Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: No. 2 Michigan has enjoyed a breezy ride up to its Week 11 Big Ten matchup vs. No. 9 Penn State in Happy Valley on Saturday.
The Wolverines have cut through their 111th-ranked strength of schedule like paper.
They have won every game by at least three possessions while allowing college football’s leading 6.7 points against.
Since they haven’t had much to contend with, it has been a shot-in-the-dark to pinpoint exactly where the line should be against a test in the Nittany Lions.
Now amidst the distractions of their ongoing sign-stealing cheating scandal, the Wolverines face a Penn State front that’s not far off defensively.
The Nittany Lions have yielded the third-fewest points with 12.5.
The best litmus test we can work with was how they fared vs. Ohio State three weeks ago.
They played within one possession of a Buckeyes team that boasts the second most efficient defense.
Penn State has an excellent secondary that limits opposing quarterbacks to 190.4 yards per game.
The only trouble it has seen was against the Buckeyes’ Marvin Harrison Jr., who went for 162 yards and a score.
Michigan doesn’t wield a generational receiver like Harrison Jr.
The Lions also get a significant boost to their edge rush with Chop Robinson and Amin Vanover expected to return from their respective injuries.
Michigan’s offensive line hasn’t had to prove much, so Penn State’s edge rushing could expose some weaknesses with their tackles here.
Michigan’s run game hasn’t been as good as you think it should be, either.
Its run efficiency is ranked at No. 49 as Blake Corum leads the backfield with only 72.1 yards per game.
J.J. McCarthy has picked up the slack through the air, completing 75.7 percent of his throws.
So, it will be intriguing to watch how he navigates Penn State’s aggressive secondary.
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On the other side of the ball, Drew Allar is springboarding off of a career performance having gutted Maryland with 240 yards and four touchdowns.
Allar has played maturely under center.
He was muzzled to 142 yards by Ohio State, but evaded getting intercepted. He leads college football with a 0.3 interception percentage.
I don’t see either team having much success with the run, so perhaps Allar learned a thing or two since then as he’ll need to be on the money to press Michigan’s coverage.
Allar has led the offense to 84 points over the last two games
I’m taking the Nittany Lions to square up as the first opponent the Wolverines will really need to take seriously come Saturday afternoon.
The play: Penn State +4.5.