Michigan’s first major test against Penn State couldn’t come at a worse time.

Meanwhile, Penn State has proven it can win in hostile environments and clutch up in high-leverage situations. I (reluctantly) predict the Nittany Lions to do just that and steal a massive win in Ann Arbor late in the fourth quarter.

Devon Craley (3-0): Michigan 20, Penn State 16

There are a lot of factors favoring Michigan in this one and not a whole lot favoring Penn State. Coming off the bye week and going into Ann Arbor against the No. 5 team in the country is going to be too much for the Nittany Lions to overcome. It’ll be close and probably low scoring, but I don’t think Penn State leaves with a win. If this was at home or not off a bye, I could see otherwise, but this game feels too much like Iowa last season. The only difference is this Michigan team is a lot better than Iowa was a season ago.

Joe Lister (5-0): Michigan 34, Penn State 27

Sorry, folks, but Penn State isn’t pulling this one off. The Nittany Lions may be one of the best teams in the country right now, but it just won’t be enough to take down Michigan in the Big House.

Yes, the Wolverines may have dropped in the rankings after a subpar performance against Indiana last week. All the same, Michigan pulled off the win and showed it could turn on the burners when needed. Penn State will hang with the Wolverines through the first half, but Michigan will take over after that and remain undefeated.

Adam Babetski (4-1): Penn State 24, Michigan 23

I will admit that I waffled on this one. I have underestimated Penn State so far this season, but this is the game that will tell us whether or not the Nittany Lions are contenders or pretenders. They did not pass the test last year at Iowa, under almost the exact same circumstances.

Michigan may have fooled you into thinking that it is not one of the best teams in the country with some shaky wins in the last few weeks. The fact remains that Michigan was a playoff team last year, while Penn State has not proven itself to be worthy of even a top-10 ranking since 2019.

I have to go out on a limb and believe that this team is different for my own sanity. Win or lose, it will be ridiculously close.

Matt Brown (5-0): Penn State 27, Michigan 24

This is the first big test that Penn State has had this season. Yes, it played Purdue and Auburn on the road, but going to the Big House — the largest sports stadium in North America — during a Maize Out is going to be a tough game to win. However, I don’t think this Michigan team is as good as it is are ranked. Don’t get me wrong — the Wolverines a top-10 team in the nation, and both JJ McCarthy and Blake Corum are really good, but I don’t think they’re as good as everyone says they are.

I think Penn State will go into Ann Arbor and steal a victory from the No. 5-ranked team in the country. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen will be huge x-factors for this game. Sean Clifford will need to prevent himself from making too many mistakes and if that happens, I think a fourth-quarter Jake Pinegar field goal will give the Nittany Lions the road win.

Luke Brown (1-0): Penn State 24, Michigan 20

It’s Michigan hate week. Don’t let its top-five ranking fool you, though. The Wolverines are very beatable, and Penn State has the exact formula to make it happen.

Michigan doesn’t have the electrifying offense of an Ohio State or a Tennessee. It beat teams by forcing its opponents to make mistakes and taking advantage of field position. Given Penn State is No. 11 in the country in turnover margin, that shouldn’t be a problem this Saturday.

Aidan Conrad (2-0): Penn State 27, Michigan 24

Penn State is going to rain on the maize parade and stun Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Nittany Lions will contain Michigan running back Blake Corum just enough to keep the game within striking distance. Sean Clifford will lead a game-winning drive as we saw in week one at Purdue. The final score will be 27-24, and Penn State will likely jump to a top-five spot in the rankings heading into the White Out against Minnesota.

Brady Miller (2-0): Penn State 27, Michigan 23

This feels like a must-win for the Nittany Lions. Michigan has struggled in the first half of games so far this season, and I expect Penn State to get out to an early lead. Wolverines running back Blake Corum is easily one of the best backs in the country, but he hasn’t had to face a defense anywhere near as good as the Nittany Lions’ just yet. This game could definitely go either way, but I’m putting faith in Penn State to pick up a massive road win ahead of next week’s White Out game.

Mikey DeAngelis (5-0): Penn State 24, Michigan 23

This truly is a game that could go either way. I think the Nittany Lions are the better team, but playing at the Big House is never going to be easy. If this were a home game, I’d confidently take Penn State, but I think this will be a close one.

CJ Gill (2-0): Penn State 27, Michigan 21

It’s strength against strength in the season’s most important game to date for the Nittany Lions and the Wolverines. Both teams enter undefeated and are seeking a massive victory. I think the Nittany Lions run game will show up, and Sean Clifford’s veteran play will be the difference in the game with the front seven of the blue and white playing a crucial role, too. It should be interesting to see how JJ McCarthy performs in the biggest start of his career.

Frankie Marzano (5-0): Penn State 27, Michigan 21

Michigan is the most overrated program in the history of college football. JJ McCarthy is not good at football. I am so confident that Penn State’s defense will be able to shut him down. Blake Corum is a different story. Unlike most of his teammates and predecessors, he’s actually good at football. If the Nittany Lions can find a way to shut Corum down, Penn State will win the football game.

Sam Fremin (5-0): Penn State 21, Michigan 19

Manny Diaz’s defense characteristically disrupts opposing offenses. The team’s defensive scheme is one of confusion and chaos. The biggest question will be if Sean Clifford and Mike Yurcich’s offense can take advantage of the given opportunities. This year, the offense has done so more often than not. I narrowly take Penn State in a low-scoring, run-heavy, classic Big Ten affair.

Ryan Parsons (5-0): Penn State 27, Michigan 24

I’m not sure if I actually think Penn State is going to win, but my season bold prediction was that the Nittany Lions steal a Big House win. So, I have to stick to my guns, I think. Here’s what needs to happen for my prediction to be correct: Sean Clifford can’t make the big mistake. A level-headed, paced quarterback can win the game. The offensive line has to continue playing at the level it has to fend off the vicious Wolverine pass rush. Last year’s crew wasn’t enough, but this year’s could be. Finally, the Nittany Lions need to play with swagger, which has been missing the last two weeks. No bye-week rust. No slow start. No poor tackling.

Gabe Angieri (5-0): Michigan 24, Penn State 20

I’d love to be wrong here, but I’m going with my gut. James Franklin’s post-bye week struggles are well-documented, and there’s valid reason to be concerned. As my colleague Ryan Parsons said, Sean Clifford can’t make the big mistake in this game. However, I think he will with an interception late in the third quarter.

Luckily for Penn State fans, my history with predictions sucks (I went 8-5 last year), so the Nittany Lions will probably win. Always fade me.

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