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Michigan (5-0) at Penn State (3-2) Oct. 12 5:00, ESPN
Why You Should Give A Hoot: Now what Michigan team are we going to see? Is it going to be the one that needed everything in the bag against miserable Akron and Connecticut teams, or is it going to be the one that looked the part again to blow away Minnesota? It seems like the Wolverines might be around 3-2 or 4-1, but it's still 5-0 with – yes, and don't laugh – national title potential as long as everything starts to come together and there's a little more consistency. No, this isn't a 13-0 team, especially with road games at Michigan State and Northwestern and home dates against Indiana, Nebraska and Ohio State still to deal with, but this might be one of those teams that just finds a way to survive and move on. On the flip side, Penn State is looking to do something relevant. With Michigan this week and Ohio State next, it can get by the embarrassing blowout loss to Indiana and become a big national story with a few big wins. There's hope for the future with a fun passing game, but this season needs an important win on a big stage to kickstart its season.
Why Michigan Might Win: The secondary. Penn State has a nice ground game from time to time, even if it's 11th in the Big Ten in rushing, but the offense moves through the air. Michigan's run defense has been absolutely fantastic, allowing a season-most 137 yards against a Minnesota team that can't do anything but grind the ball, and it hasn't given up a rushing score. Almost as solid has been a secondary that had a few problems with Notre Dame, and couldn't seem to handle Akron, but it's doing a good job overall. While it'll give up a few yards, there will be a lot of bending, but little breaking. Defensively, Penn State isn't coming up with enough big plays, and while Devin Gardner has had his issues with the meltdown throw once in a while, that might not be a problem this week.
Why Penn State Might Win: Despite the problems with Indiana last week, the run defense has been terrific s far. The pass rush has been decent, the pressure behind the line hasn't been a problem, and despite allowing three touchdown runs to Indiana last week and giving up 219 yards to UCF, for the most part, the defensive front has been strong with the back seven, especially the secondary, doing a nice job at coming up with stops. The Michigan rushing game has been good, but inconsistent. It ripped up Central Michigan, and it was solid against Akron, but it gained fewer than four yards per carry against Connecticut and Minnesota. The more Penn State can make Devin Gardner throw, the better.
Who To Watch Out For: Christian Hackenberg is getting most of the attention for his great start to his career, and rightly so, but it's been a big help to have an NFL wide receiver to throw to. Very, very quietly, at least on a national scale, Allen Robinson is putting up an All-America first half of the season. The Penn State receiver wasn't needed much against Kent State, catching just three passes for 43 yards in the blowout, but he has ripped apart everyone else with a season-high 12 catches for 173 yards and two scores against Indiana.
What Will Happen: Michigan won't go back to the problems against Akron and UConn, but it won't be as strong as it was against Minnesota. Penn State's offense will struggle and stumble a bit too much, and there won't be any running game as the Wolverines take advantage of some key opportunities and win ugly.
Prediction: Michigan 30 … Penn State 23