On paper, I think Pennsylvania and Michigan get along really well. Two solid defenses, strong running games, and good passing games on both sides of the line. Michigan is probably a touch worse than it was last year, while I think Pennsylvania is a touch better. If this game is either neutral or at Beaver Stadium, I’ll put the Lions on the win. But the game is in Ann Arbor, and while the Big House isn’t as hard a place to play as Columbus, it will still have a hostile audience.
After the two teams settle down, the two defenses do their part. It’s a tough match through three quarters, with neither team doing enough to pull off. In the fourth quarter, Sean Clifford threw an interception, and in the next, he picked Michigan’s central Penn State defense apart from shallow passes and net plays. Rising late, the Wolverines repel a late push by the Lions to tie it up when Jake Pinegar’s field goal sails wide.
Michigan 24, Pennsylvania 21
Personally, I think people may be overreacting to the Wolverines’ performance against Indiana. The distant games with Michigan also give me PTSD (see 1998 through 2007.) That game would be close, and like Chris, if she’s in Beav, Penn State gets the victory.
The running game will struggle more than usual, and Sean Clifford throws a pick in the second half. As a result, Penn State plays from the back for most of the last two clips. It’s close, but not close enough.
Michigan 21, Pennsylvania 17
There is a strong argument that makes Penn State the best overall team out of Michigan. These are two very good football teams, but in terms of overall talent, the Nittany Lions might have a slight advantage. However, the game is played in Ann Arbor and Michigan’s passing game is built on short crossing roads and is the weak point of the Penn State defense. If the Nittany Lions are going to defeat the Wolverines, their midfielders will have to play better than they have all season. While the linebacker wasn’t necessarily the responsibility many would fear entering the season, their overall play still leaves much to be desired. If the Penn State linebackers can help fill in the gaps to contain Blake Corum and a rushing attack while preventing road crossings and midfield in the passing game from killing them, it should be another good day for the Manny Diaz unit.
Pennsylvania’s transnational offensive wasn’t good enough. Not even close. The wide receivers sometimes struggled to get detachable and are explosive. Sean Clifford continues to look like a deer in the headlights when he’s in the jeep, and he often gets happy feet even when he has a good jeep that results in him not setting up his feet and making bad throws. Clifford can’t miss open receivers and leave points on the field on Saturday afternoon if the Nittany Lions want to leave Ann Arbor 6-0. To be honest, if Drew Allar was the starting quarterback, I’d have no doubt the Nittany Lions would win.
This one will probably come down to any passing game more, between the way they match up with the Penn State defense and the lack of confidence in Clifford, I think it will be Wolverine’s passing attack that will do just enough for victory.
Michigan 24, Pennsylvania 20
I feel like I rewrote my Auburn predictions four times. Same concerns against a much better team than the Tigers. Can the Penn State team players hold out? Will Michigan take advantage of the middle of the field? How about Penn State running the ball and protecting Shaun Clifford from the best defensive line they see? Can anyone open up for the big pass playing on the field?
But did you know? Even with all the similarities to 2021, I think Pennsylvania is pretty good this year. I still have concerns about them choosing to win on the road in a huge game environment against what I also consider a good team (consistent Clifford, running backs, effective offensive opponent with mobile QB and Heisman darkhorse tailback).
Let’s do it anyway. Clifford is doing a big job of late and the defense comes with a major spin. The Lions win 24-23. Let’s believe.
Pennsylvania 24, Michigan 23
(Originally shown in file B1G preview and decadent challenge)
One of the most anticipated matches of the season, the Nittany Lions will be looking to take revenge on last season’s heartthrob against the Wolverines. Both teams seemed unstoppable at times, and both showed weaknesses that could be fully exploited. Penn State did not do well against Jim Harbaugh on the road, losing two out of three by at least 35 points. Could this be the season when the tides turn?
A lot of people will tell you that if Penn State loses this game, it will be because of quarterback Shaun Clifford. Let’s revisit Clifford’s last three matches against the Wolverines:
2019: 14-25 (58%), 182 yards, 4 touchdowns (1 lunge), 0 turn.
2020: 17-28 (60.7), 163 yards, 1 touchdown (lush), 0 spin.
2021: 23-43 (53.5), 205 yards, 1 touchdown, 0 spin.
Even in his worst performance against the Wolverines, he limped And the Ailing Clifford still managed to complete 53 percent of his passes in nearly twice as many attempts as the previous two seasons, while not committing any turnover. Penn State could lose this game, but if it does, it won’t be because of Clifford.
Pennsylvania 56, Michigan 17
(Originally shown in file Game preview)
Strikingly similar, the Nittany Lions and Wolverines are close to halfway through the season. Both are brave in defense, especially against running. Both can chase quarterbacks and out of rhythm, while creating momentum-shifting plays. Both offenders like relying on running have intermediate pass attacks promising without much luck finding a deep threat.
The biggest and most influential similarity to me is the formation of teams. Both replaced key players from last season, but saw younger, inexperienced players and additions from the transfer window rising to fill those gaps. In most cases, the new faces far exceeded expectations, resulting in both teams winning by undefeated records and making the top ten appearances in this game. That’s what the game is about for me. This will be the biggest test yet for both teams. Some players will battle against advanced competitors, while others will rise to the occasion and prove that they are the difference makers. This game will go over how this happens – perhaps no more important than JJ McCarthy. He won’t have the luxury of a clean pocket as he has for most of the season. He could struggle really hard if Penn State shuts down the race, or he could show why he’s so prestigious and able to beat the incumbent who drove the team to massive heights just a year ago. If it’s the latter, Pennsylvania may be in trouble.
This could easily go either way, but I like the Nittany Lions’ ability to wreak havoc to give them a slight edge. Penn State wins the game by winning a margin of turn in a nail bite.
Penn State 28, Michigan 24