Roundup: College football media reacts to Michigan football win over Penn State

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What a difference a couple of weeks can make.

After Michigan football’s devastating loss in East Lansing in Week 9, the Wolverines went on the road and found a way to win over a tough Penn State team. The national media had started to jump ship in its traditional ‘this is what Michigan is and what it’s always been’ type of way, but Saturday’s game thoroughly changed that narrative. Though it might not be long-lasting, depending on what happens in two weeks against Ohio State, the Wolverines are gaining faith among those who cover the sport from a national perspective.

Here are some of the takeaways across the various big outlets.

List

Big Ten power rankings after Week 11: Conference supremacy soon to be tested

ESPN

At last, David M. Hale included a prominent section about Michigan in his postgame takeaways, without snark or backhanded compliments.

Ohio State finally delivered a truly dominant performance against a good team with a 59-31 win over giant-killer Purdue, but that shouldn’t overshadow another gritty win from Michigan in the Big Ten. The Wolverines’ 21-17 win over Penn State was reminiscent of nearly everything they’ve done this
year – ugly, physical, strangely thrilling –anchored, once again, by the two most dominant defensive forces
in the conference. Yes, Ohio State deserves to be a
front-runner for a playoff berth, but if ever there was a
year when Michigan had a real shot to finally thwart the big, bad Buckeyes, it’s this one. Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo (five combined sacks vs. Penn State) are the ultimate equalizers against an Ohio State O-line that has been inconsistent for most of the year.

USA TODAY Sports

Paul Myerberg over at the mothership included Michigan in his weekly winners and losers column, another place the Wolverines have tended to evade mention.

In recent history, these are the sort of games Michigan tends to lose: Leading Penn State 14-6 in the fourth quarter, the Wolverines allowed the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion, fumbled the ball deep in their own territory on the ensuing possession and then fell behind 17-14 with six minutes left. But Michigan responded with a 47-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cade McNamara to tight end Erick All and will remain in the thick for the playoff with the game against rival Ohio State looming at the end of November.

Bleacher Report

Adam Kramer at Bleacher Report wrote a whole article about Michigan football being for real after this win. Here’s a snippet:

Jim Harbaugh is supposed to lose this game. That’s what the blueprint says. That’s how things have gone.

That’s become the expectation at Michigan, unfair or not.

Against elite competition in the Big Ten, that’s what his teams have done. It’s a seemingly endless cycle that has pushed the head coach’s employment and the fan bases’ patience to the brink, and we witnessed it once again a few weeks ago against Michigan State.

Michigan plays hard and loses dramatically. And once it ends, the commentary quickly shifts from the individual loss to Harbaugh’s inability to meet the enormous expectations that have chased him since he touched down in Ann Arbor.

On Saturday against Penn State, there were traces of this exact script. For a while, it felt like another crippling loss to add to the collection—a trophy case that has added far too much hardware in recent years.

The offense chugged along, struggling to sustain drives or threaten much of anything outside of a few moments. The defense, which has played largely excellent since Harbaugh arrived, was again up for the challenge.

Michigan even blew a lead, which has become an unfortunate trademark of late, and that allowed familiar doubt to creep back in.

But Michigan then went off script. The offense found a big play—albeit with a tight end, which feels very Harbaugh. And the team that has demonstrated an inability to conquer close games found a way to do so on the road in a difficult environment.

Quarterback Cade McNamara made enough plays, throwing for three touchdowns. The defense allowed only 332 yards of offense. The ingredients to win a game were all in place—as has been the case in plenty of instances.

The only difference? Harbaugh won.

Michigan won.

What could have become a haunting loss morphed into a marquee win.

Read the rest over at Bleacher Report.

247Sports

Chris Hummer has Michigan football has his top winner coming out of Week 11 and has a lot to say about the job the Wolverines did in Happy Valley. He noted not only his history, but how Erick All’s touchdown may have been the most important in Jim Harbaugh’s entire coaching career.

