No. 2 Penn State hosts Michigan Saturday night; Here’s what you need to know
UNIVERSITY PARK — Now, the fun begins for No. 2 Penn State.
The Nittany Lions face the first of two huge tests Saturday night when they host Michigan in a prime-time Big Ten showdown at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.
The game is a White Out.
Penn State is coming off a bye week. The Lions ascended to No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, their highest ranking since 1999. Michigan comes in ranked No. 19 by the AP and No. 15 in the coaches poll. It’s the first match up between Top 25 teams in Beaver Stadium since No. 12 Penn State faced No. 19 Nebraska on Nov. 12, 2011.
Happy Valley will also host ESPN’s College GameDay, as the popular pregame show will visit campus for the first time since 2009, broadcasting live from 9 a.m. to noon.
Here’s what you need to know about the game:
Penn State (6-0) vs. Michigan (5-1)
KICKOFF: 7:30 p.m.
BETTING LINE: Penn State is listed as an 9.5-point favorite
THE SERIES: Michigan has a 13-7 all-time record against Penn State, including a 6-4 mark at Beaver Stadium
COLLEGE GAME DAY IN HAPPY VALLEY: Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and the rest of the gang from the popular ESPN college football pregame show will be in town before the game.
Pollock Road will be closed starting at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, and will remain closed through 6 p.m. Saturday.
Fans interested in standing in the “pit” behind the GameDay stage should be aware of the following guidelines:
- Fans may begin lining up for access to the pit at 4 a.m. Saturday. The pit will open at 6:30 a.m. (No overnight camping)
- No bags, backpacks or purses will be permitted
- No offensive, vulgar, inappropriate signage will be allowed (i.e. no political, religous, or .com, .org, or .net signage)
- No signs or flags on sticks
- No pens, pencils, markers or dry erase boards
- No food or drinks
- Throwing of objects is prohibited
The Beaver Stadium parking lots will open at 8 a.m.
ABOUT PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions are off to a 6-0 start for the first time since 2008, when the team won its first nine games.
The Lions will be trying to avenge their last regular-season loss when they face the Wolverines, who hammered them 49-10 in Ann Arbor last season. Penn State has won 14 straight regular-season games since then, including their last 12 against Big Ten competition. Their Rose Bowl loss to USC is the only blemish on their record since.
Saquon Barkley continues to lead the FBS in all-purpose yards per game this season (217.0) and career all-purpose yards per game among active players (145.5), while quarterback Trace McSorley leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game (266.2).
McSorley has thrown a touchdown pass in 21 consecutive games, which is a school record. It is the third-longest active streak in FBS behind Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield (31) and Marshall’s Chase Litton (26). McSorley has completed 130 of 194 passes for 1,597 yards and 13 touchdowns with four interceptions this season.
Barkley, a Heisman Trophy candidate, has 701 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 102 carries and a team-high 29 catches for 395 yards and two scores. He is averaging 32.2 yards per return as a kick returner and has one return TD.
Juwon Johnson (24-303, TD), DaeSean Hamilton (22-366, four TDs), and tight end Mike Gesicki (22-176, four TDs) are the other Penn State players with at least 20 catches this season.
Penn State averages 456 yards per game on offense.
The Nittany Lions lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 9.0 points per game, while Michigan leads the nation in total defense, giving up just 223.8 yards per game.
Penn State has seen contributions throughout its entire defense, with 26 different Lions recording a tackle for loss this season. Seniors Jason Cabinda and Marcus Allen are among the top tacklers, while Christian Campbell and Grant Haley are among the Big Ten leaders in passes defended.
The White Out tradition began in 2004. Saturday will mark the 10th time the Nittany Lions host a full-stadium White Out game. Penn State is 4-5 in full-stadium White Out games, including a 1-1 record against Michigan. The Wolverines have been the opponent in five White Out games overall. The Wolverines were the opponent in two student section-only white outs (2006 & 2010).
ABOUT MICHIGAN: The Wolverines are coached by Jim Harbaugh, who is in his third season at the helm after a four-year stint with the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and three years as head coach at Stanford. Harbaugh is the only coach to win both the AP NFL Coach of the Year award and the Woody Hayes Coach of the Year award for college football. A former All-American quarterback at Michigan, Harbaugh played in the NFL for 15 years.
Michigan is coming off a 27-20 overtime victory at Indiana last week. Prior to that, the Wolverines suffered their only loss of the season, a 14-10 setback against Michigan State. That loss snapped Michigan’s four-game winning streak, which featured victories over Florida (33-17), Cincinnati (36-14), Air Force (29-13) and Purdue (28-10).
The Wolverines have the nation’s top-ranked defense, allowing just 223.8 yards per game. They’ve held all six of their opponents to season-low offensive numbers. Michigan also leads the country in third-down conversion percentage (.205) and passing efficiency defense (88.85). Opponents have scored just 14.7 points per game against Michigan this season.
Linebacker Devin Bush is Michigan’s top tackler, leading the conference with an average of eight stops per game. Chase Winovich anchors the Wolverines’ defensive line. He is second on the team in tackles and leads the team in sacks, with five.
The Wolverines lean on their running game offensively, ranking fourth in the Big Ten (185.0). RB Karan Higdon rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries at Indiana, as the Wolverines totaled 329 yards on the ground. He’s got 401 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, while platoon mate Ty Isaac 403 yards and a score on 16 carries.
Returning starter Wilson Speight was lost for the season with an injury he suffered against Purdue. John O’Korn has taken over for Speight and has completed 45 of 82 passes for 563 yards and a touchdown, with four picks.
Junior Grant Perry (18-224, TD) is the team’s leading receiver.