The No. 14-ranked Michigan Wolverines (8-2, 5-1) still have hopes of winning the Big Ten East but first need to emerge victorious from a whiteout at Beaver Stadium when they visit the Penn State Nittany Lions (7-2, 4-2) on Saturday.
In order to set up a winner-take-all matchup with No. 2 Ohio State on Nov. 28, Michigan needs to beat Penn State and get some help from the No. 9 Michigan State Spartans, who visit Columbus this week.
After a heartbreaking loss to the Spartans on Oct. 17, Michigan has rattled off three straight wins including a 48-41 victory over Indiana last week in Bloomington.
In the last two games, quarterback Jake Rudock has completed 71.8 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns (nine total scores) and one interception. In the win over Indiana, Rudock had 440 yards and a career-high six touchdowns, four of them to Jehu Chesson, who piled up 207 yards receiving.
The Wolverines aerial attack faces a formidable foe this week in the Nittany Lions secondary, who should be well rested after a bye. They rank No. 2 nationally and No. 1 in the Big Ten in pass defense (159.0 yards allowed). The Nittany Lions also get to the quarterback, leading the nation in sacks (42.0) behind individual sack leader Carl Nassib (15.5). Penn State did allow 227 yards on the ground in their 23-21 loss to No. 20 Northwestern on Nov. 7, but hold opponents to 3.8 yards per carry.
James Franklin’s defense ranks No. 13 in points allowed (17.7) while Michigan's offense averages 32.6 points per game.
Michigan boasts the country’s No. 6 ranked scoring defense (14.8 points allowed) and No. 2 overall defense (268.7 yards per game) against a Penn state offense that’s struggled to move the ball for most of the season and has allowed the most sacks in the conference (33). The Nittany Lions rank No. 126 of 127 FBS teams in third down conversion percentage (28.3) while Michigan ranks No. 3 on third down defense, holding opponents to a 23.4 percent completion rate.
Christian Hackenberg has a solid 13-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio but is completing just 54.2 percent of his passes and struggled against Northwestern. Michigan has the No. 8-ranked rush defense, but allowed Indiana to rush for 307 yards a week ago. More so than usual Penn State could rely on running back Saquon Barkley, who ranks No. 4 in the Big Ten in rushing (836 yards) and has eclipsed a hundred yards four times.
Start Time: 12 p.m.
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