Free NCAA Football Picks: Penn State at Michigan Odds and Expert Predictions
Penn State Nittany Lions at Michigan Wolverines, Saturday Nov. 3, 3:45 p.m. ET
This is the third time in four weeks that we have written about Michigan, and the fourth time they were on a bye. Some would argue that that is because I am obsessed with them, but really there are two other, better reasons. First, they are playing very important games right now. Penn State is the final game of a gauntlet that also featured Wisconsin and Michigan State - tough and crucial games. With a third win here, Michigan will almost certainly play themselves into a playoff spot at this point, because they sit fifth right now, and No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 LSU play each other this week.
This is a game that really matters, and a win will set up a huge game against Ohio State in the season's final game. And the second reason to write about Michigan is simply that they are doing well for us. We've been on the right side both prior times we have written about them, and we are looking to make the ATS sweep.
Penn State at Michigan Betting Storylines
By far the biggest storyline here is the Michigan defense. It has been stellar again this year, allowing just 220 yards per game, which is tops in the country. But the last couple of weeks they have taken things to new heights. Wisconsin had just 100 yards of passing, and that was flattering since they didn't complete a pass for more than two quarters and got three-quarters of those yards on a late drive when they game was already way out of hand. And Michigan State scratched out a measly 94 yards of total offense last game and was visibly and significantly frustrated. This Michigan team is determined to crush souls on defense, and Penn state is vulnerable. Though they have averaged a very solid 41 points per game, their average in their last four against better competition is just 26.5, and in their two losses the offense struggled. Their running game isn't what it was with Saquon Barkley, and the passing game has struggled. Michigan will be aggressive right out of the gate, and if Penn State doesn't have an answer to make the Wolverines uncomfortable early then it will be a very long night for them.
If Penn State can't solve the Michigan defense then they have an issue because they aren't likely to be able to thrive in a defensive battle. The defense has not been great, ranking in the bottom half of the country in both passing and rushing yards allowed. Michigan's passing attack is more methodical and situational than dominant, but the team has been dialed in on the ground in recent weeks. They ran for 320 against a Wisconsin team that doesn't get run on. The game is unlikely to devolve into a big shootout, but if it's a tight game then Penn State will be at a disadvantage given the matchups.
Trace McSorley is a running quarterback, and Michigan has traditionally had more problems with that style than others. Brandon Wimbush had some success on the ground in Notre Dame's win, though Michigan's defense has improved since then. McSorley's legs will have to be a prominent part of the game plan. The potential issue there is the health of those legs. McSorley had to be helped off the field after an injury against Iowa. He was able to come back, and ran well, but now that the adrenaline has worn off it could be a problem. He appears on injury reports this week, though he is clearly expected to play. If he isn't at full strength, it's a real concern.
Penn State at Michigan Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened widely with Michigan favored by 10.5 points. That adjusted almost instantly to the key number of 10 and has been stable there since . A solid majority of bets have been on Penn State, so it is possible we will see the number fall through 10, though likely not by much. The total opened widely at 52.5.
Penn State is 9-3 ATS in their last 12 road games and 22-7-2 ATS in their last 31 games overall. They are 16-6-1 ATS in their last 23 conference games. Michigan is 6-1 ATS in their last seven home games and 5-1 ATS in their last six conference games. They are 0-6 ATS the last six times they have come off a bye, though. The home team has covered the last four spreads for these two teams, and the favorite has covered five of six.
Penn State at Michigan Predictions and Picks
Michigan is playing very angry and very focused. And they know what is ahead of them and know that their window is open. Penn State has lost two already, and they know that their season - at least in terms of major goals - is already over. There should be a difference in motivation here. A big difference. And Michigan is playing better than Penn State on both sides of the ball right now, and they are at home. This is a lot of points to give up to a Top 15 opponent, but I don't see any choice but to give them up. Michigan is the play.
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