Michigan Wolverines football is set to host Penn State at noon ET today on ABC.
Here is a look at what they’re saying across the internet heading into the game:
The Breakdown: Michigan Wolverines Football vs. Penn State
Michigan has been without its top seven players, arguably, for long stretches of the season, including all of its projected NFL talent. Corner Ambry Thomas, receiver Nico Collins, tackle Jalen Mayfield, ends Kwity Paye and Aidan Hutchinson, and more recently Cameron McGrone and Brad Hawkins have all missed time, the former two opting out.
Those listening closely to ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit might have caught his response to colleague Rece Davis when Davis said, “Michigan is more talented.”
“Mmmm … maybe a little,” Herbstreit said.
U-M has some areas to shore up in recruiting, and at the positions in which they appear to be quite talented — offensive line, for example — they’re extremely young and haven’t had a lot of time to jell. Some of the players on this team also need to invest more passion.
Penn State, meanwhile, has started 0-5 for the first time in school history, but Michigan could bring out the best in the Nittany Lions. They’ve got nothing to lose, and while a victory over U-M won’t turn their season around — it’s over — beating a “name” program can at least ease the sting.
Expect a down-to-the-wire affair, but a lot depends on McNamara being more than a flash in the pan.
Michigan: Everybody in the college football world was already talking about Jim Harbaugh‘s job status at Michigan before last week. I don’t think a triple-overtime win against Rutgers will be enough to put out those fires. Still, a win is a win, and Michigan very much needed one. If there’s any reason to be optimistic, it’s that in Michigan’s last two games, Cade McNamara has replaced Joe Milton at quarterback during the game and provided a spark offensively. While Michigan hasn’t made it official, McNamara is expected to start against Penn State.
Penn State: These last few weeks of the season will be the most challenging coaching job James Franklin has had in his career. It’s not just that the team is 0-5. It’s that the team is 0-5 as the holiday season is approaching, has nothing left to play for but pride and is doing so amid a pandemic. A pandemic that has placed a lot of added pressure on the players and stricter guidelines they have to follow. Keeping his team motivated to play and buy in will be extremely difficult for Franklin, but if nothing else, taking out some of the frustration on Michigan could prove to be a boost for all involved. A win in this game won’t fix anything, but it would be a reason to smile. Finally.
Which Week 13 Big Ten Game Will Be Most Entertaining?
It’s Penn State-Michigan, and frankly it’s not even close. And no, it’s not a great week for the conference in terms of matchups overall, but this would likely be my answer no matter what.
Now, let’s reset our emotions for a moment. “Entertaining” does not mean “good.” Although in this instance, I believe the football content has the potential to be outstanding.
How often do you have a game where both the winning and losing fanbases are destined to be miserable after? That is precisely what we have coming up.
Penn State is 0-5. Michigan is 2-3 (barely). The message boards for each have become magnificent dumpster fires. We’ve got hot seat discussions. We’ve got a bit of everything.
And yes, the game should be close. That is not to say it will be high-level football, but it will be competitive football.
The aftermath? Well, that will be the best part. No matter the victory, someone is going to be very mad, and I am here for it. You should be as well, unless, of course, you root for one of these two teams.
Adam’s right about Penn State at Michigan. There will be hilarity over the mutual states of ineptitude, and we could all use a good laugh these days.
But for the less masochistic viewers who actually want to watch something resembling good football, the clear choice here is Maryland at Indiana.
I will admit, I was extremely hesitant to believe in the Hoosiers. Not much was expected in the preseason, and I watched nearly every snap of that opener against Penn State, in which the Nittany Lions had roughly three times the total yardage of the Hoosiers after the first 58 minutes. Up until last week’s impressive showing against the Buckeyes, I stubbornly held onto my belief that this was just a smoke-and-mirrors team.
If the bandwagon will still have me, though, I’m in on Indiana as a possible College Football Playoff team, and I think they’ll back that up with a strong win over 2-1 Maryland.
