Saturday’s game will be the 13th meeting between Penn State and Michigan’s football teams; Michigan owns the series, with a 9-3 record. The visiting #10 Nittany Lions (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) are presently 3-point favorites over the unranked Wolverines (1-2, 0-0 Big Ten) on their home turf. The o/u is 48.5. This Turkey thinks that the bookies have missed the boat on this one.
Before we get to the prediction, let’s look at where we are and where they are. The Nittany Lions are essentially untested, though they gave us some clues last weekend. While there has been progress in some areas, Austin Scott’s two lost fumbles were a significant step backward, as was the vaunted defense giving up 24 points.
Meanwhile, Michigan exorcised their early season demons with a cathartic, 38-0 victory over inconsequential Notre Dame. While anyone at all could beat Notre Dame this year, the game gave us a glimpse of what Penn State will have to deal with: 1) Mike Hart, 2) a depleted, but still serviceable defense, and 3) Michigan homeboy officials.
The main danger for the Nittany Lions is shooting themselves in the foot. However, there is no reason to think that the game plan will not be conducive to a foot shooting. Paterno has always played it conservatively on the road, both offensively and defensively. We can look forward to a slow, methodical offensive start and if we should happen to get a lead at some point, a “play not to lose” mentality. This is a foot shot, as far as this Turkey is concerned.
Why? Appalachian State and Oregon came out shooting and exposed Michigan’s Achilles heel. Penn State predictably will come out with runs up the gut, which the Wolverine defense will be well equipped to handle. This strategy wasn’t successful against the first three opponents early in the game, so why would it work against our first legitimate opponent? Far be it from Joe to take a chance early in a game. As a result, Michigan will jump out to an early lead. Then, playing catch-up, Joe will open things up. Playing under the gun, the opportunity for screw-ups is greater, and the play becomes more predictable. Yet, we see this pattern year in and year out, ad nauseam.
Our inept offensive line will put its weaknesses on full display before the 108,000 fans in the Big House. Expect to see UM linebacker Shawn Crable playing in the Lions’ backfield. Michigan will want to deny Morelli the deep opportunities provided by his talented receivers, and the best way to handle the immobile Morelli is to put pressure on him. Five sacks might sound like a lot, but I believe they’ll happen.
Meanwhile, our defensive plan is predictable: try to shut down Mike Hart, daring freshman QB Ryan Mallett to throw. It won’t work. They might shut down Mike Hart in the first half, at the expense of a fatigued defense in the second half. After all, we’re sporting the #1 defense against the run, with an average of 17.67 yards per game—against three of the worst rushing offenses in the Division Formerly Known as I-A. (Buffalo actually ranks #88, as opposed to #1o5 and #119 for FIU and Notre Dame, respectively.) Meanwhile, loading up eight in the box to stop Hart will open up opportunities for talented receivers Adrian Arrington and Mario Manningham—no matter whether they are being thrown to by Mallett or Henne. Make no mistake: Mike Hart will soften any defense he runs against.
Our pass defense troubles me. It is ranked #47 against our first three opponents. Buffalo was able to move the ball down the field pretty easily with the pass. They wound up with nearly 400 yards. Buffalo. We keep playing that Jerry Sandusky soft zone, BBDB, prevent crap. Our corners play well off receivers. While the freshman Michigan quarterback might soften the impact of our suspect pass defense, I’m still worried.
In order to even keep this game close, the Nittany Lions need to take care of the ball. Goes without saying, I suppose, but I said it anyway. Furthermore, our defense needs to force some turnovers themselves. I’m sick and tired of counting on the defense to win games for us because our marginal offense can’t put enough points on the board itself, but it’s a fact of life for the new millennium Nittany Lions.
In order to win this game, the offense needs to be flawless and, furthermore, it needs to take some risks. Playing from a hole will be disastrous. The desperate times calls for desperate measures style of offense will fail against quality opposition. So, taking the lead early is essential.
Unfortunately, Paterno is pretty stubborn. I’ll challenge Joe to surprise my ass and prove me wrong. I just see the same old conservative game plan and our inept offensive line losing this game for us.
