While nobody in Fort Schembechler will ever apologize for a 5-0 start, few outside it will concede that their record has been indicative of their play.
Look no further than Vegas opening the line in Saturday’s game with Michigan as a one point favorite in Happy Valley against a Penn State team with even more youth than Michigan, and depth issues due to their NCAA restrictions.
Michigan did themselves no favors with poor efforts in games against Akron and UConn, and while last week’s game against Minnesota was an improvement, there are still several issues to work on.
In the 2+ year stint of Brady Hoke, Michigan is a .500 team, going 6-6 in the 12 games away from Michigan stadium.
Penn State licks it’s wounds after its routing at the hands of a potent Indiana Offense which put up 44 on them last week.
All these things factor into many thinking this game will be much closer than it probably should be.
There are other factors that lead me to believe it won’t be that close, however. First, the changing up along the offensive line proved to be effective, in spite of still having great room for improvement. Chris Bryant looked good at times, lost at others, but undoubtedly is talented, and big, and has a nasty streak.
Secondly, moving Funchess to WR was a great move. With Jake Butt needing reps and AJ Williams having the injury bug, they had no choice but to keep him at TE. But with Funchess out wide, putting bracket coverage on Gallon, and putting 8 in the box like teams have shown won’t work, without giving a 6’5, 235 pound super athlete in single coverage. It should prove to not only open things up for Gallon and the run game, but also should give Devin Gardner more time in the backfield.
On defense, Jake Ryan has been cleared to play, and expect him to take some snaps this week and next, utilize the bye week before MSU to get into total game shape, and be ready for the Spartans.
One comes back, and one leaves, with Soph NT Ondre Pipkins being out for the year with an ACL injury sustained in the Minnesota game. A loss of course, but I expect Quintin Washington to take more of the starter snaps, and Willie Henry to continue to get snaps.
Having experienced Happy Valley first hand for the 2006 UM game, it can be electric. But they also are very similar to Michigan Stadium. When things aren’t going as planned, a pin drop can be heard in spite of 100,000+ people being there. Take care of the ball, keep the playbook simple, and pound the rock. On defense, we won’t like watching the bend but don’t break, but making a freshman quarterback beat you is just what makes Greg Mattison happy. Expecting him to nickel and dime you without making any mistakes is unlikely and I like Michigan’s chances to keep PSU in check for the most part.
Michigan, 34, PSU 23