Who is the favorite in the Penn State vs Michigan football game

Who faces more pressure on Saturday? Penn State or Michigan? It’s a fascinating question, one that every fan base can argue in their direction.

Michigan, however, could be on a warmer seat, as coach Jim Harbaugh looks to bring the team to their first Big Ten championship game. To get there, the Wolverines must beat Penn State on Saturday.

The problem is, Harbaugh is 1-2 at Beaver Stadium, only beating the 2015 Lions team who were still playing sanctioned football. So is this the year?

To help answer this, we asked Brandon Brown, editor of Wolverine Digest, to watch not only Michigan on Saturday, but its future as well. Here we are.

November was a difficult month for Michigan under Jim Harbaugh. What is different this year?

Can I say nothing? I’m not a believer when it comes to Jim Harbaugh, and I think this November will be a lot like the ones we’ve seen before. This game against Penn State feels like a draw at this point, but Harbaugh sucks the world in those kinds of road games.

If Michigan can beat the Nittany Lions, this will be the first time Harbaugh has won a game as an underdog. They need it more than ever, so the motivation is there. However, at the end of the month I still see UM failing against Ohio State, so in the grand scheme of things this November ends up being a replay.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is 1-2 against Penn State at Beaver Stadium. (Rick Osentoski / USA Today Sports)

How would you rate the quarterback so far, especially Cade McNamara as a starter?

I would give Cade McNamara a B- over the year. It wasn’t very bad, but it wasn’t very good either. He only threw it a lot against Michigan State, which the Wolverines lost. He was good that day, but not good enough. He only has one turnover over the season and rarely takes sacks. If Michigan can lead the ball well, he’s much more efficient, which is usually the case, but that’s especially true for McNamara.

As for freshman JJ McCarthy, honestly, I can’t even give him a grade. It’s been used so oddly and thrown into games at times so bizarre that it’s unfair to give it a rating. He was also mainly used as a runner, which doesn’t make sense since he’s such a talented pitcher. He’s a better athlete than McNamara, has a better arm than McNamara and takes more big game chances but rarely plays. Go figure it out.

Penn State’s offense this season has been defined by the passing game and, in particular, the health of quarterback Sean Clifford. What will the Lions face in Michigan’s pass defense?

The pass rush is nasty, and the secondary is a bit suspect. Between edge rushers Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, Penn State could face two future first-round picks. Hutchinson has been Pro Football Focus’s best edge forward all season, but it’s actually Ojabo who leads the team with eight sacks. Both are long, athletic, and extremely versatile, so Clifford and the Penn State offensive line will have their hands full with them all day.

As for high school, it’s just OK. The Wolverines are playing a lot more zone than last year and have a dynamic player at Daxton Hill who moves everywhere. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him locked up on Jahan Dotson for most of the afternoon. But the three real corners that play – Vincent Gray, DJ Turner and Gemon Green – are just not among the elite. They are good, but I don’t think any of them would be described as dynamic. They’ve been helpful, but Penn State seems to have the athletes and a star in Dotson who could get loose here and there.

Who are the two or three that make the difference for Michigan in this game?

The aforementioned Hutchinson and Ojabo are definitely at the top of the scouting report when it comes to Michigan defense. In attack, it depends on who is available. Freshman wide receiver Andrel Anthony blew up against Michigan State, but left last week’s game with an injury. Likewise, Blake Corum, who has been excellent this season, also left last week’s game with an injury and might not be available this weekend.

Finally, junior tight end Erick All was much more involved two and three weeks ago but did not play last Saturday against Indiana. If any or all of those guys are missing, focus squarely on running back Hassan Haskins, who carried the ball 27 times for 168 yards and a score against the Hoosiers.

Michigan wins this game because …

They are healthy and motivated. If Michigan recovers some or all of its injured players, they should be equipped enough to beat Penn State in terms of talent. Otherwise, things could get pretty risky. It should also be noted that Michigan must win this game. The game against Michigan State a few weeks ago was also up for grabs, and they failed.

Harbaugh and his team must show up in this one and claim a victory. They are still firmly in contention for a Big Ten title, and the odds of making that game depend on the outcome of this weekend.

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About Betty J. Snyder

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