Phil Callihan and Clint Derringer discuss Jim Harbaugh’s contract status, the cancellation of season, recruiting, Ohio State, and anticipated defensive changes
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WEEK 6 PROJECTION vs. RESULTS
Final Score: 17-27, Penn State by 10 over Michigan
SP+ Projection: Penn State by 1.0 (-9.0)
CD Projection: Michigan by 1 (-11)
Offensively, the Wolverines lost their first-half rhythm when Cade McNamara left the game with a shoulder injury. The broadcast team mentioned that Joe MIlton was also less than 100%, and he was unable to mount a charge. The salt in the wound for this week was Michigan netted 174 rushing yards. In my data set, they averaged 6.5 yards per run play (garbage time & sacks removed). However, they could not sustain drives and continue to move the chains. While McNamara was hurt, Hassan Haskins was inexplicably standing on the sideline. This week, Josh Gattis was unable to scheme his WRs open, and Michigan could only muster a 28% success rate on pass plays.
Defensively, I saw just about what I expected. While the defensive line was boosted by Kwity Paye’s return, the defensive interior could not stand up to Penn State’s mediocre offensive line. The Nittany Lions netted 254 rushing yards, and averaged 5.2 yards per run play in my data set. Michigan needed a big stop after tightening the score to 20-17 in the 4th quarter. The Wolverines were merely an annoyance to Penn State as they marched 75 yards in 5:00 to stretch the lead to 10. I think the defensive staff has adjusted to help mitigate the huge plays against man coverage outside, and that is commendable. I thought holding PSU under 30 would be enough to win, but instead James Franklin has his first win of 2020.
Last week, special teams hurt Michigan with 3 missed FGs. This week, it was 2 muffed punts, one of which resulted in a turnover and a field goal for Penn State. Michigan certainly missed Giles Jackson, who was the latest to hit the injury report. This year cannot end soon enough.
Every problem that plagues Michigan right now is also weighing down the Nittany Lions. The game was in Ann Arbor on a beautiful November day. All the potential excuses have withered and Michigan is left with just one option: acknowledging that they don’t know how to win football games right now.2020_11_28_PennState_27_Michigan_17-1
LAST WEEK RECAP
The Wolverines survived three OTs against Rutgers to win 48-42 on the road. The offense did a near-180 degree turnaround under Cade McNamara. The defense did not.
PREGAME SP+: Penn State by 1.0, Michigan Win Probability 48%
Michigan & Penn State both look radically different than anybody expected before the Big Ten kicked off in October. Michigan has underperformed SP+ expectations on defense allowing an average of 12.8 points more than SP+ projections. Penn State has underperformed on both sides of the ball. The Nittany Lion defense gives up an average of 11.2 more points than projections. Their offense has scored 6.6 points less than projected.
Michigan Offense (44th) vs. Penn State Defense (30th)
Michigan may have answered a couple big questions on offense. It looks like Hassan Haskins will get a larger share of the running back carries going forward. Also, Josh Gattis seemed to have more plays that use post-snap reads at his disposal once Cade McNamara took over at quarterback. Still, the largest question mark still looms: how healthy will the Wolverines’ offensive line be? We asked the same question headed into the Rutgers game, but lost center Andrew Vastardis to injury instead of regaining Jaylen Mayfield or Ryan Hayes at tackle. Regardless, this Penn State defense is also short handed and just gave up 34 points to Iowa (54th SP+ offense).
Michigan Defense (37th) vs. Penn State Offense (34th)
In my mind, this game will be decided in big moments while Penn State has the ball. First, it’s critical for Michigan to get off to a solid start. Penn State has yet to score more than 7 points in the first half in any game in 2020. That includes games against Maryland (67th SP+ defense, PSU 19 points) and against Nebraska (76th SP+ defense, PSU 23 points). Second, the Wolverines need to keep the Penn State quarterbacks uncomfortable. If Don Brown can get back to using havoc and confusion to create turnovers, then the defensive unit could give their offensive teammates a big boost. That may be too big an “IF” statement though, given the injuries stretching the defensive two deep perilously thin.
PREDICTION: Michigan should be able to string together successful offensive plays against this diminished Penn State defensive unit. If I was confident that Michigan would have their best 5 offensive linemen healthy, I would feel much more comfortable heading into Saturday. While we are starting to see a few playmakers emerge on offense, the Wolverines need some young defenders to step forward. I will be looking for DT Chris Hinton, LB Michael Barrett, and S Daxton Hill to be difference makers during crunch time in Ann Arbor.
Michigan 28 Penn State 27 (PRESEASON Michigan 27 Penn State 21)
SP+ Overall: 40th (↓13), 6.8
SP+ Offense: 44th (↓9), 31.6
SP+ Defense: 37th (↓11), 24.7
SP+ Special Teams: 81st (↑2), -0.1
AP Poll: NR (same), 0
Coaches’ Poll: NR (same), 0
CFP Rank: NR