Previewing The Enemy: Michigan Wolverines
Penn State football will face arguably its biggest test of the season when No. 3 Michigan comes to Beaver Stadium for Saturday’s Stripe Out game. While the atmosphere should be raucous in what is a must-win game for the Nittany Lions, they’re 4.5-point underdogs.
Michigan boasts significant talent on both sides of the ball and has arguably as good of a defense as Penn State’s. Off the field, though, the program is in the middle of a significant investigation by the NCAA for evidence of potential sign stealing. Let’s get into that and more to preview the Wolverines.
Michigan is 9-0 overall and 6-0 in Big Ten play this season. The Wolverines are coming off a 41-13 home win against Purdue last week and have yet to play a ranked opponent.
Jim Harbaugh has gone 83-25 in his nine years as Michigan’s head coach, including a 5-3 record against Penn State. He’s coming off consecutive Big Ten Championships and trips to the College Football Playoff. His team took TCU to the brink in the Fiesta Bowl but ultimately lost 51-45. He also coached Stanford from 2007 to 2010 and the San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to 2014, which included an appearance at Super Bowl XLVII.
However, Harbaugh and Michigan’s so far unbeaten season has been overshadowed by controversies off the field. Harbaugh served a three-game, school-imposed suspension for NCAA recruiting infractions to begin the season. The more recent news is the biggest elephant in the room, as the NCAA opened an investigation into the program over evidence of illegal sign stealing. Former staffer Connor Stalions was reportedly the investigation’s primary focus, but the situation has only intensified as it has also been reported that there may be significant penalties heading Michigan’s way, which potentially include another suspension for Harbaugh.
Jesse Minter is in his second season as the defensive coordinator. Meanwhile, Sherrone Moore is in his first season as the solo offensive coordinator after being the co-offensive coordinator for two seasons beforehand.
JJ McCarthy is Michigan’s starting quarterback. He’s thrown 2,134 yards, 18 touchdowns, and three interceptions while maintaining a 75.73% completion rate, which is third-best in America. The junior also has 226 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. The La Grange Park, Illinois, native is viewed as a Heisman contender.
Blake Corum is Michigan’s starting running back. Dubbed “Blake the Great,” by FOX play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson, Corum has rushed for 661 yards and 16 touchdowns, which is the most in the country. Donovan Edwards also sees the field plenty, as he has 239 rushing yards and two touchdowns over 74 carries.
Although Corum is the star of the offense, Michigan’s receivers have been quite effective as well. Roman Wilson, a Maui, Hawaii, native, leads the Wolverines with 589 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns. McCarthy likes to spread the ball around, as Cornelius Johnson and tight end Colston Loveland have 422 and 419 receiving yards, respectively. However, Loveland has four touchdowns while Johnson only has one.
Michigan’s offensive line has been dominant this season as its 11 sacks allowed is the second-fewest in the conference behind Rutgers’ eight and one less than Penn State’s 12. That number is tied for 18th in the country.
The Wolverines’ 40.7 points per game is fifth in the FBS and first in the conference for scoring offense. Meanwhile, Michigan is No. 42 in total offense with 424.2 yards per game, while its 75.1% completion rate is first overall.
Michigan’s 2,083 yards allowed is the fewest in the nation, which is 27 fewer than Penn State. The Wolverines have a 4.24 average yards allowed per play which trails the Nittany Lions’ 4.00 average yards allowed per pay.
The Wolverines are holding opponents to 6.67 points per game with 3.0 average rushing yards allowed per attempt and 5.68 average yards allowed per pass. They have 22 sacks and 12 interceptions.
Michigan’s linebacking corps has been effective all season. Junior Colson leads the team with 49 total tackles and 17 solo tackles. Michael Barrett, who lines up next to him, is second in both categories with 33 total tackles and 16 solo tackles. Ernest Hausmann also sees significant action, as his 30 total tackles are third-most. The trio has combined for 5.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
Meanwhile, nickel cornerback Mike Sainristil leads Michigan with three interceptions. The graduate student also has four pass breakups, which is tied for team-most, as well as three tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries, and a sack. Josh Wallace, who also lines up at cornerback, also has four pass breakups, while fellow cornerback Will Johnson has two picks and two pass breakups.
Safety Makari Paige’s 22 total tackles rank fifth on the team, and he also has a pass breakup. Rod Moore and Keon Sabb are also in the mix. Sabb has two breakups and two interceptions, while Moore has two breakups and a pick.
Michigan’s secondary and linebacking corps is complemented by a productive defensive line. Derrick Moore, Josaiah Stewert, and Jaylen Harrell are the primary edge rushers. Stewart and Harrell lead the team with 4.5 sacks apiece. Meanwhile, Mason Graham and Kris Jenkins are the first string defensive tackles, while Kenneth Grant starts at nose tackle.
Moore leads the with 23 total tackles. He also has four tackles for loss and three sacks. Graham, meanwhile, has 20 total tackles, five tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks.
The defense’s 6.7 points per game, 231.4 yards allowed per game, and 141.3 passing yards allowed per game rank first in the country. Meanwhile, its 90.3 rushing yards per game is ninth.
James Turner is 8-for-10 on field goal attempts, with his longest one being a 50-yarder. Tommy Doman is the punter, and he’s averaging 44.78 yards. He also handles kickoff duties, and he’s averaging 63.3 yards and has 45 touchbacks.
Jake Thaw and Tyler Morris are the punt returners. Thaw has 99 yards and is averaging 8.25 yards per return, while Morris has 88 and is averaging 9.78 yards per return. Semaj Morgan handles kickoff returns, as he has 130 yards and is averaging 18.57 per return.
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The Onward State crew headed to the Motor City for some football, pizza, and a swing set overlooking Canada.
Tickets for the event will go on sale 10 a.m. Friday, December 1.