#14 Penn State vs. #5 Michigan, in the Big House
Over 40 years ago, the Mazola Margarine people produced a commercial that would be regarded as offensive on many levels today, both culturally and nutritionally. We call it maize, you call it corn. Why should we care? Well, the Maize and Blue host the No-Name jerseys in Ann Arbor, in the largest stadium this side of North Korea, Michigan Stadium, also known as the Big House. Call it what you will, maize or corn, it is a tough place to play.
Michigan has led the all-time series between the two 13-8, and seven of those wins have happened at the Big House, including, most recently, a 49-10 rout in 2016. However, PSU returned the favor on its own turf in 2017, to the tune of 42-13. UM has won three of the past four games.
Most Recently, #5 Michigan (7-1, 5-0) posted a 21-7 win over local rival Moo U. UM Star defensive lineman Chase Winovich has stated that Michigan is on a revenge tour this year. They sure as hell want to avenge last year’s blowout loss to the Nittany Lions. After this game, Big Blue faces Rutgers and Indiana before their big, end-of-season rivalry game with tOSU, so they can go balls-to-the-wall on this one.
On the other side of the ball, what the hell does Penn State have to lose? They are headed for the Toilet Bowl anyway, so WTF. They should (and they better) pull out all the stops and go for broke offensively and defensively. Will it be enough?
Sportswriters love clichés, so let’s call Michigan’s defense this year ‘stifling’. That was a term Archie Bunker used to tell Edith to shut up, but I digress. The Wolverines have the best defense in the Big Ten and they rank #1 in total defense nationally. They are ranked 6th in scoring defense nationally.
Surprisingly, their performance in the Red Zone has been non-stifling. They rank 120th nationally, allowing scores on 93% of opponents’ red zone incursions. But opponents don’t get there often, and many times, when they do, it is in what we fondly refer to as “garbage time.”
The Stiflers rank 9th nationally in defending third-down conversions, allowing just a 28.7% rate. That means lots of three-and-outs and foreshortened drives by opponents. That means opponents’ defenses are on the field on helluva a lot, producing a big advantage to Michigan in “increasingly irrelevant” Time of Possession. Stifle it, Edith!
The Wolveroos have themselves a quarterback. Junior Shea Patterson hasn’t been stinking up the place. His completion rate of 67.2% ranks second only to our old friend Dwayne Haskins in the Big Ten, however, with far fewer attempts, because Michigan runs the ball about three-quarters of the time.
Running, the Maizers have a stud running back in Karan Higdon, who is averaging over 118 yards per game.
Both the Wolverines and the Nittany Lions have exhibited weaknesses in special teams play. Jake Pinegar has made 9 of 14 field goals for Penn State this year; Quinn Nordin has made 11 of 15 for Michigan. However, Will Hart, the Michigan punter is averaging 49.5 yards per punt to Blake Gillikin’s 42.3. And I won’t mention defending fake punts and fake field goals, or muffed snaps resulting in safeties. The Penn State field goal situation seems to have improved, but much more improvement is needed throughout the special teams experience.
Fall Football Weather
Look for a high of about 50° with periods of sunshine in Ann Arbor, a fine football day in the Big House of Maize.
Da Bottom Line
I know you’ve been waiting for this, the Official Turkey Poop Prediction, this foul fowl’s smelly offal offering, straight from the cloaca of the Turkey himself. That and a dime haven’t been able to get you a cup of coffee for 72 years or so. However, I persevere, fueled largely by said coffee and my bullshit. Whether I’m right, or whether I’m wrong, I gotta be me.
At the Mirage, which hasn’t been the same since Steve “Me Too” Wynn sold it, Michigan is currently a 10½ point favorite, with an over/under of 53, suggesting a Wolverine rout to the tune of 32-21. Looking at the BWI picks, all but Phil Grosz are picking Michigan to win, some higher scoring and some hitting the “under”. Phil stands alone in picking Penn State to win, 24-21.
And I ramble on…
The last three games have been blowouts, one way or the other (mostly the other), Penn State winning most recently, 42-13. But that was then and this is now. Last year we had Saquon Barkley, Mike Gesicki, and DeSean Hamilton, and play calling by Joe Moorhead; this year, we have less offensive firepower, so PSU still loses the “increasingly irrelevant” Time of Possession (IITOP), but lacks a lot of the quick-strike ability. That lack is exacerbated by the top-ranked pass defense of Big Blue, and it is gonna hurt them in this game.
The Wolverines have averaged 46 points per game at home this year; however, the home games have been against WMU, SMU, Nebraska, Maryland, and Wisconsin. Wisconsin ranks 41st in total defense, and its rushing defense is about as crappy as PSUs. Michigan had 21 first downs to Wisconsin’s 11, holding the Badgers to 2-11 in third-down conversions and dominating IITOP, 37:01 to 22:59. Michigan held Jonathan Taylor, who leads the Big Ten in rushing with over 140 yards per game, to just over 100 by the UM stifleroos.
Can I see my way to a Penn State win? Under the best of circumstances, I can see a slight sliver of light coming through one of the many cracks in this team, and I don’t mean James Franklin’s butt crack, whence many bungled calls emanate. Do I want to see Penn State win? Damn right, I do! But let’s get realistic. The game will be either a blowout win by Michigan, or a close game decided by a field goal. I’m going with the former, and I’ll say that the final score will be Michigan 38, Penn State 15. Take the over, but barely.
I’ll be back after the game with the sad or happy results of the sad or happy game. Happy November to all!