Week 4 Preview: #4 Michigan Wolverines vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
A rough start to last week’s game almost cost the Wolverines the win, but they came back and looked strong to finish the game against Colorado. Week four for Michigan turns into a battle against Penn State at the Big House in the first conference game of the season. Michigan is coming in 3-0 while Penn State is 2-1 with their only loss coming to Pitt.
Michigan could be coming into the game with more weapons as Jim Harbaugh said he expects linebacker Noah Furbush, defensive end Taco Charlton and cornerback Jourdan Lewis all to return this week. While the linebacking core has been steady this year, another one will be good to have. Taco Charlton has been gone since week one and while he’s been out, Rashan Gary has been doing work and may stills see time this week. Jourdan Lewis coming back is huge for the secondary as they were in trouble last week.
What to Expect Against Penn State
Wilton Speight had a rough go last week against Colorado. This week against Penn State should be better. Penn State is dealing with some injuries at the linebacker position, so Jake Butt should have another big day. It won’t be easy though and he will have to be careful where he throws the ball as four separate Penn State players have an interception this season. Speight threw some bad passes last week, doing so again could hurt him.
Speaking of the linebacker injuries, the Michigan run game should be able to capitalize on that. The run game has struggled the past two weeks and this is the perfect game to get back into it. De’Veon Smith should have a better game with a weak defensive line and a beaten up linebacking core, yards should be easy to come by. If Michigan struggles to run this week, it could mean a long season of trying to get it to work out.
The receiving game last week was all Jake Butt and it could be a repeat performance this week. With the Penn State defense only allowing 168 yards on average so far in the air, passing yards will be hard to come by. Amara Darboh and Jehu Chesson will need to get more open and separate from the cornerbacks this week if they want to be drafted in the NFL.
The defensive line should have a field day this week. The Penn State offensive line hasn’t been impressive this year so far. Saquon Barkley is still a fine running back, with 258 yards on 51 carries and six touchdowns, but he can’t get anywhere if they aren’t any holes. With Taco Charlton coming back, that will be even tougher for him and the Penn State offense.
Speaking of stopping the run, the linebackers will also help contribute with that as well. Penn State’s starting quarterback Trace McSorley hasn’t impressed many, throwing for 828 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. While he hasn’t been horrible, he hasn’t been a stud, relying on Barkley to help do most of the work. Expect Michigan to load the box with linebackers to help stop the run and force McSorley to pass the ball.
Now passing the ball and doing it effectively will be a challenge for Penn State. Michigan will have Jourdan Lewis, a top two cornerback in the country, back in action and he will be hungry to get an interception and more. He is going to need some help though, as Penn State has four different receivers with over seven catches and 140 yards. The main problem will be Chris Godwin, leading the team with 18 catches for 220 yards and a touchdown. Expect Jourdan Lewis to cover him, but the other three will need to be watched as they could sneak up and shock the secondary.
Overall this game for the Wolverines should be another win. They have the advantage with Penn State dealing with many injuries and a quarterback that hasn’t proven himself yet, letting the defense focus on stopping the run and making them more one-dimensional. Along with that Michigan has their injured players returning, making the defense even better than it was before. De’Veon Smith and the offensive line should dominate and give Michigan a commanding lead early on, never looking back.
Prediction: #4 Michigan 35 – Penn State 17