Only a couple weeks ago, these teams were ranked No. 4 and No. 7 in the country. since, Michigan has played tougher competition and looked mediocre and even bad at times. Penn State has continued to roll through opponents due to a balanced offense and come in as -10 point home favorites as of Monday at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
Things are a lot different than they were a year ago when the Wolverines won this Game 49-10 in September 2016. since that Game, the Nittany Lions offense woke up and has scored on just about every opponent it’s faced. OUtside of the close 21-19 win at Iowa a few weekends ago, Penn State has dealt easily with any competition this season, most recently beating Northwestern 31-7 on the road. Things are about to get a lot harder with this Game followed by trips to OSU and MSU. But this Game may not be as difficult as once thought.
The Wolverines were expected to struggle a bit more this season with a young team, but that’s turned into one of the worst offenses in the conference. They still have the best defense in the country by yardage, but that may not be enough on the road against this offense.
The Nittany Lions will undoubtedly have revenge on their minds, similar to the Pittsburgh Game earlier in the season. The big question will be what Saquon Barkley can do against this defensive front. He was held to 59 yards on 3.9 yards per carry last year and has been mostly bottled up the last two weeks. While that’s the case, Trace McSorley has come through, which has been huge for this offense. McSorley has built off last year’s great campaign and is completing 67 percent of his passes to go with 13 touchdowns. Those numbers aren’t amazing, but PSU is undefeated for a reason and it’s not the defense.
Covering this Game will come down to what the Penn State offense can do because if they reach the usual total of 30 points or even in the high 20s, that could be enough to cover this Game.
Michigan’s offense simply hasn’t worked this season and it’s been even worse with John O’Korn under center. He was asked to manage the Game last week and that was barely enough as he went 10-of-20 for 58 yards against Indiana. Once again, the Wolverines will run the ball as much as possible between Karan Higdon and Ty Isaac, who both have 400 rushing yards.
The numbers remain unclear on just how good the Penn State defense is. The Nittany Lions are allowing only nine points per Game, but haven’t faced a good offense yet and due to their own offensive success, force teams into throwing the ball from behind. If Michigan’s defense can step up and limit early scores for Penn State, that could result in a similar outing as to the PSU-Iowa Game when the Lions needed a late touchdown to win. But given how Michigan has looked the last couple weeks, it’ll be tough to back them on the road against a team that’s cruising.
The Wolverines are 1-4-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record, while the Nittany Lions are killing it at 13-1-2 ATS in their last 16 Games overall.
Our Pick – Penn St -9.5