Despite two straight losses, the Michigan Wolverines (5-2, 1-2) come into Happy Valley just outside the top 25.
Penn State (4-3, 1-2) has won the last two matchups against Michigan but trails the all-time series 10-5. This is the last meeting between the two schools for at least two years. The Nittany Lions and Wolverines will be in different divisions next season in the Big 10. Here are the five keys to Saturday night's primetime kickoff.
1. Denard Robinson- Robinson is second in the nation in rushing yards (1,096) and total offense, (2,415) and is the heart and soul of the Michigan offense. Robinson is completing better than 67 percent of his passes and has accounted for 18 of the Wolverines’ 35 touchdowns this season. He is currently out-rushing Penn State’s entire team (1,096-901) and is averaging more yards per game (345-337.4)
2. Matt McGloin- Joe Paterno announced on his radio show Thursday night that former walk-on and third-string quarterback Matt McGloin will get the start Saturday night. The red-shirt sophomore was 6-of-13 for 76 yards with two touchdowns and an interception last week at Minnesota after starter Rob Bolden was knocked out with a concussion. He had thrown just two career passes before that and beat out back-up Kevin Newsome, who is still not 100 percent with a knee injury, this week in practice. Bolden passed his concussion test on Wednesday and has been cleared to play, but missed too many reps in practice.
3. Greg Robinson and the Michigan Defense- In full disclosure: I’m a Syracuse fan and still hate Robinson for ruining the Orange football program. The 'Cuse routinely had one of the worst defenses in the country when he was there and that seems to be carrying over to Michigan with him as the defensive coordinator.
The Wolverines are allowing 28 points a game and are last in the Big 10 in pass (296.3) and total defense (441). Luckily for G-Rob, Penn State is one of the lowest scoring teams in the conference (20.3) and has a third-stringer at quarterback making his first career start on national TV.
4. Evan Royster- Is this the game Royster finally breaks the school record? He came into the season just 481 yards shy of breaking Curt Warner’s career rushing record of 3,398. Royster is now just 31 yards away from the milestone and will likely get it Saturday night. Michigan is giving up more than 144 yards on the ground and 4.1 yards per carry. Royster has had a disappointing senior season up to this point. The preseason All-America candidate has toted the rock just 88 times for 450 yards and two scores.
5. Penn State Defense vs. Michigan Offense- The Wolverines have the second best offense in the country. They are scoring 36 points a game, have reached the end zone 35 times and rack up 532 yards of total offense per game. The Nittany Lions defense, still riddled by injuries, has given up 870 yards in their last two games. They allowed 282 yards on the ground to Illinois in their last home game and lack athleticism and experience at linebacker.
Prediction- Michigan is coming off two straight losses and a bye week. That extra time off should help Robinson heal his bumps and bruises from the Iowa game. Penn State has not proven it can shut down its opponents defensively and this will be no different.
With a healthy Robinson under center, I expect the Wolverines to move the ball at will and put up a lot of points Saturday night. Penn State will score some points against G-Rob’s defense but not enough with McGloin making his first start.
Michigan 41 Penn State 21