coleryan Posts:11962 Followers:19
On 10/06/2013 10:59 AM in NCAA Football

Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions: Preview and Pick

Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions: Preview and Pick

The Big Ten’s schedule for week seven of the college football season features another big matchup between two very good teams. The Penn State Nittany Lions may have looked forward to their game against the Michigan Wolverines after losing to the Indiana Hoosiers. Michigan will have to try and tame an angry bunch of Lions.

Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions Odds

The college football odds for this game opened up with the Wolverines listed as slim favorites. This line can currently be found at Michigan (-1) at many of the top rated online sportsbooks. This line will adjust with betting leading up to kickoff.

In a loss to Indiana Penn State painfully reminded everyone that its depth and personnel issues are going to be tough to overcome. A pass defense shredded by UCF last month had similar problems slowing down Sudfeld and a talented group of Hoosiers receivers, and outside of star receiver Allen Robinson, the Nittany Lions lacked difference-makers on both sides of the ball.
Indiana's success in moving the ball was no surprise. But Wilson's defense exceeded expectations. Penn State put up 410 total yards but only had 70 rushing yards on 31 attempts. The Hoosiers managed to bother quarterback Christian Hackenberg with pressure and got key stops when needed, turning away four of the Nittany Lions' five fourth-down conversion tries. Wilson said he and the defensive staff pared down the game plan during the bye week, adding in a few blitzes but making things simple so their young players could attack more without thinking as much.

Now, though, the team is sitting at 3-2 with winnable home games remaining against Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue. However it all starts with the big game against the Wolverines.

The latest college football trends for this game uncover some interesting betting angles for both teams. The total has gone over in 4 of Michigan's last 6 games when playing on the road against Penn State and the total has gone under in 8 of Michigan's last 12 games on the road. Michigan is 5-12-1 against the spread (ATS) in its last 18 games on the road and Penn State is 11-4-1 ATS in its last 16 games. Penn State is 11-4 straight up in its last 15 games and 4-1 straight up in the last five games at Happy Valley.

Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions Pick

With plenty of time before kickoff we will wait for more information to come in before we select a side on this contest. Make sure to check back on the day of the game to see who we select as our winner for this big game.

coleryan Posts:11962 Followers:19
10/07/2013 03:13 PM

Unfortunately, the injury to Ondre Pipkins was as bad as originally feared.

Michigan announced Monday that the defensive tackle suffered a torn ACL in the Wolverines’ win Saturday over Minnesota. The injury occurred late in the fourth quarter and, obviously, will cost the sophomore the remainder of the 2013 season.

“You hurt for Ondre, and I really do because I coach him and he’s in my meeting room every day,” said a statement from head coach Brady Hoke. “He was really starting to turn the corner on the field and become a productive football player for us. The good news is he’s young, he’s a great kid and he has a lot of great football ahead of him.

“We will help him get through this.”

While Pipkins, a five-star member of UM’s 2012 recruiting class, didn’t have a start this season, he was a part of the Wolverines’ defensive line rotation and his loss will be felt by that unit.

coleryan Posts:11962 Followers:19
10/07/2013 03:47 PM

When we last left the Michigan Wolverines, they were struggling under the moon in the powerhouse football state of, um, Connecticut, trying to beat a team they should have clobbered, having almost lost the week before to a team they should have squashed.

They emerged — again — victorious. Then they took a weekend off, along with their rising record and sinking national rankings, and fans had no idea what kind of squad would start the Big Ten season Saturday afternoon at the Big House.

Here's the answer. A more cohesive looking group, with sometimes powerful running, sometimes fine offensive blocking, sometimes good defensive stops, and sometimes head-shaking lapses on both sides, with a quarterback that has so much raw talent, he looks bad when he doesn't live up to it.

Oh. And they're 5-0.

Win. Shrug.

"I think we're improving," coach Brady Hoke said after the 42-13 victory over Minnesota that was closer than the final score. "I think we're a long way from where we need to be."


He's right. If U-M keeps this up, it'll be the least scary undefeated team in the nation. Fans won't care as long as the loss column has a zero in it. But while other top college teams (read SEC) tar-and-feather lesser opponents, U-M continues to weave through traffic to victory, leaving fans both high-fiving and scratching their heads.

