No. 5 Michigan plays host to No. 10 Penn State on Saturday in a game that is not only one of the most anticipated contests of the Big Ten season but also of the entire 2022 college football season so far. Both teams enter the game with undefeated records, but there’s still a lot left to learn about each. This top-10 showdown will be the best way to learn more about the Wolverines and Nittany Lions.
Outside of a seven-point win over Maryland, Michigan has hardly broken a sweat this season. It played one of the easiest nonconference schedules in the country, and its only road games have come against an Iowa team that struggles to score 10 points every week and an Indiana team that has lost 11 of its last 12 Big Ten games.
Meanwhile, Penn State’s schedule has been much tougher. The Nittany Lions struggled in their opener against Purdue but ultimately pulled out the win. They blew out Auburn on the road, but while it’s never easy to win on the road in the SEC, Auburn might finish last in the SEC West.
This is far and away the biggest test either team will have faced in 2022, and it is almost certainly a must-win if either hopes to win the Big Ten East.
Michigan vs. Penn State: Need to know
J.J. McCarthy is fifth nationally in passing efficiency: Does that surprise you? It surprised me. The Michigan QB is fifth nationally in passing efficiency at 182.05 behind Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, TCU’s Max Duggan, North Carolina’s Drake Maye and Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall. He’s ahead of quarterbacks like Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Kansas‘ Jalon Daniels, who have all garnered early-season Heisman hype. So why hasn’t anybody noticed McCarthy?
It’s partially due to Michigan not playing any big games yet, but it’s also volume. McCarthy throws far fewer pass attempts than the other names mentioned. He averages 20 attempts per game, which ranks outside the top 100 nationally. When he does throw, however, he’s been very effective. Perhaps this week is the first time he needs to increase the volume.
Penn State has two very good freshman running backs: I spent a good portion of the preseason hyping five-star freshman Nick Singleton as somebody who would explode onto the scene in 2022. Well, Singleton leads Penn State in rushing with 463 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 7.35 yards per carry, but he’s not the only option at the Nittany Lions’ disposal. Fellow freshman Kaytron Allen has rushed for 303 yards and three touchdowns as he and Singleton have split carries for the most part (Keyvone Lee has gotten 24). This week will provide a big test for both; Michigan is allowing only 2.62 yards per carry in the run game, which ranks second in the Big Ten and sixth nationally.
The last three meetings have all been close: From 2016-18, these teams alternated wins with each being a blowout. Michigan won by 39 in 2016 and 35 in 2018, while Penn State won by 29 in 2017. The last three meetings have been much closer. The Nittany Lions beat the Wolverines 28-21 in 2019 and 27-17 in Ann Arbor in 2020. Last season, in State College, Michigan got back in the win column with a 21-17 win. I don’t know who wins this week, but I hope the streak of closer games continues.
How to watch Michigan vs. Penn State live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 15 | Time: 12 p.m. ET
Location: Michigan Stadium — Ann Arbor, Michigan
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Michigan vs. Penn State prediction, picks
Featured Game | Michigan Wolverines vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
While I can’t be sure what I know about either of these teams just yet, my inkling is that the defenses remain stronger than the offenses. The Michigan offense has been too reliant on Blake Corum for big plays in recent weeks, and Penn State’s improved offensive line hasn’t been tested the same way it will be this week. We’re much more likely to see a lower-scoring game than a high-scoring affair (none of the last four meetings crossed the 50-point mark). Prediction: Under 51.5
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