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Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions

When I previewed Penn State in the summer, I knew the Nittany Lions would be good. Did I know they'd be this good? Maybe not, but I certainly thought they'd be undefeated at this point in the season. PSU has run roughshod over pretty much every challenger in their way, primarily on the strength of QB Daryll Clark. Michigan would have to pull off one of the biggest surprises of the year so far to even stay within 20 of the Nittany Lions tomorrow afternoon.

Offense
Daryll Clark, perhaps most memorable to Michigan fans for being the second QB knocked out of the game the last time the Wolverines traveled to Happy Valley, has emerged as one of the premier signal-callers in the conference, if not the nation. He is reminiscent of Michael Robinson in directing Penn State's Spread HD offense: he might not be the most skilled passer in the world, but Robinson proved a few years ago that it isn't necessary to run a successful offense. The two-headed monster of Evan Royster and Stefphon Green that PSU fans predicted coming into the year has been primarily the Evan Royster show, with Green as more of a backup and situational player. On the wings, Jordan Norwood, Deon Butler, and Derrick Williams return for their 500th year as starters for Penn State. Their distribution of catches is disturbingly even, ranging from 21 to 23. Derrick Williams, with the most catches, has the fewest yards, though part of that may be due to the fact that he's manning the underappreciated Steve Breaston 2006 role for PSU. The offensive line is doing well itself, having ceded the 12th fewest sacks in Division I-A, and earning the 12th most rushing yards.

For this specific matchup, I would like to hope that Michigan can at least slow down the rushing attack. The Wolverines' DL is among the best Penn State has seen so far this year, but with the way Juice Williams owned the Wolverines, I don't think Clark should struggle to get his team moving the ball on the ground. In the secondary, Boubacar Cissoko got some valuable experience last week in place of Donovan Warren, and if Warren returns this week, the corners should be able to be in position to stop the spread. As always, it's the duty of the safeties and linebackers to strike fear into the hearts of Michigan fans.

Defense
The losses up front have not harmed the Nittany Lions like it seemed like they would early in the year. Chris Baker, Devon Still, and a host of other players have been replaced admirably by Aaron Maybin, Josh Gaines, and others. The one disappointment on that front, however, has been Maurice Evans. After a stellar 2007, he has yet to produce for Penn State this season. PSU's linebackers have been led by Navorro Bowman. In the secondary, Penn State is in the top 10 in pass efficiency defense, but significantly worse in overall pass defense - that indicates little more than the fact that teams have been forced to pass their way out of big holes against PSU.

Michigan's offense, if it wants to succeed at all, needs to get on the scoreboard early in this game. Penn State's defense has succeeded mostly in preventing teams from playing a balanced offensive scheme. Of course, Michigan is unlikely to be able to run against Penn State either way. Martavious Odoms's return is important, because it gives Steven Threet more ability to pass down the field and open up the run game. The possibility of Terrance Robinson and Justin Feagin finally playing this week also triples Michigan's number of viable options in the slot.

Predictions
Someone other than Sam McGuffie is Michigan's leading rusher.
Daryll Clark has at least 2 passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
Michigan keeps it a little closer than expected, but loses 38-17.

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“Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions”

  1. Anonymous Anonymous Says:

    Who do you think will have more rushing yards than McGuffie? Threet? I don't know who else is going to get as many carries

  2. Anonymous BenAA Says:

    Speaking of rushing....

    Why have we seen so little out of Avery Horn? He is like lightning.

  3. Blogger Tim Says:

    If the O-line can't block, guys with no vision and no moves aren't really helpful, regardless of how fast they are.

  4. Blogger Paul Says:

    Unlike in NCAA09 AWR, ELU, AGL and PBK are more important than 95+ SPD in real life...