Every college football coach has a ‘butterfly effect’ moment. Jim Harbaugh might have a few of them. If Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett getting a controversial yard on fourth down in 2016 sent Harbaugh’s Wolverines tumbling in one direction, perhaps another moment Saturday in a 21-17 win over Penn State could re-alter the course in Ann Arbor.

The play happened innocently enough, a short drag route to tight end Erick All, probably designed to get the minimum yardage to move the sticks. Penn State blitzed, taking one defender out of the equation. Then two Nittany Lion defenders, trying to cover Michigan’s array of crossing routes, collided. By the time All caught the ball near the line of scrimmage, he found himself with all of Beaver Stadium ahead of him. Forty-seven yards later, Michigan had reclaimed its lead, with a little over three minutes left. Ballgame. With two regular season games remaining, Michigan is still alive in both the Big Ten and CFB Playoff race.

There is no greater pinata in college football than Harabugh. He’s eccentric, famous and woefully unsuccessful against his rivals and elite competition. He’s never beaten Ohio State. He’s 3-4 against Michigan State. He entered the week 2-9 against ranked opponents on the road. That narrative would have been blasted again had Michigan blown a 14-6 fourth-quarter lead only two weeks removed from losing a 16-point lead over the Spartans. Instead, the Wolverines are 9-1 and it’s Penn State head coach James Franklin, who is now 2-9 against top-10 opponents in his PSU career, who is facing questions.

There’s no telling if All’s TD will truly alter the course of Harbaugh’s Michigan tenure. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a more important TD in his 81 games as the Wolverines’ head coach.

CBS Sports

Tom Fornelli has a whole breakdown with five takeaways, but we’re going to focus on his No. 3, where he says that the Mike Macdonald hire has made all the difference for what was fast becoming a lost defense.

McDonald wasn’t a well-known name when Jim Harbaugh tabbed him to take over his defense, but it’s hard to argue with the decision. This Michigan unit has been nasty at all levels this season, and it continued today. Everything Michigan does defensively starts up front with Hutchinson and Ojabo, and they did their part yet again. The duo combined for five sacks, but they were far from the only playmakers on the Michigan defense today.

Junior Colson and Josh Ross combined for 23 tackles, five different players finished with sacks and D.J. Turner broke up two passes in coverage. It’s a unit playing exceptionally well, and Jim Harbaugh better thank his brother John at Thanksgiving for recommending McDonald.

The Athletic

While this isn’t exactly praise, Stewart Mandel takes his opportunity to instead note that James Franklin should be drawing the similar ire that Jim Harbaugh tends to (from him, at least).

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has taken a lot of crap (including from me) for his 2-13 record against AP top 10 opponents, so it’s only fair to bring up that the No. 6 Wolverines’ 21-17 win at Penn State dropped James Franklin’s own AP top 10 record to 2-12. That includes three such losses over the past six weeks, with the Nittany Lions’ offense continuing to struggle. Michigan racked up seven sacks and got one timely 47-yard TD from tight end Erick All. The Wolverines (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) now need Ohio State to hand Michigan State its second loss next week so that The Game on Nov. 27 becomes a Big Ten East title game.

Meanwhile, Nicole Auerbach has Michigan football as No. 7 in her college football top 10.

Jim Harbaugh was downright giddy after the Wolverines’ 21-17 win over Penn State, and he had every right to be. His team endured a fourth-quarter comeback bid — the drive in which the Nittany Lions converted three fourth downs and a two-point conversion was one of the most impressive possessions Penn State has had all season — then had to mount its own comeback trailing by three. Michigan’s response in the form of Erick All’s 47-yard touchdown catch showed a fortitude the Wolverines haven’t always had during Harbaugh’s tenure. We’ve seen a lot of pretty good Michigan teams falter late in tough games on the road against good teams. We’ve seen drives like Penn State’s break Michigan before. But this year’s team is different, and it has a couple more wins like this under its belt to prove as much (Nebraska and Wisconsin). The selection committee clearly likes them, too. The Wolverines will almost certainly be ranked higher than this by the committee, but we honor head-to-head results here.

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