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The marquee matchup of the weekend gets underway Saturday night in State College as the 16th-ranked Michigan Wolverines take on the No. 7 Penn State Nittany Lions. In a game that could very well end up deciding the future of the Wolverine’s program, head coach Jim Harbaugh will look to pick up a big game when it matters for seemingly the first time in his tenure at Michigan. With a game remaining for both teams against juggernaut Ohio State, Saturday’s contest is also another stepping stone in deciding the stacked BIG 10 East. Let’s take a deeper look at this primetime matchup to see where we can spot an edge.
Michigan Wolverines @ Penn State Nittany Lions
Saturday, October 19th, 2019 – 7:30 pm EST
Penn State -9, O/U 47 (via PointsBet)
In a conference known for its top tier defenses, these Nittany Lions can hold their own with the best. Through their first six games, they rank second in FBS in points (8.2) and fourth in yards (259.7) allowed per game. Facing their toughest test of the season thus far last week on the road in Iowa against a Hawkeyes’ team that has struggled to move the ball all season, the Nittany Lions defense had one of their worst outings of the season. After allowing 356 yards in the game, including 286 through the air, head coach James Franklin will surely be looking to get his defense back on track this week. Freshman running back Noah Cain lead the way for Penn State last week, recording his second consecutive 100-yard game in a row. Whether it was tough road environment or simply a look-ahead spot to this week, the Nittany Lions need to get it together and soon as they welcome in a Michigan team being discounted by most in the national media.
Once deemed the answer to all of Jim Harbaugh’s problems at the quarterback position, Wolverine’s passer Shea Patterson has struggled through the first six games of 2019. Heading into this week, the Wolverine’s are scoring just 30.3 points per game which ranks 83rd among FBS teams. Patterson, who came into this year fully healthy and seemingly poised to take Michigan to the next level, has nine touchdowns and a completion percentage of just 57.1% through six games. The Wolverines have relied heavily on the freshman and sophomore running back combo of Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins to this point in the season, who are averaging 156.8 yards per game. Even more so than the Nittany Lions, the Wolverines have leaned heavily on their defense who is allowing just 17.5 points per game while allowing 283.7 yards per game.
We’re starting to get to the point in the season where we can use common prior opponents to determine how a game will unfold, and that’s exactly what we have here. While it’s far from an exact science, I think that methodology is in play here, as both teams have played Iowa and in the two contests there have been a combined 42 points scored. Many will point to the points these offenses have been averaging, but a deeper look shows those numbers to be inflated from playing against some of the worst defenses in college football. The Nittany Lions opened up the season with 79 points at home against Idaho and 59 a few weeks later at Maryland, while the Wolverines have scored 40+ three times against the likes of Illinois, Middle Tennessee, and Rutgers. Add in the fact these two teams know each other better than most, and I’ll take the under in one of my larger wagers of the weekend.