It will be a homecoming of sorts.
Quarterback Chad Henne and wide receiver Steve Breaston will play in their home state for the first time since they came to Michigan.
They will face a pumped Beaver Stadium crowd and a Penn State team that is coming into its own.
The last time Michigan started a season 6-0, it won the 1997 national championship. That team went into Happy Valley and dominated a Nittany Lion squad led by current New York Giants linebacker LaVarr Arrington 34-8.
This Wolverine team hopes to do the same.
Michigan rushing offense vs. Penn State rushing defense
Each week, the opposing team knows what the Michigan offense is going to do. Still, running back Mike Hart has racked up at least 100 yards on the ground in all but one game. Tomorrow the Wolverine ground attack will face its toughest challenge yet. Penn State features a great set of linebackers, especially with Paul Poslusnzy anchoring down the unit. With the Nittany Lions already planning to put eight men in the box, Michigan might struggle to pick up yards.
Michigan passing offense vs. Penn State passing defense
Losing wide receiver Mario Manningham hurts Michigan’s ability to stretch the field, but receivers Adrian Arrington and Steve Breaston should be able to carry the load. Michigan has focused on establishing the run all year, so Manningham’s absence doesn’t mean as much as some think. On the other side, Penn State features sophomore Justin King, who scorned Michigan to don the Nittany Lions’ blue and white. If the Michigan run game struggles against the Penn State front eight, Henne will have to continue to show the accuracy he’s displayed over the last few weeks. Look for Michigan to use Arrington to stretch the field while keeping Breaston short for his speed routes.
Michigan rushing defense vs. Penn State rushing offense
The Wolverines feature one of the most dominating front fours in college football. With Alan Branch and Terrance Taylor anchoring the middle, opposing running backs have had a tough time finding room to run. Michigan ranks No. 1 in the nation in rushing defense, and opponents average just 1.7 yards per carry and 40.3 yards per game on the ground. Meanwhile, running back Tony Hunt, with 669 yards in six games this season, leads the Penn State rushing attack. But the Wolverine defense wants to make the opposing offense one-dimensional, and they should succeed against the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack.
Michigan passing defense vs. Penn State passing offense
This season, the Wolverine secondary has yet to find consistency. Both Minnesota and Michigan State moved the ball through the air with relative ease. But Morgan Trent returned last week against the Spartans, so the Michigan secondary should be more stabilized. With first-year starter Anthony Morelli leading the Penn State offense, the Nittany Lion passing game has been inconsistent at best. Still, speedy receivers Derrick Williams and Deon Butler have helped Penn State average 215.3 passing yards per game.
Edge: Penn State
Michigan punter Zoltan Mesko has improved for the Wolverines. With his punts booming farther and higher than in the first few games, Mesko has pinned opposing teams deep in their own end. Meanwhile, kicker Garrett Rivas started strong this season but missed a short field goal against Minnesota. For Penn State, kicker Kevin Kelly has struggled, making just 12-of-17 attempts. Outside of 30 yards (where all of his misses are), Kelly can’t seem to find any kind of consistency.
Last year, Michigan ruined Penn State’s perfect season. Now the Wolverines travel to Beaver Stadium to face a team looking for payback. Nerves could very well be a factor for Henne and Breaston, especially early in the game.
Those nerves could be just enough to give Penn State the momentum it needs to win the game.
Edge: Penn State
Penn State 20, Michigan 17