FACTS & STATS: Site: Michigan Stadium (109,901) — Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Television: ESPN. Home Record: PSU 2-1, UM 2-2. Away Record: PSU 1-0, UM 0-2.
Neutral Record: PSU 1-0, UM 0-0. Conference Record: PSU 1-1, UM 0-2. Series
Record: Michigan leads, 10-7.
GAME NOTES: The Michigan Wolverines are set to host the Penn State Nittany
Lions this Saturday in the first Big Ten Conference night game in the 88-year
history of Michigan Stadium.
The only two other night games at The Big House were both against Notre Dame
in 2011 and 2013. Michigan owns a 10-7 series lead, although Penn State has
won the last four meetings.
Michigan is reeling in the wake of three straight losses, including last
weekend’s 26-24 setback at new league foe Rutgers. The Wolverines had a chance
to take the lead in that game with three minutes to play, but a 56-yard field
goal attempt was blocked.
Penn State had a bye last weekend, a week after suffering its first loss of
the season in a 29-6 home setback to Northwestern. The Nittany Lions are off
again next weekend, then will host Ohio State and Maryland the following two
The Nittany Lions currently have the nation’s 96th-ranked scoring offense
(22.8 ppg), and their shortcomings on that side of the ball were front and
center as they managed only a pair of field goals at home against
Northwestern. Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg is second in the Big
Ten with 295.4 passing yards per game, but he completed only 22-of-45 passes
for 216 yards against the Wildcats, also taking four sacks.
Freshman DaeSean Hamilton finished with 100 yards on six catches, his third
100-yard day through five career games. Hamilton leads the conference with 502
receiving yards and 7.2 receptions per game, and is one of only two freshman
receivers in the NCAA to average 100-plus yards per game (100.4). The ground
game, however, has been another story. PSU netted only 50 yards on 25 attempts
Senior linebacker Mike Hull racked up a career-best 16 tackles (nine solo) in
that game. He is the Big Ten leader with 10.6 stops per game. Hull and the
defense have been instrumental in the team’s 4-1 start, as the Nittany Lions
rank second nationally in rushing defense (60.2 ypg), eighth in red zone
defense (0.647), ninth in total defense (288.8 ypg) and 10th in scoring
defense (14.6 ppg). The unit allowed three touchdowns on QB sneaks against
Northwestern, with the Wildcats’ other score coming on an interception return.
Michigan’s offense has been largely dormant since a season-opening rout of FBS
newcomer Appalachian State. The Wolverines rank No. 100 in total offense
(354.0) and 101st in scoring (22.3). Head coach Brady Hoke came under fire for
not immediately removing a dazed (and concussed) Shane Morris from the
Minnesota game after the QB took a big hit. Hoke went back to Devin Gardner
against Rutgers, but Gardner completed only 13-of-22 passes for 178 yards and
an interception to go along with three sacks. He did add 40 yards and two TDs
on the ground, and that added dimension may keep Gardner in the starting
lineup for the foreseeable future.
The Wolverines hang their hats on the defensive side of the ball, as the unit
ranks 12th nationally in run defense (100.2 ypg) and 19th in total defense
(315.5 ypg). In fact, the team’s three rushing touchdowns allowed this season
are tied for the second-lowest total in the Big Ten and 12th-lowest in the
FBS. Opponents are averaging a mere 2.9 yards per rush against the Wolverines.
Rutgers found that out last week with a team average of 2.5 yards on 30
attempts. However, Michigan’s pass defense had no answer for Gary Nova, who
shredded his way to 404 passing yards and three TDs without an interception.
Penn State’s 4-1 record to this point is perhaps a bit misleading, but there
is no denying where Michigan stands at 2-4. If the Wolverines can’t get up for
this rare Big Ten matchup under the lights in Ann Arbor, then it may soon be
time for coach Hoke to start packing up his office.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 23, Michigan 17