Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions Expert Picks and Betting Predictions
Michigan Wolverines at Penn State Nittany Lions, Saturday Oct. 21, 7:30 p.m. ET
Going to the dentist. Being audited. Hanging out with an ex. Bathing in battery acid. Those are all things I could be more excited about than I am about watching Michigan play at Penn State. If you have read my stuff over the years then you know I live and breathe the Wolverines. It pains me, then, to state a harsh truth - we aren't good. In fact, in a key way we are really bad. And this is the game which, in all likelihood, is going to expose that. Last year Michigan beat Penn State 49-10. It turned Penn State's season around entirely, and they went on to win the conference. It's like a switch was flicked and all their problems disappeared. The best I can hope, as a fan, is that the Nittany Lions beat the Wolverines by a narrower margin and that it sparks a similar renaissance.
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Michigan at Penn State Betting Storylines
Michigan's offense is bad. So, so bad. Starting QB Wilton Speight went down to injury, and few shed a tear because he had failed to get any traction whatsoever. John O'Korn stepped in at starter when Speight went down against Purdue, and he looked really good. He was fueled there, perhaps, by the fact that Tony Levine, the coach he had clashed with at Houston, was an assistant at Purdue. In two games as a starter, though, any magic he had in hat Purdue game has disappeared entirely. He threw three picks against Michigan State while completing just 16 of 35 passes, and he amassed a pathetic 58 passing yards against Utah. They have stripped the playbook down to the simplest form, but it still appears to be too much for him, and it is increasingly clear with each play that both the coaches and his teammates have lost faith. A young group of receivers and an inconsistent offensive line hasn't helped, but he has had the time and the targets to be much better than he has been. He just can't find a target or hit one when he finally does identify one. The running game saved them against Utah - Karan Higdon ran for 200 yards and three scores and basically was the offense. It was his first big breakout game, though, and while backs have had big days at times the offensive line has not allowed them to develop any consistency. So, it's not entirely clear where the Wolverines are going to get points from, and now they face a defense that has allowed a national-best nine points per game and one that ranks Top 10 in total yards and passing yards allowed. It's 2 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon as I write this, and I already feel a deep need to start drinking to numb the inevitable pain of watching this game.
Literally the only hope that Michigan has in this one is the thing that has gotten them this far - their stellar defense. They have a ruthless defensive front and are tops in the country in yards allowed, third in passing yards, and sixth in rushing yards. To keep this one close, then, the team has to contain Saquon Barkley and frustrate the Penn State offense. The first part can be done - he managed just 56 yards on 20 carries two games back against Indiana. And last year against a Michigan defensive front that was different but just as good as this one, Barkley had just 59 yards on 15 carries. And while the offense for Penn State has been reasonably productive so far, they aren't putting up gaudy numbers against what has been a very weak schedule so far. Defensive coordinator Don Brown has a lot of weapons here, and he will be brutally creative. His unit is going to spend a whole lot of time on the field, though, and that will increase the pressure on them. To win this game the Wolverines' defense will have to be the best they have been because they offense can't be relied upon in any significant way. Basically, if the final score isn't something like 10-7 then Michigan likely isn't winning.
Michigan at Penn State Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Penn State favored by as much as 11.5, but more widely at 10.5. That has since fallen widely to 9.5. A decent majority of bets have been on the Nittany Lions, so it's clear that sharp money is hitting the Wolverines. The total opened at 42 and has crept up to 45.
The Wolverines are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight road games against teams with winning road records but just 1-3-1 ATS in their last five games overall. They are 4-9 ATS in their last 13 games played on a grass field. Penn State is 10-0-2 ATS in their last 12 grass games and 10-1-1 ATS in their last 12 conference games. They are 8-1-2 ATS in their last 11 home games and 13-1-2 ATS in their last 16 overall.
Michigan at Penn State Predictions and Picks
I don't have much interest in either side here. Penn State is clearly better positioned to win, but winning by double digits could be tough to ask against a defense like Michigan has. It could very easily happen, but it's hard to bet on. I can't side with Michigan confidently, though, because of their total offensive incompetence. The bet that makes sense here is the "under". Both teams have elite defenses, and at least one team has a lousy offense. If Michigan can contain Barkley then it will be tough for these teams to combine for 46.
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