Matt and Zac Snyder of Bleacher Report and mittensportsreport.com break down this week's University of Michigan football matchup.
When Michigan Has the Ball...
Michigan's Passing Attack vs. Penn State's Secondary
Zac Says: Michigan's passing game ranks eighth in the Big Ten because quarterback play has been everything from great to horrible. This may be because they do not have a true go-to receiver. No Michigan receiver is averages over 40 yards per game. The heavy reliance on the running game against inferior opponents may have come at the cost of developing a more consistent passing attack. It will be difficult to find that consistency against the Big Ten's best pass defense. Advantage: Penn State .
Matt says: I had hoped that Michigan would use last week's scrimmage to get Denard Robinson in a rhythm throwing the ball, but he only passed four times. Forcier is starting to show a propensity for getting banged up in games, but the Wolverines don't have anyone behind him that can do the job through the air. Penn State will look to force Michigan into passing situations. Advantage: Penn State.
Michigan's Running Game vs. Penn State's Front Seven
Zac says: The Big Ten's top rushing attack will face the Big Ten's top rushing defense. Penn State is called "Linebacker U" for a reason. Great linebacker play and stuffing the run are traditions for Penn State. Michigan's biggest games on the ground have come against some of the worst run defenses in the country. While those games may give the Michigan offense a great deal of confidence, they can't expect a carbon copy against the Nittany Lions. Advantage: Even .
Matt says: Michigan's runners upheld their end of the bargain against a top-notch Iowa defense two weeks ago, and they didn't do anything to hurt their reputation against Delaware State last week. Michigan must win this matchup if they have any hope of knocking off the Nittany Lions. Advantage: Michigan.
When Penn State Has the Ball...
Penn State's Passing Attack vs. Michigan's Secondary
Zac says: Penn State has found the kind of consistency in the passing game that Michigan is after. Four Nittany Lion receivers have at least 20 catches on the year. Derek Moye is the biggest threat, with 27 catches and four touchdowns. Chaz Powell, Graham Zug, and Andrew Quarless should present matchup problems for the thin Michigan secondary. Advantage: Penn State.
Matt says: Quarterback Daryll Clark is having a fine season so far; he's completed over 62 percent of his passes and has a near 2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio. The young Penn State receivers have done a nice job so far in support of Clark. The Michigan secondary finally had a good performance last week, but it was against far inferior talent. Advantage: Penn State.
Penn State's Running Game vs. Michigan's Front Seven
Zac says: Evan Royster is Penn State's do-everything back. Royster's 5.8 yards per carry average speaks to his talent. As a team, Penn State ranks behind only Michigan in Big Ten rushing totals. Stephfon Green is a capable backup and has also ran for better than five yards per carry. Michigan's rush defense has been much better lately, a trend that will need to continue. Advantage: Even.
Matt says: Evan Royster is surely a talent back, but spotty play from the Nittany Lion offensive line caused some inconsistency in the run game early in the season. Penn State has started to figure some of these issues out with nice rushing efforts against Minnesota, Eastern Illinois, and Illinois, however none of those teams are particulary good against the run. Advantage: Michigan .
Zac (5-2) says: Michigan has won the games they should, and been close with everyone else, including their win over Notre Dame. Michigan should have a chance to win this game if they can avoid the mistakes brought on by inexperience. The young Wolverines need to remember that taking a sack and punting can be a positive result. Michigan may still be a year away from truly playing with the big boys again; Saturday will be a good measuring stick game. Final score: Penn State 24, Michigan 20.
Matt (4-3) says: The quarterback play will be key for Michigan. Tate Forcier began the year as Michigan's hero, but he soon got into the habit of making poor decisions in attempts to make big plays. Both Forcier and Robinson, when in the game, need to forget about being the hero and focus on managing the game. The Michigan running game is good enough to lean on for big plays, so there shouldn't be much reason to force a bad throw early in the game. Michigan needs to focus on winning the battle in the trenches to keep Penn State close, and to keep themselves in the game. Final score: Michigan 28, Penn State 27.