5. Butt, He’s Good.
If you want a look at what Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki has a chance to become, look across the field today at junior tight end Jake Butt. Butt has emerged as a force in the middle of the field for Michigan. He’s a complete tight end who’s got good speed, strong hands and is a solid blocker. He’ll be a matchup nightmare for the Penn State defense today, especially with the secondary being thinned by the loss of senior Jordan Lucas.
By athleticism, the best matchup on paper for Butt would be safety Marcus Allen. The problem is that Allen has struggled in coverage this year. Part of that may be due to injury, but the hard hitting Allen can be overly aggressive at times and mistime balls in the air. He played his best ball as a true freshman last
year in big games. Every game left on the schedule now is a big game and hopefully Allen is rested and ready to go.
4. Bye Week Boost
Speaking of rested, the banged up Penn State football team finally got a week off last week, with their bye, coming 11 weeks into the season. Every level of the offense and defense had some sort of injury that hampered them throughout the year. In the game versus Northwestern, the team simply looked tired.
Head Coach James Franklin said this week that his players, coaching and staff took advantage of the off week. The team has also scaled back practice over the last month or so to try and keep players rested for game day.
There is a fine line between rest and rust, but expect to see some more explosiveness from the Penn State Nittany Lions today.
3. Safety in Numbers
Losing Jordan Lucas was a huge blow to the Penn State defense, he wasn’t only the veteran presence
in the secondary, but he was also a versatile weapon for defensive coordinator Bob Shoop. Lucas played the slot corner, safety, and the ‘star’ outside linebacker. Now a large part of those responsibilities will fall
to redshirt junior safety Malik Golden. Golden is a rangy, athletic player but doesn’t have the football instincts of Lucas. Sophomore Troy Apke will also become more of a feature in the secondary for the rest of the year.
2. War of Attrition
This game may come down to which offensive line holds up the longest. Both teams are very stout on defense and play aggressively. The Michigan offensive line is fundamentally sound, but not overly athletic or dominant. The Penn State offensive line has had two weeks to rest up and lick their wounds. The hope for Penn State fans is that they will come out aggressive and open up early holes for Saquon Barkley. Penn State must rely on their ground game to set up their passing game. The Michigan defense is sound, but can be overly aggressive at times. Doing this will open up plays down the field for the passing game. Which leads us to…
1. Explosive plays
Head Coach James Franklin said this about the Michigan Defense,
“They play press man coverage across the board. They load the box up and make you work for it. Nothing is given against this defense, they make you earn every yard.”
While that is the case, that also means that there are plenty of opportunities for explosive plays down the field for the Penn State offense. As it has for the past few weeks, the Penn State offense will rely on two skill players; Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin. Yes, Jabril Peppers and Jourdan Lewis a very good players, but Godwin is a superstar in the making. He can make plays on just about anyone he goes up against.
As mentioned before, Michigan likes to crowd the box. If Barkley can get to the second level, there are some serious yards to be gained. He’s rested, and close to 100% according to Franklin.
This is a game that Penn State can win. This is also a game that they can easily lose. It will be up to a
lot of young Nittany Lions to come through and play older than their years indicate. With a White Out,
and senior day emotions running through the stadium, they have a great shot at beating the 14th ranked Michigan Wolverines.