If you ever ask Michigan Head Coach Lloyd Carr about punter Zoltan Mesko's journey to becoming a…
Michigan vs. Penn State: The "Edges"
Michigan leads the Big Ten, and is 17th nationally, in rushing at 195.67 yards per game (4.38 yards per carry). Mike Hart is 2nd in the Big Ten, and 8th nationally, in rushing with 132.3 yards per game (5.1 yards per carry) and 5 TD's. Hart has also gone 579 carries without a fumble.
PSU is 2nd in the Big Ten, and 14th nationally, in rushing defense allowing 79.5 yards per game.
THE EDGE: this one is close, strength on strength. At home, U-M would have the slight edge here, but on the road it's a draw.
Michigan Passing Offense vs. PSU Passing Defense
Michigan is second in the Big Ten, and 13th nationally, in passing efficiency (of course Mario Manningham's long TD catches had a lot to do with that). Chad Henne is 8th in the Big Ten in passing (but 2nd in Pass Efficiency), going 80-129 (62%) for 183.8 yards per game, with 13 TD's (9 to Mario) and 4 ints.
PSU is 7th in he Big Ten Pass Defense, allowing 205.8 yards per game. PSU is 8th in the league in Pass Efficiency Defense.
THE EDGE: in a word, "ditto." If U-M had Mario they'd have the clear edge. Now this one is close. Once again, on the road it's a draw.
Other U-M Offense vs. PSU Defense Stats:
Michigan leads the Big Ten (tied) in scoring, and is 15th nationally, at 33.5 points per game. PSU is 5th in the league in scoring defense at 20.3 points per game. PSU is 3rd in the league in Total Defense, and 25th nationally, allowing 295.3 yards per game.
In the Red Zone: Michigan is 5th in the Big Ten in Red Zone Offense (a key stat -- Manningham's TD catches often came from beyond the Red Zone) at 86.4%. PSU is 10th in Red Zone Defense at 92.3%.
Michigan leads the nation in Time of Possession with 34.15 minutes per game.
Garrett Rivas is 7th nationally in field goals at 1.5 per game (he is 9 of 11).
Michigan is 6th best in the nation in turnovers given up, with 5 (4 ints, 1 fumble).
The PSU defense is 4th in the league in 3rd Down Defense, and 12th nationally, at 28.9%.
THE OVERALL EDGE, U-M OFFENSE vs. PSU DEFENSE: it's tough to give U-M the edge here sans Manningham. Mario has 9 TD's this season, and Hart-and-the-rest-of-the-receivers' have 9. PSU gives up 20.3 points per game ... if U-M ball controls and settles in at 21 points (or let's say, with Rivas, 24) in this game, is it enough? NO EDGE.
PSU Rushing Offense vs. Michigan Rushing Defense
PSU is 3rd in the league and 20th nationally in rushing offense, averaging 191.3 yards per game. Tony Hunt is 3rd in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 111.5 yards a game (5.3 yards per carry).
Michigan leads the nation in rushing defense with 40.3 yards per game.
THE EDGE: once again, strength on strength, and quite possibly the KEY to the game. If U-M holds PSU under 100 yards rushing they'll have a great shot at winning. EDGE TO MICHIGAN.
PSU Passing Offense vs. Michigan Passing Defense
PSU is 6th in the Big Ten in Pass Offense, averaging 215.3 yards per game. Anthony Morelli is 5th in the Big Ten in passing (but 8th in Pass Efficiency), going 103-185 (56%) for 204 yards a game, with 6 TD's and 5 ints.
Michigan is 3rd in the league in Pass Efficiency Defense.
THE EDGE: there is an "X-factor" here, which is the U-M front 7 pressuring first-year QB Morelli. Michigan is 2nd in the conference in sacks with 18, but PSU is second best in the league at protecting the QB with only 6 sacks given up. Will U-M be able to rattle Morelli? GBW says yes and gives a SLIGHT EDGE TO MICHIGAN.
Other PSU Offense vs. U-M Defense Stats:
PSU is 8th in the Big Ten in scoring at 25.8 points per game. Michigan is 3rd in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing 14.2 points per game. Michigan is 2nd in the Big Ten and 8th in the nation in total defense, allowing 238 yards per game.
PSU is 11th in Red Zone Offense at 74.2% and and U-M is 4th in Red Zone Defense at 70%.
Michigan's defense is 5th best in the nation in Third Down Efficiency at 26.4%. The PSU defense is 7th in the Big Ten at 37.3%.
PSU averages just 3:01 on its 28 scoring drives (16 TD's and 12 FG's), with an average of 49.4 yards per scoring drive.
Michigan is 6th in the nation and 2nd in the Big Ten in turnover margin at +1.33.
THE OVERALL EDGE, PSU OFFENSE vs. U-M DEFENSE: there is an EDGE TO MICHIGAN here, and it is crucial to Michigan winning ... keeping PSU under 20 points. But Michigan's rushing defense, 3rd down efficiency defense and red zone defense are all outstanding, so the Wolverine defenders should be able to get the job done -- and they HAVE TO ... if U-M wins, the defense get the game ball.
THE OVERALL GAME EDGE: there is a possible story emerging here. We forsee Michigan controlling the ball and clock but having more trouble scoring than in past games because of the absence of Manningham. Meanwhile, in past games the PSU offense has trouble scoring if they don't start off with good field position (a key stat: PSU averages 49.4 yards per scoring drive, and scores in just 3:01 minutes ... not a lot of success with long, sustained drives). So there is one more "X Factor" to come into play here: Zoltan Mesko, who punted for a 50+ yard average last week ... Mesko is coming into his own. If Zoltan the Magnificant can punt the Nits into poor field position, and if Michigan continues to avoid turnovers, Michigan should win a close, hard-fought game. Of course, if Hart were to go down all bets are off, but assuming Mike hangs in there: MICHIGAN 24, PENN STATE 20.
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