Example. The 16th-ranked Wolverines are led by the defense-loving Hoke. (He actually coaches the defensive tackles.) Yet in the first quarter Saturday, Michigan couldn't stop Minnesota from running off 16 straight plays, 75 yards, 9 minutes and 44 seconds of clock and a touchdown. This with a redshirt quarterback who had thrown 20 college passes before Saturday.

Yet come the fourth quarter, when it had to, the defense pressured that quarterback, Mitch Leidner, forcing a punt, then later picking him off for a touchdown that iced the game. Which is the real U-M defense? Too soon to tell.

Or on offense, where U-M looked a little like the old days and a little like the confusing new ones. The Wolverines wanted to run, and senior Fitz Toussaint and freshman Derrick Green looked effective on numerous plays. But in the end, they only combined for 101 yards. And quarterback Devin Gardner, everyone's favorite subject, wound up with 235 passing yards and a touchdown, yet continues to sometimes throw far, high, left or right — turning his receivers into acrobats and, more important, keeping them from big yards after the catch.

"He was on target enough," Hoke concluded, pointing to one beautiful fourth-quarter strike to Devin Funchess for 46 yards. "Yeah, we'd love for him to do that all the time, (but) that's why you have a 6-foot-6 wide receiver who can go up and get the ball."

Ah. Funchess. Here is someone everyone can agree on. He was terrific Saturday. Although listed as a tight end, the sophomore was smartly used on the outside by Hoke and his staff, giving them mismatches with small defensive backs and resulting in a monster day, seven catches for 151 yards and a TD.

"I'm just a big target," Funchess said. Never mind the "just." He offers huge possibilities for this passing attack.

There's time to mature

And so, despite trailing in rushing yards and time of possession, Michigan sends its first Big Ten opponent packing and keeps the Little Brown Jug in Ann Arbor. There was a nice moment seeing longtime equipment manager Jon Falk unpacking the jug to be held high by the celebrating players.

"I just hope he doesn't take it home," Hoke said in jest. Falk, who took the job as a kid in his 20s, is retiring this season at 64. He is a walking history book and the last link to Bo Schembechler, who hired him.

And he could tell you this: "Work in progress" is just another name for a young college football team, which is what these Wolverines are. It's remarkable how much teams can change over the course of a season. Lloyd Carr's 2007 squad lost to unheralded Appalachian State and Oregon, then ran off eight straight victories and beat Tim Tebow and Florida in a bowl. Schembechler's famous 1969 team lost to Missouri and Michigan State, yet still pulled off one of the greatest Big Game upsets against undefeated Ohio State.

The point is, you mold and cast on the fly in college ball, and your defense can tighten and your offense can straighten out. "They're learning all the time," Hoke said. "There's a lot of young players playing a lot of snaps."

Added Gardner: "When you don't turn the ball over, it's a good day." And you realize — yes, that's right! — no turnovers Saturday, from a guy who had 10 in the first four games.

Win. Shrug. Wait. See. Michigan has an easy enough schedule to be 11-0 come the Ohio State game. Or, with first quarters like Saturday, the bottom could fall out next weekend at Penn State.

Hang on. Take a cue from Falk. There's a reward for patience. If the Wolverines keep finding ways to win, it will be better than a jug.

coleryan Posts:11962 Followers:19
10/07/2013 03:52 PM

It’s homecoming week in Happy Valley! After a disappointing loss in Bloomington, the Lions will return home for a prime time clash in a sold out Beaver Stadium against Michigan. After failing to beat the Wolverines for a stretch of 10 years from 1997 to 2007, Penn State has won the last 3 meetings. Saturday night’s game marks the first between two of college football’s most storied programs since 2010. With the advent of the East/West divisions, PSU and Michigan will become division rivals, and meet annually.

The Wolverines are undefeated, including 1-0 in the Big 10 after dominating Minnesota 42-13 in the conference opener on Saturday in Ann Arbor. After holding on against Akron, and narrowly beating UConn in their previous two games, the 29 point blow out was a welcome site.

