Penn State returns to the Big House, scene of what turned out to be one of the defining moments of James Franklin's program. Michigan laid a 49-10 licking on the Lions back on Sept. 24, 2016, dropping Penn State to 2-2 and leading people to wonder openly if Franklin was the right man to lead the team. But led by quarterback Trace McSorley, the team pulled together and embarked on a nine-game winning streak capped by the Big Ten Championship victory over Wisconsin.
The teams are more evenly matched this time. However, while Penn State is in a stretch in which it can't seem to get all three phases of the game going at the same time, Michigan has been dominant behind its attacking defense. The Wolverines have allowed the fewest total yards and fewest yards through the air in the nation. They stop people on third down. Defensive end Chase Winovich plays every snap as if it's his last, and aggressive linebacker Devin Bush is the team's No. 1 tackler.
Michigan is one of the nation's best teams at controlling the football, with an average 34-minute, 18-second time of possession. With quarterback Shea Patterson, the Wolverines have someone who can throw effectively and run when needed. Karan Higdon has rushed for 100 yards or more in six consecutive games, and the team is 11-0 all-time when he does that.
Since Penn State's back-to-back losses to Ohio State and Michigan State, the team posted a shaky win over Indiana and made enough mistakes to lose to Iowa if not for Nick Scott's clutch interception with the Hawkeyes inside the 5-yard line late in the fourth quarter. They would need to play error-free football – no turnovers, no dropped passes, a minimum of penalties – to beat Michigan.