Penn State Preview 2009

Penn State comes into Ann Arbor ranked #13 in the nation with a loss to #6 Iowa at home, but with a 6-1 record although their wins have not been against tough competition. Michigan has beat Penn State 10 times in 14 meetings, and has won 5 of 7 in Ann Arbor; the Wolverines are an underdog at home.

On offense, the Nittany Lions feature a solid senior captain, 1st Team All-Big Ten quarterback in Darryl Clark! Clark provides Penn State 253 yards in total offense per game. Last year against Michigan, Clark was 18 of 31 for 171 yards and 7 of 14 in 3rd down conversions. Penn State currently leads the Big Ten in 3rd down conversions with nearly 57%. One of Clark's favorite targets is Tight End Andrew Quarless; he averages 3 grabs and 32 yards per game. The wide receivers are Sophomores Derek Moye and Chaz Powell plus Junior Graham Zug. Evan Royster is Penn State's star player; he is explosive and true game changer. Royster averages 92 yards a game rushing, and 109 yards per game in all purpose. In 2008, Royster rambled for 174 yards in 17 carries including 44 yard TD against us. Stepfon Green is also a capable backup to Royster. The Penn State offensive line is young and hasn't played well thus far, but is athletic and capable. They are led by Junior Center and 2nd Team All-Big Ten returnee Stefan Wisniewski, Junior Right Guard Lou Eliades, Sophomore Left Guard Johnnie Troutman and 5th Year Right Tackle Ako Poti, and 5th Year Left Tackle Dennis Landolt. Their rushing offense is averaging 187 yards per game, and they don't allow many sacks. Penn State averages 433 yards per game in total offense, and they don't make many mistakes (turnovers, sacks or negative yardage plays). They average nearly 30 points per game, and our Michigan defense hasn't had an answer for many teams this year so don't expect our defense to stop this Penn State offense either.

Defense is the strength of the 2009 Penn State team! They are ranked #2 in scoring defense, #6 in rushing defense, #5 in total defense, #14 in pass defense, #11 in sacks and #7 in tackles for loss; they lead the Big Ten in each of these categories. Their pass efficiency defense is ranked #12 in the nation, and #2 in the conference behind Iowa. This is a solid group, and Michigan will be challenged to move the ball against them. The Nitts are led by Senior Captain Butkus Semi-Finalist Sean Lee ; he averages 10 stops per game. The other linebackers are Senior Josh Hull and 1st Team All-Big Ten Junior returnee Navorro Bowman; others who rotate in are Bani Gbadyu and Nathan Stupar. They are a typical Penn State linebacking crew and unlike the Michigan linebackers, they are sure tacklers. In the defensive backfield, Penn State is led by Sophomore Strong Safety or "Hero" Nick Sukay. The Free Safety is Sophomore Drew Astorino. Senior A.J. Wallace is their top corner; the other corner is Sophomore D'Anton Lynn. The defensive line is led by Sophomore Defensive End Jack Crawford, Defensive Tackles are anchored by Senior and 1st Team All-Big Ten returnee Jared Odrick and Junior Ollie Ogbu. The other defensive end has been shared by Senior Jared Hayes and Sophomore Eric Latimore. They are a solid group that pressures quarterbacks with 3 sacks per game and will be difficult for our offensive line to block so the Michigan offense will be challenged again to establish a running game. The Nitts only allow 75 yards per game on the ground. Penn State only allowed Minnesota 40 offensive plays in shutting them out last week. Their red zone defense leads the Big Ten and has only allowed 4 red zone TDs in 7 games.

Penn State is vulnerable on special teams! Iowa turned the tables on Penn State with a 53 yard blocked punt return for a TD early in the 4th quarter with Penn State ahead 10-5. Iowa converted 2 of Penn State's 4 turnovers into 10 points. The Penn State punting unit is weak; their net punting is ranked 86th nationally. Their punter, Senior Jeremy Boone can boom punts, but the flyers are not getting the job done. Junior Collin Wagner is their placekicker; he has hit 6 of 10 field goals this year. Royster is a solid punt returner and potentially explosive. Their kickoff returns are manned by Wallace and Powell. Not to worry, their kickoff returns are ranked 115th nationally. We need to gain field position through our solid punting game, and obviously win the turnover battle to have any reasonable type of chance in this game.

We are playing at home, and have had two weeks to prepare for this game so this gives us some advantage. We did outplay Penn State in the first half last year, but we were outscored 32-0 in the second half. I don't think this will happen in 2009. Penn State is an athletic, conservative football program much like Michigan used to be. We will probably prepare to play our best game of the season against the Nitts, and this should be a close one. One similarity that both team possess are losses to Iowa. I don't like our chances to win it; as always when I regretfully pick a Michigan defeat, I hope I'm wrong.

Michigan 23 Penn State 31