Big Boys Do Battle in the East of the Big 10 as Penn State Hosts Michigan
There is not so much a line of demarcation in the East Division of the Big Ten than there is a chasm. On one side are the haves – No. 4 Ohio State, No. 7 Penn State, and
No. 16 Michigan. On the other side are the have-nots — Michigan State (for this season), Indiana, Maryland, and Rutgers.
The road to the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis is more than likely to go through Columbus, but the first stop on that route is Saturday at Happy Valley where Penn State hosts Michigan looking to stay unbeaten.
The Nittany Lions, who are 9-point favorites and -350 to win on the money line according to the Sportsbook at FanDuel, have matched the Buckeyes win for win thus far – they are 6-0 overall and 3-0 in Big Ten play. Penn State survived its first real challenge last week, winning 17-12 at then-No. 17 Iowa last weekend behind 102 rushing yards and a touchdown from Noah Cain.
Cain leads a ground game by committee that also features quarterback Sean Clifford as a dual threat. Penn State has averaged 191.2 rushing yards while ringing up 18 touchdowns. Cain has six of those scores and is one of four players with at least 200 rushing yards.
Clifford continues to be effective under center, throwing for 1,560 yards and 13 touchdowns with just two interceptions. KJ Hamler remains his favorite target, pacing the Nittany Lions receiving corps with 26 catches, 455 yards, and five TDs.
James Franklin’s team has a seven-game home winning streak dating back to last season, giving up just 74 points in those games while averaging 38. Penn State has not allowed more than 13 points in any of its four home wins this season and is second in the nation in scoring defense overall at 8.2 points allowed per game.
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Michigan Football Odds as They Travel to Happy Valley Looking for the Upset
For the Wolverines (5-1, 3-1) – a +265 option on the money line — this is the first of two games that offer an opportunity to play their way back into the College Football Playoff picture. Michigan, which has won three straight since being humbled 35-14 at Wisconsin, hosts Notre Dame next week. If Jim Harbaugh’s team sweeps these two games, it has the inside track on second in the East and sets up a titanic showdown at home versus Ohio State in its annual grudge match.
Shea Patterson has still yet to show a week-to-week mastery of Josh Gattis’ offense. Patterson threw for three touchdowns in last week’s 42-25 victory at Illinois but completed just 11 of 22 passes. Patterson has 1,246 passing yards and nine TDs overall but is connecting at just a 57.1 percent clip.
Michigan’s defense has also recovered since that bruising loss to the Badgers, holding opponents to 111 rushing yards combined and an average of 223 overall. The Wolverines have also forced seven turnovers in those games, but they have a minus-1 overall turnover differential.
The over/under for this game is 47, and it should be noted Michigan also boasts a top-15 team nationally in scoring defense, yielding 17.5 points per game. The Wolverines have won four of the last five between the teams, including a 42-7 hammering last season, but they were trounced 42-13 in their last visit to Penn State.
–By Chris Altruda