Week Seven is all but guaranteed to shake up the college football landscape. Two top-ten matchups, three battles between undefeated teams and six games between ranked opponents can only mean one thing: Chaos is coming.
Michigan has its biggest game of the year so far, as it welcomes Penn State to Ann Arbor for a game with major implications on how the Big Ten will play out. Both teams have raced out to undefeated records, but neither have played all that impressive a schedule so far. Saturday’s matchup changes all of that.
Elsewhere, Tennessee takes on Alabama for the biggest third Saturday in October in over a decade, TCU and Oklahoma State try to establish Big 12 supremacy and USC and Clemson face stiff road tests.
Who emerges victorious in the Wolverines’ Top-10 showdown? And how does the rest of the tantalizing Week Seven slate play out? The Daily Football Beat makes their call:
Michigan vs Penn State Prediction
Penn State is the best team that Michigan has faced this year, and it’s not particularly close. For the most part, the Wolverines have looked good — sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy and junior running back Blake Corum have the offense humming, while the defensive line is generating consistent pressure. Whereas other teams have fallen to inferior opponents, Michigan has escaped unscathed, masking its shortcomings in the process.
Yet how much do we really know about Michigan? We’ll find out how good the Wolverines really are this weekend. The Nittany Lions are a sound, battle-tested team, boasting a veteran quarterback in Sean Clifford and two dynamic running backs. They already claimed impressive road victories at Auburn and Purdue. The raucous environment in Ann Arbor won’t faze them.
But the magnitude of the matchup shouldn’t faze Michigan, either. The program prides itself in approaching each matchup with the same intensity, invoking phrases like “nameless, faceless opponents.” Penn State, in that lens, is just another game. And it’s one that the Wolverines — who are more talented than the Nittany Lions — should win.
Michigan 27, Penn State 20
Michigan is facing by far its biggest test on Saturday. But the thing is, it’s also easily the biggest game Penn State has played — and the two teams mirror each other in many ways. The Wolverines best win is at Kinnick Stadium against Iowa, a team that’s just 3-3. Penn State has an impressive looking away victory at Auburn, but the Tigers are also just 3-3 and having a down year.
Both teams thrive in the trenches. Michigan leans on Corum, the third leading rusher in the nation, while Penn State can counter with its freshman duo of Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Both teams strength on defense is along the defensive line.
Effectively, it’s a toss up. Both teams know the stakes. Both teams are looking to win in the trenches. I expect it’ll be low scoring and tight in the fourth quarter, but McCarthy will make a couple of gamebreaking plays that prove to be the difference.
Michigan 20, Penn State 17
As of right now, Michigan isn’t exactly a known commodity. Sure, it’s 6-0, but those are six wins against far inferior teams. Penn State, though, is a team of equal caliber and will pose the greatest threat to the Wolverines’ unblemished record.
With a seasoned quarterback in Clifford and youthful backfield with Singleton and Allen, the Nittany Lions have an offense that is poised to test Michigan. But, it doesn’t end there. Penn State also has the best rush defense that the Wolverines and Corum have faced all season.
Saturday’s matchup is a true heavyweight fight and the winner will, in essence, control its destiny in the Big Ten East race. Strength on strength who will, who will prevail?
Realistically, not enough is known about either squad to make an informed decision, but on premise of talent and home field advantage, I lean Michigan to win, but Penn State to cover the seven point spread.
Michigan 17, Penn State 15
I’m here to be the pessimist, apparently. Penn State is a good football team, and Michigan hasn’t truly been tested yet. From what I’ve seen so far, the Nittany Lions have less holes than the Wolverines.
Michigan’s linebackers, and parts of its secondary, are the flaws in its defensive armor. They’ve been shaky throughout the season, against far worse opponents than Penn State, and the Nittany Lions have the personnel and the scheme to exploit those weaknesses in both the run and pass game.
McCarthy is also in his first big test of his collegiate career. Though maybe holding the title in terms of talent, when comparing experience, Clifford takes the cake. Relying on someone that hasn’t proven himself, no matter how talented he is, is a risk Penn State doesn’t have to take.
Do I think it will be close? Absolutely. But ultimately, the Nittany Lions will score a coffin-splitting touchdown to seal the game late in the fourth quarter.
Penn State 27, Michigan 17
Here are the rest of the beat’s predictions for Week Seven:
Week Six Records
Oct. 15 12:00 pm Penn State +7 at Michigan
Josh: Penn State
Spencer: Penn State
Nick: Penn State
Oct. 15 12:00 pm Minnesota -6.5 at Illinois
Oct. 15 3:30 pm Alabama -7 at Tennessee
Spencer: Tennessee moneyline
Oct. 15 3:30 pm Oklahoma State +4 at TCU
Jared: Oklahoma State
Nick: Oklahoma State
Oct. 15 3:30 pm NC State +3.5 at Syracuse
Josh: NC State
Spencer: NC State
Nick: NC State
Oct. 15 3:30 pm Maryland -11.5 at Indiana
Oct. 15 4:00 pm Wisconsin -7.5 at Michigan State
Spencer: Michigan State
Nick: Michigan State
Oct. 15 7:30 pm Clemson -3.5 at Florida State
Nick: Florida State
Oct. 15 7:30 pm Mississippi State -4 at Kentucky
Jared: Mississippi State
Spencer: Mississippi State
Oct. 15 7:30 pm Nebraska +13.5 at Purdue
Oct. 15 8:00 pm USC +3.5 at Utah