Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Penn State Nittany Lions (6-1 SU, 2-4 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (5-2 SU, 5-2 ATS), 3:30 p.m. EST, NCAA Week 8, Saturday, October 24, 2009, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Mich. TV: ABC/ESPN
by Ryno of

Point Spread: Penn State -4.5/Michigan +4.5
Over/Under: 48

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Two of the top teams in the Big Ten meet with bragging rights on the line and a chance to keep their BCS hopes alive, as the Michigan Wolverines host the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Penn State is one slip-up away from being right in the mix for a National Championship, but a 21-10 loss to Iowa ended those hopes. Since then, the Nittany Lions have convincing victories over Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Minnesota.

The Nittany Lions defense has been absolutely superb all season long. They’ve only given up more than seven points twice, in the 21-10 loss to Iowa and the 35-17 win over Illinois. In the 20-0 win over Minnesota, they allowed just 138 total yards of offense. They bothered Minnesota’s QB all game long, allowing him to complete 10-of-21 pass attempts for 101 yards and an interception. They gave up just 37 yards on the ground, with 11 yards being the highest any Minnesota running back reached.

Penn State is tied with Florida for the least points allowed per game, at 8.7. The Nittany Lions are fifth in the country in total yards allowed per game, with 238.9.

The offense has been the question mark at times for Penn State. QB Darryl Clark has struggled at times, especially in the Iowa loss. He has totaled 1,654 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Those seven interceptions have been a problem for Clark. But the PSU running attack has been solid. Evan Royster has 641 rushing yards, four touchdowns and a 5.8 yards-per-carry average. Stephfon Green has 248 rushing yards, three touchdowns and a 5.1 yards-per-carry average.

Michigan started the season 4-0, highlighted by last minute victories over Notre Dame and Indiana. Then, the Wolverines hit the road for the first time and suffered two straight losses at Michigan State and Iowa. They were able to bounce back from the losses with a 63-6 win over Delaware State, but it will take a strong effort to knock off Penn State.

The Wolverines have been led by their freshman QB, Tate Forcier. He led the Wolverines on comeback touchdown drives to win against Notre Dame and Indiana. In seven games, he has totaled 1,027 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions.

While Forcier has been impressive as a freshman, the Wolverines rely heavily on their running attack. They have run the ball 298 times as compared to 175 pass attempts. A number of players split the carries, including Carlos Brown, Brandon Minor, Denard Robinson, Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw.

Michigan has had the opposite problems as Penn State. The Wolverines have scored at least 31 points in every home game, but their defense hasn’t been spectacular.

The Wolverines will be pumped up to try and get this win over Penn State. But they haven’t proved yet that they are capable of pulling that off. The Wolverines could easily 3-4 right now if it weren’t for last minute touchdowns against Notre Dame and Indiana. Those two wins are their only wins this season over BCS teams. Meanwhile, Penn State has dominated on defense all season long. Other than the loss to Iowa, the Nittany Lions have won every game by at least 18 points.

Michigan will have to pound it on the ground all game long and control the clock. When the Nittany Lions get the ball, they will run the ball a lot and control the clock, so it’s important for Michigan to beat them to the punch and get the lead early. If the Wolverines can establish a running attack, they can mix it up with some play action passes by Forcier.

Penn State is 6-2 SU in its last eight road games, but 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games against Michigan. The total has gone over in four of Penn State’s last five road games. Michigan has won nine of its last 10 games against Penn State, so the Wolverines clearly have Penn State’s number. But Penn State ended the nine-game series winning streak by Michigan with a 46-17 victory over the Wolverines last season.

Ryno’s Pick: If Michigan was 3-4 instead of 5-2, the line would be much different than 4.5. And Michigan could easily be 3-4 if it weren’t for comeback victories over Notre Dame and Indiana. Michigan has scored a lot of points, but Penn State’s defense is arguably the best in the country, so the Wolverines are unlikely to score many points in this game. The reason this line is so low is because Michigan is at home and has won nine of the last 10 matchups with Penn State. But it’s evident that Penn State is easily the better team. Take Penn State -4.5.