Saturday, October 24, 2009
It's game day at Michigan Stadium
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Greetings from Michigan Stadium, where in a few hours No. 13 Penn State will face Michigan in what figures to be a very exciting game.
Both teams have plenty to prove in today's contest.
Penn State needs to show it can win here, something it hasn't done since 1996, and confirm itself as a legitimate contender for the Big Ten title or possibly an at-large BCS bowl. The Lions snapped a nine-game losing streak to Michigan last year in Happy Valley, but the Wolverines hold a 10-4 edge in the all-time series, which marks Penn State's worst record against an opponent (minimum 10 meetings).
Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez is still searching for his first signature Big Ten victory. A win today combined with an Iowa loss to Michigan State could open the door for Michigan to vault back into the league title race with games against both Ohio State and Wisconsin still left on the schedule.
The weather could be a factor, as light rain is likely this afternoon with winds around 15 miles an hour.
Injuries: Penn State will be without backup running back Stephfon Green, who didn't make the trip because of an ankle injury. Lions linebacker Sean Lee tweaked his sprained knee last Saturday against Minnesota but practiced this week and expects to play. Michigan running backs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor and center David Molk are all probable for the game. Molk has been out since Sept. 19 with a broken bone in his foot.
One other personnel note: Michigan cornerback Boubacar Cissoko is eligible for the game after being suspended the last two contests. Cissoko won't start but could play.
THREE KEYS FOR PENN STATE
1. Don't lose contain on QBs: Michigan quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson both are best on the move, and it's important for Penn State's defensive front seven to keep them in the pocket. The defensive line has played very well in recent weeks, particularly tackles Jared Odrick and Ollie Ogbu, but they'll be tested by Michigan's overall speed.
2. Stop Brandon Minor: Minor was limited in practice this week because of a lingering ankle injury, but he should be ready for the game. The senior rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns last year against Penn State, and he gashed Iowa's talented defense in the third quarter on Oct. 10.
3. Daryll Clark in the clutch: Clark has accomplished a lot in his two years as Penn State's starting quarterback, but the senior still needs to prove he can win a close game. He struggled against Iowa the last two seasons and left last year's close win at Ohio State with a concussion. This game figures to come down to the fourth quarter, and Clark will need to make clutch throws.
THREE KEYS FOR MICHIGAN
1. Give Forcier the chance to create: Forcier has been at his best when freelancing, and most of his big plays come outside the pocket. Michigan's offensive line gets Molk back and gained confidence from the Iowa game, but left tackle Mark Ortmann admitted this week that Penn State's defensive front is more athletic.
2. Attack Penn State's secondary: It's hard to find weaknesses with Penn State's defensive line or linebacking corps, so Michigan should target the secondary as much as possible. Penn State did a great job containing Minnesota star wide receiver Eric Decker last week, and cornerback A.J. Wallace seems to have hit his stride. But Michigan has more weapons than the Gophers and needs to use them.
3. Stop Evan Royster: The Lions are a bit thin at running back and don't like to run Clark as much as they did last season. They'll want to pound the football with Royster, who is due for a huge game. Michigan's front seven will need to be disciplined and keep Royster from moving the ball and controlling the clock.