With Denard Robinson gone to the NFL, Brady Hoke has turned to Devin Gardner at quarterback, who of course wrapped up the 2012 season as the starter. Fitz Toussaint is back after breaking his leg, and leads Michigan in rushing at just under 400 yards, and 7 touchdowns. Gardner is right behind him 318 yards and 6 scores. PSU will need to slow down that ground game, while forcing Gardner to the air, where has struggled at times, throwing 8 interceptions. The Nittany Lion offense will need to regain the form it had throughout the non conference slate, but a very good Michigan defense will make that tough.

coleryan Posts:11962 Followers:19
10/07/2013 03:54 PM

Michigan was able to squeeze out a victory in its first five games, and now, the leader of the team could be back before anybody anticipated. Last year's leading tackler, Jake Ryan, who tore his ACL during spring practice, has been cleared to play, according to Nick Baumgardner of Mlive.com.

Head coach Brady Hoke said that he has been medically cleared to play and could make his season debut as early as this week against Penn State. However, he doesn't want to rush things and seems a little hesitant on playing his star linebacker, per the report.

"We'll just see," Hoke said. "Playing football when you haven't played in a long time, when you try to get him in (in practice, it's an adjustment. I'm probably more worried about it than anybody."

coleryan Posts:11962 Followers:19
10/08/2013 02:38 PM

Some Tuesday afternoons, Penn State head football coach Bill O'Brien is willing to rehash the triumphs and tribulations of the previous Saturday's game. Fresh off a 44-24 loss at the hands of Kevin Wilson and Indiana in Bloomington, however, he was in no such mood.

Sporting a gray Penn State crew sweatshirt, O'Brien bluntly said he was seated inside the Beaver Stadium media room Tuesday to discuss the future, Michigan, who the Lions welcome to Beaver Stadium Saturday, and his team. The past, was off limits.

With that, we dive into the five key things O'Brien said during his roughly 20-minute chat.

1. Some injured, some out:
Like every Tuesday this season, O'Brien kicked things off with an injury update. Safety Ryan Keiser is listed as probable in the weekly injury report, but O'Brien sounded less optimistic, saying "we feel good about him, but he's still questionable."

Meanwhile, receiver Brandon Felder will be full-go after sitting out against the Hoosiers, while fellow pass catcher Allen Robinson is also fully healthy after coming down hard in the end zone in the second half, O'Brien said.

It was also curious that linebacker Ben Kline, a redshit junior, did not play Saturday, so O'Brien was asked about that. The head coach said that he "popped his shoulder out" at practice last Thursday, though later added he would play Saturday.

Two other players who played little Saturday, tight end Adam Breneman and receiver Alex Kenney, were not injured, O'Brien said.

2. Gardner Grabbing Headlines:
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner maybe hasn't had the start he and Wolverine faithful would have liked, but Penn State will have to contend with him nonetheless.

The Michigan signal caller has tossed an equal eight touchdowns to eight interceptions to date, but has thrown for 1,036 yards by completing 71 of 118 attempts. He's also rushed for 318 yards and six scores.

"He presents a lot of problems. He's a dangerous guy because he can run and throw, and there's a number of guys like that in this conference," O'Brien said. "We have to keep him in the pocket, because once he gets out of the pocket, he's very dangerous.

"The other thing, from being around him at Big Ten media day, is that he's a really nice kid, and represents Michigan very well. It will be a big challenge playing against him."

3. Turnover Troubles?:
Penn State slightly improved its turnover margin from -.8 to -.6 Saturday thanks to a Geno Lewis kick return fumble being evened out by an Adrian Amos interception of Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld. But it's still tied for 97th in the country.

Asked Tuesday how his program can improve that margin, O'Brien said work in practice has been a focus, and will be a big part of it.

"We are doing a lot of drills on that. We coach it up, whether it's ball drills, interception drills, strip drills, ... punt block drills. We need to do a better job in that area, no doubt about it," O'Brien said. "When we're watching film, we'll emphasize that somebody caught an interception or recovered a fumble in practice.

"We need to do a great job with getting that turned around a little bit."

4. Relying on Robinson?:
It was noted here Tuesday that receiver Allen Robinson, Penn State's leading receiver, also accounts for 45 percent of Penn State's offense.

It led to a reporter asking if the Lions' offense, led by O'Brien and directed by freshman Christian Hackenberg, might be too reliant on the junior, and without a second option. However, the head coach didn't see that as the case.

""It depends on how you define the number two guy. Geno [Lewis] had six catches. If Allen has 12, should the number two guy have 11?" O'Brien questioned. "I feel in games we've spread the ball around pretty well. This past game maybe not as well, but we always try to spread the ball around.

