Michigan vs Penn State: Preview, Prediction for Big Ten Clash

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Michigan vs Penn State: Preview, Prediction for Big Ten Clash
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 18 Michigan Wolverines will be taking on the Penn State Nittany Lions in what very well could be a trap game for the residents of Ann Arbor.

These two teams have had pretty different seasons, with one trying to make a run at a BCS bowl and the other ineligible to go to any bowl game. Both teams are able to put points on the board, however, so we could see some big plays throughout the game.

Below is a preview of both teams along with the viewing information and a prediction for how the game will end. It's a must-win game for the Wolverines to stay in the BCS hunt, so let's get started.

 

Viewing Information

Date: Saturday, Oct. 12

Time: 5:00 p.m. ET

Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pennsylvania

TV: ESPN/WatchESPN

 

Michigan Wolverines (5-0, 1-0 Big Ten)

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Wolverines have yet to lose a game, but they have had some close calls over the past few weeks. They nearly lost to Akron in their third game. Then they nearly lost to Connecticut the very next week.

Things looked much better last week, as Michigan was able to take down Minnesota 42-13 to start their Big Ten season with a win. They put up 348 total yards of offense and didn't turn the ball over once, leading to a nice, clean victory.

The win wasn't all good, however, as the Wolverines lost a big part of their defense. Ondre Pipkins, their sophomore defensive tackle, tore his ACL in the win, leaving a big hole to fill in the middle of that defense. 

Devin Gardner is going to be the key for the Wolverines to come away with a win.

He's had an inconsistent season, to say the least, throwing for four touchdowns and one interception against Notre Dame, but throwing two interceptions and zero touchdowns against Connecticut.

On the year, Gardner has thrown for 1,036 yards and had 14 total touchdowns along with eight interceptions. He can make plays with both his arm and legs, and he will need to use both against the Nittany Lions.

A win for Michigan would put the Wolverines at 6-0, but it would also keep their BCS hopes alive. They aren't the most impressive undefeated team, but they've still won every game—and they're hoping to keep it that way for as long as possible.

 

Penn State Nittany Lions (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten)

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Lions are playing for pride this season.

But even if they were able to go to a bowl game in 2013, the odds wouldn't be very good for them to make it to one.

After beating Syracuse and Eastern Michigan to start the year, the Nittany Lions lost 34-31 to UCF. They then shut out Kent State 34-0, but came right back and lost 44-24 to Indiana. To make it even worse, it was the first time that Penn State lost to the Hoosiers in school history.

Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

For a true freshman, Christian Hackenberg has had a strong start to his college career.

The former five-star recruit has completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 1,367 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He arguably had his best game of the season last week in the loss, throwing for 340 yards and three touchdowns while completing 30 of his 55 passes.

The completion percentage is a little low, however, and Hackenberg is going to have to be efficient to keep the high-scoring Michigan offense off of the field.  

A win for Penn State isn't going to put them in contention for a bowl game of the Big Ten title, but winning is still why you play the game. None of these student-athletes are just going to lie down and accept defeat, so you can be prepared for maximum effort from this team on Saturday.

 

Prediction

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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The Wolverines have had some bad games this year, but they looked much better last week against the Golden Gophers.  

Expect more of the same this week.

I think that Penn State is a solid football team that has a bright future with Hackenberg under center, but this isn't going to be its season. It lost two games to questionable teams, and its Big Ten schedule is a pretty rough one.

Look for a big day from Gardner, who is a different monster than the other quarterbacks Penn State has gone up against so far. He should be able to take control of the game and give the Wolverines their sixth win of the season.

Prediction: Michigan 31, Penn State 21 

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