And so, we come to the Official Turkey Poop Prediction for this week. Remember, I challenged Paterno to prove me wrong. If he does rise to the challenge, I deserve to go down in flames for doubting him. If he sticks with the conservative game plan I expect, you’re looking at Michigan 27, Penn State 16.
I think you are spot on
Now thats the Turkey I know and love! Dont believe the hype! We have looked good at times, but against who? Michigan is a whole different animal and lets face it Appalachian State played a great game, and Oregon is damn good.
I am not sure what to think a/b this one.
I too would like to see more downfield passing early so we can hopefully open up a few holes for our Rbs. Gettting an early lead is key. If we decide to try to churn it out on the ground we are done against these guys. Morelli is ready and he has been in many big games, I hope Joe gives him a chance to do his thing.
2 years ago I was out to dinner, (an unavoidable situation). I was able to watch the end of the game at the bar. I completely lost my appeteit, and struggled to make it through the evening thinking to myself “its only a stupid football game”
This year I am prepared for disappointment.
I bleed blue and white, but this one is going Maize and Blue in another nailbiter. (Michigan 20-PSU 17)
The Nittany Turkey says
Thanks for checking in, Parkeyboy.
I fully agree with you about cranking up Morelli’s arm early instead of sticking to “the plan” with a lame-ass Austin Scott attack behind an inept and injury riddled offensive line. I think we stand a much better chance of exploiting Michigan’s depleted secondary than we do exploiting their front seven. However, if our offensive line cannot provide the immobile Morelli with enough protection to give him time to find deep targets, we’re screwed there, too.
As I stated in the article, I expect Crable to be playing in the PSU backfield all day. Just on the off chance that stretching the field is in the game plan, I hope that our offensive geniuses have plans to provide extra blockers to pick up the slack when the O-line fails. Of course, that means no 4-wide receiver sets.
No matter what people say about Carr and his staff, he’s not stupid and he can look at game tapes. He knows that Morelli is a pocket passer who can’t scramble worth a shit. He also knows that the PSU running game (or lack of same) can be contained. So, even if he were an idiot, it would be easy for him to see that he has to pressure Morelli all day long.
That leaves screens and draws to beat blitzes. We haven’t been too effective running either this year. (I guess because it means that offensive linemen have to get off their blocks and remember the playbook—and then be effective.)
I predict that Joe will put one of his tricky plays in, and it will involve Derrick Williams. It might be a direct snap, a double reverse, or a halfback option pass. And it will fail miserably because if *I* know about it, you can be damn sure at least 200,000 people in Ann Arbor know about it, too.
We’re going to look effective against Mike Hart in the first half. The first half might be very low scoring, like 7-3 in either direction. One way or the other, I believe that we’ll lose the second half.
I want to be wrong about feeling the impending loss, but I cannot wrap my mind around a victory if I see as many flaws as I do and lack the confidence that our coaching staff will change their standard “big road game” bias toward conservative play calling.
And I damn near threw up when Manningham caught that pass in the back of the end zone when Zemaitis had his thumbs up his ass two years ago, too.
Happy Hour Valley says
I practically agree with everything you say here, I’m waiting for JoePa to prove me wrong and come out with an aggressive game plan from the opening kick to the final 2 seconds of the 4th quarter. We have an 8-game losing streak against these guys, Morelli’s a senior, and even though we are a favorite, a lot of folks are doubting us. What do we have to lose? Not a whole heck of a lot.
The Nittany Turkey says
Hello HHV…I wish Joe would listen to guys like us for a change, but he always seems to think he knows better. He even said something about Lloyd Carr in the press conference on Tuesday—that Lloyd will be OK if he doesn’t pay attention to the press guys who always know a better game plan, etc. But this time, Joe needs to listen to us and David Jones of the Patriot-News and the guy from York who wrote about Morelli coming out gunslinging in this game. As you say, what do we have to lose? It would take Carr by surprise and it would be entertaining as hell!