"There are very few plays that we say 'this ball going to Allen,' it's a read off the play," he continued. "Offensively, we’re going to improve. We ran 93 plays last week, so something was right, and we're going to build on that and put together a good game plan for Michigan."

5. Quote of the Day:
O'Brien, on the significance of Saturday's game: "You'd be crazy to think it’s another game. The kids are excited, and I love this time of year personally because it gets a little colder and reminds you of Big Ten football," he said.

"It's a big game, the kids are excited, and we know it’s a big rivalry and a big game."

coleryan Posts:11962 Followers:19
10/10/2013 12:37 AM

Losing interior lineman Ondre Pipkins for the season is a tough blow for a Michigan defense coach Brady Hoke feels still has room to improve.

The potential return of All-Big Ten linebacker Jake Ryan may help it reach the level Hoke expects.

The 18th-ranked Wolverines look to remain unbeaten Saturday as they visit a Penn State team also searching for some consistency on the defensive side of the ball.

Pipkins suffered a torn ACL in Michigan's 42-13 win against Minnesota last week.

Michigan (5-0, 1-0) held the Gophers to 281 yards and ranks 13th in the nation in total defense, allowing 305.0 yards per game, but opponents are converting 41.1 percent on third down -- 78th in the country -- after Minnesota went 8 of 15.

"Getting off the field is important, and we've got to do a better job," Hoke said. "We've got to do a better job when you look at lanes and those kinds of fundamentals that you need to have. This defense is coming around. Is it exactly where we need it to be? No."

The return of Ryan, who led the team in tackles (88), tackles for loss (16) and sacks (4 1/2) last season, may provide a boost. Ryan had knee surgery after suffering an injury during a spring practice in March and has been cleared by doctors.

Hoke said he would like to see how Ryan responds in practice this week before making a decision on his status for Saturday.

"Believe me, he's wanting to play, and he seems to be feeling okay," Hoke said. "We need to make sure he can do the things he's capable of doing."

With or without Ryan, the Wolverines will be tasked with slowing a Penn State offense that has averaged 475.5 yards over its last four contests. Christian Hackenberg went 30 of 55 for 340 yards and three touchdowns while Allen Robinson had a career-best 12 catches for 173 yards and two scores last week, but the Nittany Lions (3-2, 0-1) fell 44-24 at Indiana.

"They are a physical football team," Hoke said. "It got a little crazy last weekend in Indiana -- there were a lot of points and a lot of yards by both teams -- but I think they are a very good football team."

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien didn't want to talk much about last week's contest that saw his inconsistent defense allow 486 total yards. It gave up 183 yards in a 45-7 win over Eastern Michigan on Sept. 7 and 190 in a 34-0 victory over Kent State on Sept. 21, but also allowed 507 yards in a 34-31 loss to Central Florida on Sept. 14 before last week's lackluster effort.

O'Brien is hoping his team can turn the page quickly.

"I think our identity is we're a tough team," O'Brien said. "We're going to play hard, and we've got a lot of good players, and we're very focused on doing that against Michigan."

The Nittany Lions will face a tough challenge in trying to contain Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, who poses a threat through the air and on the ground.

Gardner has thrown eight touchdown passes while running for six, and his average of 63.6 rushing yards per game is tied for eighth in the nation among QBs. O'Brien's focus may be to force Michigan to throw more, as Gardner's eight interceptions are the most in the Big Ten.

The Wolverines' 16 rushing touchdowns are tied for second-most in the conference.

"He's a dangerous guy because he can run and throw, and there's a number of guys like that in this conference," O'Brien said. "I think the thing you've got to try to do is really try to keep him in the pocket. When he gets out of the pocket, he's very dangerous."

Penn State has won the last three meetings after dropping the previous nine, including a 41-31 victory Oct. 30, 2010, in the most recent matchup.

coleryan Posts:11962 Followers:19
10/10/2013 02:06 PM

Bill O'Brien has been jovial in many of his news conferences this year, but he was clearly not a happy man on Tuesday. O'Brien was terse in his answers with the media and basically refused to address anything regarding the Indiana loss or the team's scholarship situation. It's understandable why he wouldn't want to relive the program's first-ever loss to the Hoosiers or dwell on problems, because he needs his team focused on 5-0 Michigan, which comes to Beaver Stadium for a 5 p.m. game. The game is sold out and will be a White Out, though the enthusiasm from the fans might be a little less than before last week's loss. It remains to be seen whether the team will match O'Brien's feistiness and come out with a much better effort this Saturday.

coleryan Posts:11962 Followers:19
10/11/2013 11:39 AM

Michigan will travel to Happy Valley on Saturday for its 17th meeting against Penn State. So, in preparation of the game, Michigan beat writer Chantel Jennings and Penn State beat writer Josh Moyer sat down to discuss four key questions surrounding the contest.

