Penn State is rightfully a top-10 ranked team, and it will play like it come game time. Fortunately, Michigan has the firepower to fight back, and should win this game. But unlike most weeks, they will need some hero performances if they want to leave Happy Valley — well — happy.
Last year Edwards and Corum combined for 339 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Will the same two players step up, or will Michigan be hailing a new hero in the postgame locker room celebration?
Karsen Barnhart, OT
Same idea as last week.
Penn State has a likely first-round pick rushing the passer, and Michigan’s tackle duo has struggled at times this year. They absolutely must be on top of their game if the offense wants to run smoothly.
Barnhart and Henderson did a solid job against Purdue last week, but Chop Robinson (should he return from injury) presents a different level of problem for the offensive line. It’s crucial that Michigan can get some pocket time and open up gaps in the run game.
Junior Colson, LB
Making strong tackles in the box is the best way to put Penn State’s offense in uncomfortable positions.
The Nittany Lions have a strong running back duo, but Drew Allar does not scare me in passing situations. If Colson can get Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton down on first contact, Michigan has a good chance at forcing passing situations which opens up the blitz.
Tyler Morris, WR
Obviously Roman Wilson and Cornelius Johnson are the first two options, but Penn State has done a pretty good job taking away opponents’ top receivers (except Marvin Harrison Jr.). Tai Felton led Maryland in receiving yards last Saturday and Dequece Carter led Indiana two weeks ago. Neither player is higher than third on their team in receiving yards.
Tyler Morris is set for a breakout game. He may not have been the team’s top target so far this season with just 10 catches, but he has flashed at times and has been somewhat reliabile. He and freshman Semaj Morgan may split slot duties against PSU, but I expect Morris to get open early and often.
Will Johnson, CB
KeAndre Lambert-Smith is the only player on Penn State above 250 receiving yards this season. He leads PSU with 645 yards, and is the only clear threat this passing game presents.
Will Johnson can be the answer here. I trust him in one-on-one coverage, but if the staff thinks Wallace and a safety are safer options with Johnson on WR2, I understand that as well. The point is, Lambert-Smith has to be limited. Allar is not fully developed as a playmaker and is a little panicked when throwing to other receivers. Forcing him to go through a progression or hit a tight window puts Michigan in a great spot defensively.
Mullings and Corum will probably split carries here, but either way it’s crucial they are at the top of their game. Penn State allows just 2.2 yards per carry with seven or more defenders in the box, making them a legitimate test on the goal line or third and short.
U-M is excellent at picking up short yardage, but something must give with two powerhouses at each other’s throats. Michigan cannot be forced to punt on third and two or shorter. It simply cannot happen.