Da Big House’s Latest “Game of the Century”
The Big House: that’s what state and federal prisons were referred to in old gangster movies, back in the days when gangsters wore suits, not droopy shorts exposing their boxer-clad asses. Focus, Turkey! We ain’t talking about getting sent up da river (that one referred to going to the New York State Penitentiary at Ossining, better known as Sing-Sing). Nay, mateys, we’re talking about Michigan Stadium at Ann Arbor, 50 miles from yet another gangsta capital.
That’s what the entire football world will be watching this weekend, as #5 Michigan hosts mighty #10 Penn State, in a battle of Big Ten East unbeatens. After this weekend there will be only two unbeaten so-called schools, better known as semi-pro teams loosely affiliated with universities, in the division. #2 Ohio State has a bye, so the only thing that will be beaten there is “the meat”. I don’t want to keep you in suspense, so I’ll hit you with it right at the top: Michigan will remain unbeaten after this week.
Lead with Your Chin
Sure, the Sanguinarians® are clinging to their hopes for a perfect Penn State season, as they have done since 1995 to no avail. For the past twenty-eight years, the bubble has always burst for them; sometimes early, sometimes tormentingly late. Last year and this year will be similar for the Nittany Lions. Last year, the Lions went into the Iowa game undefeated and ranked #4 to Iowa’s #3. Penn State lost and started a downward slide that saw them lose five of the remaining seven games. This year? Well, I think after losing to Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State, they’ll fare a little better. Perhaps they’ll lose only three games after Michigan, finishing 8-4. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Yes, I know, Sanguinarians (Sangs, for short)! The games are yet to be played and anything can happen.
Anything WILL happen. It’s just that you probably won’t like what “anything” is, Sangs.
Who’s Da Man
While arguably the only coach crappier than Franklin against the spread is Harbaugh (I’m shooting out of my ass here — haven’t so much as looked that up), I think the Wolverines have the type of team that will beat Penn State to submission in the fourth quarter, if not before. Their punishing running game is at the core of their offense, with Blake Corum having gained 735 yards on 118 attempts thus far through six games. They’ve scored an average of 43 points per game and they’re at 45% third-down efficiency. They average 212 rushing yards and 246 passing yards per game. And they’ve given up only 11.3 points per game.
On the other hand, Penn State’s stingy defense could have something to say about that. They’ve given up only 79.8 yards rushing per game, slightly better than Michigan’s 81.7. Despite the vaunted Penn State secondary, they’ve allowed 262 passing yards per game. And third-down efficiency is a putrid 33.85%.
Yeah, But Who They Played?
Good point. Penn State hasn’t faced anyone yet who can run the ball. You could say Auburn, but I’d say, “Against who has Auburn’s offense been effective this year?” Answer: Nobody. As for Michigan, throwing out the first two games against Hawaii and Connecticut, I would say they have faced a tougher schedule.
Both forgettable. PSU coughed up the ball innumerable times against Big Ten West bottom-dweller Northwestern while winning unconvincingly, 17-7, while Michigan struggled at first with Big Ten East bottom-dweller Indiana before coasting to a 31-10 victory. I guess one could make the excuse for Penn State that the remnants of Hurricane Ian caused the rampant fumbleitis, but there’s no good excuse for that sort of sloppy ball handling.
Being a nooner, it probably won’t be as warm as the predicted high of 58 on the forecasted partly cloudy day. Interestingly, from a Jake Pinegar standpoint, the steady WSW winds of 13 mph with gusts to 25 should guarantee a couple of missed field goals.
(Feel better now?)
Da Bottom Line
I tell jou songseen… this one is very clear in my mind. The Sanguinarian euphoria ends here. The Official Nittany Turkey Poop Forecast is nigh. Cover your eyes, laddies, for it won’t be pretty.
Michigan is favored by a touchdown, with an over/under of 52, suggesting a Michigan win of 29-22. I think the Penn State defense will wear down under the relentless Corum running attack, enabling J.J. McCarthy to pick apart the vaunted PSU secondary as the game wears on. Lots of errant passes by our boy Sean Clifford will seal the deal, as the PSU offense sputters. And, as I mentioned before, Jake Pinegar will miss at least a field goal or two, if not an extra point. I’m going for Michigan 34, Penn State 17. Take the under, barely.
I’ll be back after the game with some grousing and some more irreverent bullshit, straight from the Turkey’s cloaca.
we have the secondary to play man. Stack the line and go all out to stop the run.