- What's the X-factor for the Michigan-PSU game?

Jennings: Whether Michigan can get control early. If this is close going into the fourth quarter, I don’t like Michigan’s chances. It should come as no surprise -- especially with a young QB like Christian Hackenberg -- that Penn State gets better as the game goes on. The Nittany Lions have scored 21 first-quarter points but 65 fourth-quarter points. The crowd will be behind Hackenberg and his offense so if it comes down to a fourth-quarter stand from the Michigan D I just don’t see it happening.

Moyer: Turnovers. I know, I know -- they're an X-factor in every game. But bear with me here. Neither of these teams often finds itself on the right side of the turnover battle -- both are tied for 97th this season in turnover margin -- and they've both managed to win in spite of that. And it's a toss-up Saturday to see who'll take advantage. Michigan is turning the ball over, on average, a little bit more than twice a game. Only 17 FBS teams are worse. On the flip side, only a dozen teams in the FBS have forced fewer turnovers than Penn State. Something has to give. For either team to finish even plus one would be big.

- Which player is the most important?

Jennings: Michigan QB Devin Gardner. This could be a high-scoring game depending on how Michigan’s defense handles Hackenberg and whether Gardner is himself or just a shell of himself. If the Gardner who showed up against Akron and UConn is on the one who takes the field this Saturday, things could get ugly fast. Penn State isn’t the friendliest of environments, and we’ve seen how mistakes pile up on the road. The offense hinges on his performance and if Michigan wants to win, Gardner needs to take care of the ball and run this offense like he can.

Moyer: Gardner. The opponent's passing games have dictated a lot for PSU. Just look at their two losses: Blake Bortles was the key in the UCF-PSU game, and Indiana's passing game posted 336 yards. Gardner might not be a better passer than Bortles, but he's easily the best athlete under center that PSU has faced. If he escapes the pocket, Penn State is in trouble. If Gardner plays like he did against Akron and UConn, Penn State wins. If he plays like he did against Notre Dame and Minnesota, Penn State loses.

- What's the matchup to watch?

Jennings: Penn State’s secondary against wide receiver Devin Funchess. After the Minnesota game, teams are going to key in on Funchess. Physically, I can’t really see many defensive backs in the country having the inherent advantage in this battle, but I think it’ll be very interesting to see how the sophomore handles the added pressure and coverage.

Moyer: DT DaQuan Jones vs. U-M interior. The 318-pound tackle is Penn State's most dominant defensive player, and the Wolverines' interior isn't exactly a strength. Graham Glasgow made his first start at center last week, and Jones has the ability to take over a game. He's second -- yes, second -- on the team in tackles with 30, and he leads PSU with two sacks and 6.5 stops in the backfield. If Penn State's defensive line gets a good push Saturday, or U-M's tailbacks have difficulty running up the middle, it'll almost certainly be due to Jones.

- Which team has the advantage?

Jennings: If all things were equal and it just came down to each team playing to its potential, I’d say Michigan would have the advantage. However, the Wolverines have not played well on the road and Beaver Stadium is going to provide a huge challenge. Communication issues are going to pop up and considering this will be just the second start for this group as a unit on the offensive line -- and just the second start with Glasgow and Gardner together -- I have to believe mistakes will be made that will heavily favor Penn State.

Moyer: Michigan. The main issue surrounding the Wolverines seems to be which Gardner will show up. The main issue surrounding Penn State is ... well ... there's a lot more than one issue. That's the problem. There has been no No. 2 receiving threat, the running game has been inconsistent, the linebackers have looked lost at times, and the secondary remains a weakness. To me, that seems to be too many question marks against a ranked team. Inconsistent or not, the Wolverines have made the plays when they've needed to. The same cannot be said of Penn State. Could Penn State pull this one out? Absolutely. But it would most certainly be an upset.

coleryan Posts:11962 Followers:19
10/12/2013 06:59 AM

Pick: Penn State

This is the SB for Penn State and they take down Michigan