Posted on October 18, 2017, by Travis Pulver
When the 2017 college football season began, Penn State fans had high expectations for their team and with good reason. But to meet those expectations, they knew they would need to do something they failed to do last year.
They will have to do more than that, of course, if they are to make the CFB Playoffs this season. There is a chance they could still make it with wins over Ohio State, Michigan State, and in the Big Ten Championship Game. But if they want to control their own destiny, they will need to take care of business when the Wolverines visit Beaver Stadium Saturday night (kickoff scheduled for 7:30 PM ET).
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While the stakes are not as high for Michigan, they are still pretty high. After losing to Michigan State and squeaking by Indiana, another loss would make them borderline irrelevant. Another loss will likely knock them out of the top-25 (currently No. 19). It would also make it nearly impossible to make the Big Ten Championship game.
If they can’t make the Big Ten Championship Game, they don’t have a prayer of making the CFB Playoffs. Right now, they are a longshot to do so, but with wins over Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State they would be in the conversation.
It is safe to say both teams have a lot to lose Saturday night. So, who’s going to leave Happy Valley—well, happy?
Michigan doesn’t stand a chance if the defense doesn’t live up to its reputation. The No. 1 overall defense will have to play accordingly if the Wolverines are going to have a shot. First on their list of priorities will be to shut down the most productive, all-purpose player in the country, Saquon Barkley.
Some teams have been able to slow him down in the run game, which Michigan’s No. 6 ranked run defense should be able to do. But they still must worry about his contribution in the passing game and kick return game.
If they do happen to slow him down, they’ll still have to worry about Trace McSorley and the passing game. They are only allowing 138 yards/game so they could conceivably stop him as well. So, the question then becomes whether the Michigan offense can put up enough points to win on Penn State’s defense.
To be more precise, can Michigan’s offense put up some points on a defense that is allowing nine points a game?
The answer to that is easy—no.
Michigan’s defense will slow down Penn State’s offense at first, but the Nittany Lions will slowly start to extend drives as the game goes on. With the offense unable to move the ball and give the defense a break, Penn State’s offense will have more and more success as the game goes on.
Few, if any points, may be scored in the first half or even the first three quarters. But in the end, Penn State is better than Michigan on offense and defense. Nittany Lions win this one and cover the spread (9.5 points).