By the Numbers: Week 8 @ Penn State

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LAST WEEK RECAP

The Wolverines put together a dominant performance @ Illinois, but turnovers and lack of energy on both sides of the ball in the third quarter still made fans very anxious.

NEXT UP: @ Penn State: 6th, 24.4

PREGAME SP+: Penn State by 8.2, Michigan Win Probability 32%
The Michigan-PSU series has swung wildly from year to year with the home team winning by an average of 34 points in the last three seasons.  Michigan won 28-16 @ PSU in Jim Harbaugh’s first season at Michigan. 

Michigan Offense (53rd) vs. Penn State Defense (10th) 
Various sports media outlets generate wide discussion around the “Most Tortured Fan Base” pretty regularly.  Fan negativity really garners attention and gets consumers talking. The volume and intensity of fans’ negativity really ramp up when results do not match the fans’ established expectations.  This phenomenon made it very hard to evaluate the 2018 defense after the OSU mess. It makes it very hard for fans to evaluate the 2019 Wolverines’ offense. We know there are flaws, but we expected much more fire power at this point in the season.  For me, I still maintain optimism that we will see late-season growth from the offensive unit. I don’t expect to see #SpeedInSpace throw a coming out party at night in a Happy Valley white out. However, I do believe they are capable of making critical explosive plays against a very good Nittany Lion defense.  The key will be maximizing their scoring opportunities because they likely will be few and far between.

Michigan Defense (3rd) vs. Penn State Offense (10th)
The Wolverines’ defense dismantled Penn State 49-10 in 2016.  The Nittany Lions adjusted and utilized new offensive wrinkles for Saquon Barkley in 2017 as they exploded for 42 points.   Last year Don Brown stayed awake late into the night to design his counter attack, and nearly shut out Penn State. For this season, the first central question will be: who has processed the available film and data into the better game plan?  The second question will be: which group of players will execute better and make plays in big moments? Michigan will crank up the blitz machine to ensure redshirt junior QB Sean Clifford is under pressure on every pass. PSU offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne knows this.  He will try to utilize plays that get slot WR KJ Hammler into the space voided by blitzers. Don Brown knows this, and he will change up coverages to anticipate where Clifford’s pressure release valve will be. In my mind, the victor of this chess match will determine the winner of the game. 

PREDICTION: Uncharacteristically poor special teams performance also contributes to the Wolverines’ overall performance.  In the SP+ rankings Michigan’s special teams unit has plummeted to #62, down 58 spots since the Rutgers game. Even the play of the game @ Illinois, a blocked punt by Jordan Glasgow, was counteracted by a 70 yard Illini punt to Michigan 1 yard line.  Statistics and history suggest the special teams performance will improve and push Michigan back up into the 30’s in SP+ special teams ranking. This week would be an absolutely perfect time for the third phase to show up big and put points onto the board.
Michigan 21 Penn State 20 (PRESEASON Michigan 31 Penn State 17)

MICHIGAN RESUME UPDATE (10/14/2019)

  • SP+ Overall: 13th (↑4), 18.8
    • SP+ Offense: 53rd (↑13), 30.3
    • SP+ Defense: 3rd (↓1), 11.5
    • SP+ Sp. Teams 62nd (↓25) 0.0
  • AP Poll: 16th (same), 648
  • Coaches’ Poll: 16th (same), 674
  • CFP Rank: N/A
Week 8 Resume

About Clint Derringer

@clint_derringer Born & raised in Warren, MI. Now in Grosse Pointe, MI with my wife Bethany and our three hilarious kids. U-M B.A. Sport Management & Communications ‘05 U-M M.S. Program & Project Management ‘18