The Nittany Turkey says
We’ll see how good this vaunted secondary is. Although McCarthy doesn’t throw a plethora of passes, his completion rate is up at the top of the FBS. Sell out on the run, and I say they’re asking for trouble. Can our linebackers cover passes? We’re going to see.
Big Al says
I think you’re being a bit too pessimistic. The Kitties were ahead last year until the last half of the 4th quarter and Michigan is not as good as good a tean as they were last year, particularly on defense. State may not be much better than they were last year, but they aren’t worse, and, unlike last year, Mustipher will play.
So, I’m expecting a repeat of last year where Penn State blows yet another 4th quarter lead. I envision a loss by less than a touchdown after a last minute drive stalls at the Michigan 10 yard line. A field goal would have been good enough to win if Pinegar hadn’t missed a 35 yard field goal earlier in the game. Michigan 21 Penn State 17. Take the under and avoid the spread.
It might actually be better for State’s chances against the Auric Rodents if your scenario plays out. It’s easier to recover from a loss where your opponent dominated you than to recover from a loss where you made mistakes and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
The Nittany Turkey says
Al, I never thought I would see you hopping over to the Sanguinarian side. While you make sense, one big difference between last year and this year is the venue. Coupled with Franklin’s abysmal road record in big games, I say we’re screwed going in.
Yeah, the game still must be played, but Michigan has a good enough defense to shut down the edge run and “explosive” plays that Franklin counts on. If they shut down the inside run, too, what does that leave us with? Clifford. And when the pressure is off, he misses easy targets, so what does he do when the pressure is on?
Whether we agree or disagree on how the game will proceed, one thing we agree upon is that if, by some chance, the game is close at the end, it’ll be decided by either a crappy incompletion by Clifford or a missed FG by Pinegar.
One way or another, this is a pivotal game for PSU. In St. Joe’s words, “You’re never as good as you think you are when you win.” These guys thought they were so good they could coast through the NU game and you see what happened. Franklin’s philosophy about big games is a lot of lip service, but the results are dubious.
K. John says
Starting with Penn State’s offense, how do we match up against Michigan’s Defense. Not terribly well I am afraid. While we are improved, we are better incrementally but that appears to be it. I would expect the running game to grind to halt within the first drive and for the offense to be one dimensional (Clifford) for most of the game. We’ll move the ball a bit and we’ll score some point but not nearly enough.
Defensively, what have we seen? We have seen a wide open middle third because Diaz has been forced to bring two linebackers to get pressure because the front four can’t do it on their own, and this was against the likes of Northwestern, CMU, Ohio, and Auburn team that quit two minutes into the second half and Purdue, as opposed to Michigan who looks like they have the best O-line we will play. Furthermore, our massively undersized defensive ends haven’t been tested by a strong outside run. This was the biggest weakness on defense last year and might be this year as well. My guess is that it still is.
Overall, my heart tells me that we will see a repeat of last year where we punched up a weight class for three quarters and fell apart in the fourth. My gut tells me Michigan moves the ball at will just like they did at Iowa (who has a better defense than we do). Franklin’s mindset will determine the final score. Deny the inevitable and lose by five scores or play for pride and lose by two and maybe Michigan messes up making it a game in the fourth. My guess is coach hype and his desire for explosive plays at the expense of everything shows up, we move the ball, we score some points but mellow out in the face of the obvious and we lose by 18.
Penn State 24
The Nittany Turkey says
Much agreement there. As I mentioned to Al above, Franklin’s crappy road record, particularly in big games, is an intangible monkey on this team’s back that I hope does not give them all monkey pox.
J.J. McCarthy is a big difference in Michigan 2022 vs. 2021. He is mobile and accurate. His issues are ball security and perversely, hanging onto the ball too long. He’s a hard worker and a leader. I think he’ll shine in the big-game atmosphere at da Big House.
As you said, what have we seen? Nobody with a pounding running game like Michigan, that’s for damn sure. I think they have the tools to beat our defense six ways to Sunday.
Got you for the modulated blowout. We’ll see…
K. John says
Personally, I think this Michigan team hasn’t come close to peaking yet and offensively, they are better by subtraction, and that subtraction is Josh Gattis. Offensively, they are not trying to get cute. Not trying to deceive defense. They are playing some old school with a bit of flair. The offense uses old school man on man blocking. They have a QB with wheels who takes what is given to him and runs when he needs to. They have a running back that is both shifty and fast and hit hit the outside in a way that Haskins couldn’t. I think they are going to keep getting better for a couple of more weeks and will enter Thanksgiving weekend undefeated along with Ohio State with the winner taking the #1 seed in the playoffs.