No. 6 Michigan travels to Penn State in a Big Ten East showdown on Saturday.
Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa. The game will be televised on ABC.
Michigan (8-1) still has a path to the Big Ten championship game. The Wolverines bounced back from the loss at Michigan State with a convincing victory against Indiana. The Wolverines rank seventh in the FBS with a rushing attack that averages 234.1 yards per game and a top-10 scoring defense (16.0).
Penn State (6-3) was left out of the College Football Playoff rankings, but the Nittany Lions are more than capable of playing spoiler. Quarterback Sean Clifford led Penn State to a 27-17 victory at the Big House last year, and the Nittany Lions have a top-10 scoring defense (16.7).
Jim Harbaugh and James Franklin are always under the microscope in this Big Ten classic rivalry matchup. Nothing changes on Saturday. With that in mind, here is all you need to know about betting on the Michigan-Penn State matchup.
Michigan vs. Penn State odds
Three trends to know
— Michigan opened as a slight favorite, but the line has shifted in favor of Penn State. That could be because the Wolverines have lost five of their last six games at Beaver Stadium. The Wolverines are 1-2 at Penn State under Harbaugh.
— Penn State is 3-1 ATS at home against FBS teams this season, with the lone loss being the nine-overtime affair against Illinois. The Nittany Lions allowed 12.8 points per game in those four matchups.
— Stop if you’ve heard this one before. Michigan is 1-6 S/U as a road underdog under Harbaugh. The Wolverines are 2-9 S/U on the road against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 under Harbaugh. Penn State is No. 23 in the latest poll.
Three things to watch
— Sean Clifford and the Penn State running game. The Nittany Lions average 3.2 yards per carry as a team, but they could have success against a Michigan defense that has allowed 124.3 yards per game. Clifford made a difference last year with nine carries for 73 yards in this game and was able to scramble, but Michigan has a different defense under coordinator Mike Macdonald. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo have combined for 15 sacks off the edge, too.
— Hassan Haskins’ chance. Blake Corum left Michigan’s game against Indiana after his first carry, and Haskins took advantage of the full-time opportunity with 27 carries for 168 yards and a TD. Haskins is a tough inside runner, and the Wolverines will bank on that against a Penn State defense that allows 137.1 yards per game.
— Cade McNamara’s next chance. McNamara dealt with a shoulder injury in last year’s loss to Penn State and struggled in the loss. The Nittany Lions have a talented secondary led by safety Jaquan Brisker, and it will be interesting to see how Harbaugh manages the quarterbacks after what happened at Michigan State. Don’t expect McNamara to air it out like he did against the Spartans, but he will need to have success in the same kind of tough road environment.
Stat that matters
Penn State ranks sixth in the FBS in red-zone defense at .629. Opponents have reached the red zone 35 times, but they have scored just 10 TDs. Michigan, meanwhile, has a red-zone defense percentage of .812. Opponents have scored nine TDs in 16 trips. That says the Wolverines should get more chances inside the 20-yard line, but they need to take advantage of each one.
Michigan vs. Penn State prediction
This should be a tight game given the strengths and weaknesses on both sides. Penn State is more battle-tested. The Nittany Lions have played four ranked teams, and Clifford appears to be healthy again. He will test what should be a fun down-field vertical matchup between Jahan Dotson and Michigan safety Daxton Hill. The Wolverines must weather the first-half punch. They trailed at halftime by an average of 11 points in losses at Penn State in 2017 and 2019. They led 14-10 at half in 2015 before pulling out a 28-16 victory. This feels like a game the Wolverines can win if McNamara doesn’t turn the ball over and the running game stays true.
Final score: Michigan 26, Penn State 23
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