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Michigan Wolverines vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Point Spread - Pick

Michigan Wolverines (5-1 SU, 2-3-1 ATS) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (6-0 SU, 4-1-1 ATS)
College Football Week 8
Date/Time: Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 7:30PM EST
Where: Beaver Stadium, University Park, Pennsylvania

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper,

Point Spread: MICH +10/PSU -10
Over/Under Total: 42

In Big Ten Conference action, the Michigan Wolverines come to Beaver Stadium to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State is sitting pretty, ranked number-two in the nation and with some big things on the table if they can continue their winning ways. They are coming off a break, last playing on the 7th in a 31-7 road win over Northwestern. They are 6-0 and look really good heading into the more-difficult part of their conference schedule. They host a Michigan team that barely escaped with a 27-20 overtime road win against Indiana on Saturday. The Wolverines got the win and that's what counts, but whatever midseason slump they are in better work its way out before this game.

Last season, the Nittany Lions finished strongly, looking like one of the better teams in the country by season's end. But they started the season a bit ragged and a big part of that was their 49-10 loss at Ann Arbor to the Wolverines. They look to exact some revenge this season, as a lot of things have changed since that meeting in late-September of last year. After easy wins over Akron, Pittsburgh, and Georgia State, Penn St. had to grind a win over Iowa on the road, 21-19. Routine wins over Indiana and Northwestern followed, leading up to this battle. The Penn State offense has star-power and balance, with a defense that has allowed a scant 54 points in 6 games, along with two shutouts.

Penn State senior quarterback Trace McSorley is a winner and his performance has been big for the Nittany Lions offense this season. He is nearing 1600 yards through 6 games with 13 touchdowns through the air and another 4 on the ground. In the backfield is one of the best in the country, with Saquon Barkley gaining 649 yards on the ground with 6 scores. With 395 yards and two touchdowns, he is also the team's leading receiver. Senior receiver DaeSean Hamilton is also a valuable aerial weapon, along with Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins. They're a big reason the team has gone 15-1 since losing to Michigan by 39 last season.

This season, the Penn State defense has been knocking it out of the park. At home this season, they've allowed 28 points in 4 games. Making more plays on this side of the ball was a big preseason concern and so far, this unit has delivered by getting 17 turnovers on the season. Corner Amani Oruwariye has three picks. Shaka Toney and Ryan Buchholz are effective at defensive end. CB Christian Campbell had a pick against Nortwestern. Opponents score at only a 60% clip when they get into the red-zone. This is not a suffocating defense, per se, but they really tighten up when they need to and they play as a group, which counts for a lot.

Michigan has come down to earth after a 4-0 start where hopes were really high. And not that there is no more hope, as some big things are still on the table for Big Blue if they were able to snap it into gear. They are playing with a backup quarterback and their defense isn't quite as sharp as it was to open the season. The loss to Michigan State at home was a bad blow, as well. But a win over a highly-ranked Penn State team would go a long way toward making up for that and getting the Wolverines back into the spotlight.


Not that Wilton Speight was lighting the world on fire as Michigan quarterback, but John O'Korn has been decidedly substandard filling in behind center. In the last two games, he has completed 26 of 55 passes with no scores and three picks. It's just that a passing-game that wasn't so good to begin with is now really struggling. The run-game is the saving grace. Karan Higdon was huge on Saturday with 200 yards, three touchdowns, and a bunch of big runs that kept Michigan in the game. In the first play of OT, he took it the distance for a TD, forcing Indiana's hand, as the Wolverines' defense responded for the win. But all told, it's a one-dimensional offense that can't really seem to get much separation from conference opponents.

The Michigan defense needs to be big on Saturday for the Blue to stand a chance. That seems weird to say about a team that won last season's game by 39 points, but the playing field has obviously changed. The defense is still tip-top and the 20 points given up to Indiana on Saturday is actually a season-high for this group. And ten of that came in the last 3+ minutes of the game, as it wasn't the most-clutch showing from this defense this season. But they stepped up in overtime. Up-front, they need big games from Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary (questionable), and from guys like LB Devin Bush. If they are to cover or have a shot at a win, this bunch needs to be big this week.

Michigan seems to have more appeal as an underdog. But when entertaining them for that role in this game, it's hard to picture the offense having enough horsepower for this task, especially aerially. Penn State's defense has been allowing close to nothing and it seems like a strange week for Michigan's offense to suddenly flourish. Then again, the Michigan defense was quite adept at it last season. Again, a ton has changed and I see a full-strength Penn State bunch sticking it a bit to the Wolverines this week.

Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Penn State Nittany Lions minus 10 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Michigan vs. Penn State game by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 50% sign-up bonus!

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