This Saturday, no. 17 ranked Michigan Wolverines take their talent on the road to face-off against the Penn State Nittany Lions. The Wolverines are currently undefeated at 5-0, although it hasn’t been a pretty road to 5-0, no one can deny that a win is a win and the Wolverines have earned each win so far. On the flip side Nittany Lions are coming off of a tough embarrassing loss to the Indiana Hoosiers and are currently sporting a 3-2 record.
Now some would say this should be a guaranteed win for the Wolverines, but when it comes to college football, nothing is guaranteed. Plus as I said earlier, Michigan may be 5-0 but they have struggled to get there and have extremely struggled against mediocre teams such as Akron and Connecticut. Nonetheless, the Wolverines have the ability to go into this tough environment and pull off a nice win on the road.
However, to pull off this road victory, they must follow certain keys:
Offensively, the Wolverines have been known to struggle this season and those struggles start with the running game, going into this game they must do a better job of establishing the run game with running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green. Now they did a good job of establishing the run last week against Minnesota and the results took pressure off of quarterback Devin Gardener and help to lead them to a comfortable victory. The run game success will also be based off the success of the offensive line, who must do a better job of opening holes for the running backs. When Michigan’s running game gets going, the offense can be force, plus it makes the offense more balance and harder to defend.
That being said, the run game is not the only key to victory, the other key is obviously quarterback Devin Gardner. Gardner entering this game must pass the ball well but to do that he will need good consistent protection and time in the pocket. Gardner has a tendency to telegraph or lock on to his receivers which he can’t afford to do in this game. While most eyes will be on wide receiver Jeremy Gallon, I hope Michigan makes a point to use tight end Devin Funchess in different positions, if they do it should confuse the Nittany Lion defense and create match-up problems. Finally the biggest key for this offense to succeed is to take care of the ball. They can’t afford turnovers and penalties, if they plan to win this game.
Defensively the Wolverines need to make the Nittany Lions a one-dimensional team. The Nittany Lions are led by freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg, so they look for the run game to be their main area of production and their run game is not be underestimated. Now just because the Nittany Lions are led by freshman quarterback doesn’t mean you underestimate him but to get the young freshman out of sorts, the Wolverines will need to create consistent quarterback pressure. Keep in mind that won’t necessarily be easy to do. The Wolverines defensive line has struggled to get consistent pressure on any quarterback so far this season and without defensive lineman Ondre Pipkins in the lineup, it’s hard to believe they will be able create consistent pressure but then again, they might surprise us.
Which leads me to the secondary, who are the next key in the defensive scheme. Michigan has an unfortunate habit of making average quarterbacks look good and that’s mainly because the secondary has been known to struggle. While there will be opportunities against freshman quarterback Christian Hackenburg to create possible turnovers, the secondary would still be smart to be weary of the Nittany Lion passing game. First off, Nittany Lions have wide receiver Allen Robinson who is one of the top Big Ten receivers and also happens to be a Michigan Native (Orchard Lake St Mary’s Product). If quarterback Christian Hackenberg has time in the pocket, he is capable of making the Wolverines defense pay but if the Wolverines front seven is able to create pressure and make the Nittany Lions one-dimensional, they can pull this win off.
In conclusion, I believe the Wolverines will be able to overcome some of their problems and earn a tough win on the road but don’t be surprised if it turns out to be a close game.
Written by LBeasley, Sports Contributor for Radio One Detroit