The Hoosiers weren’t ranked quite as high as I was expecting on Tuesday, but No. 12 still puts them within striking distance—considering they could still make a really nice impression on the selection committee by comfortably winning at Wisconsin next week. They almost certainly either need Notre Dame to lose twice or hand Clemson its second loss of the season in order for the No. 4 seed to open up, but I could see the Hoosiers leapfrogging a bunch of teams over the next four weeks.
McNamara is 6-foot-1 and weighs 205 pounds. His arm doesn’t resemble a bazooka. He doesn’t run like a gazelle. But at his Nevada high school, he shredded defenses. Over four years, he threw for 12,084 yards and completed 770 passes, emerging as a four-star prospect before committing to Michigan in March 2018. As McNamara began his college career, he faded into the background. Buried on the depth chart behind quarterbacks with more experience, he bided his time and coveted his opportunity.
“Cade is a competitive dude when it comes to outworking people,” tight end Nick Eubanks said. “He works on his craft every day after practice. I told him in the summer to keep chipping away because his time would come.”
It finally did with Michigan on the verge of an embarrassing result in New Jersey. With his offense at a standstill, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh turned to McNamara. Afterward, Harbaugh raved about his backup quarterback’s performance and called it “gritty.”
“His play was inspiring, so yeah, can’t say enough great things,” Harbaugh said. “So proud of him.”
[Quarterback trainer Jordan] Palmer was, too.
But he also wasn’t surprised.
“At all,” he said.
Instead, he saw this coming.
His confidence in McNamara was only surpassed by the young quarterback’s belief in himself.
“This is not too big for him,” Palmer said.
McNamara’s last impression — the one that now matters most — confirmed as much.
This wasn’t the type of matchup anyone imagined before the season, but here they are – Michigan, struggling to climb out of a hole and reach .500, and Penn State, looking for a bit of respectability after a program-worst 0-5 start.
Michigan is 2-3 after a come-from-behind, triple-overtime victory at Rutgers last weekend and appears to have found some rhythm in the offense with quarterback Cade McNamara taking over as starter and Hassan Haskins getting in the groove at running back. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have been undermined by shaky quarterback play and turnover challenges.
The teams play Saturday at Michigan Stadium, where UM is 0-2 this season. Three games remain during the abbreviated Big Ten season and there is an additional crossover game during what the Big Ten is calling “Champions Week.”
Both have been heavily outscored in the first half this season. Penn State has been outscored 117-33 while Michigan’s deficit is 100-59, including a 28-0 halftime deficit in a 49-11 loss to Wisconsin. Getting off to a fast start obviously is a goal for both teams on Saturday.
Michigan players have said since the win over Rutgers that the Wolverines’ mantra is taking it week-by-week, starting from scratch at 0-0 and looking to make it 1-0 each Saturday. They’re trying to avoid being emotionally flat as they appeared to be – and as some players admitted – during the three-game losing streak.
“The defense, we’ve got to find a way to bring our own energy whether the offense is struggling or whether they’re not struggling, whether it’s Joe (Milton) in or Cade (McNamara) is in there,” defensive lineman Donovan Jeter said this week. “We as a defense have got to find a way to bring our own energy and feed off each other.”
But how do players find that energy?
“One, celebrating big plays with each other, hyping each other up, and when things do go sideways and things do go wrong, just coming back to the sideline, not yelling at each other, not any of that,” Jeter said. “It’s sticking together and sticking to the game plan and just keep playing hard for each other.”
When Michigan Has the Ball
The same question that is being asked today is the one that was we all asked after the Week 1 win vs. Minnesota — has Michigan finally found its quarterback? Things are a bit less optimistic now with McNamara than it was with Joe Milton considering he was just the backup prior to last week, but it’s hard to overlook a four-touchdown performance in his first extended action of the season. The spark McNamara gave the entire offense was noticeable as the Wolverines finished the game with just under 500 yards.
Using a rotation a running back for most of the season, Michigan relied on junior Hassan Haskins for much of the game in the backfield. He leads all Wolverine backs with 111 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries. No other running back had more than six attempts in a game, though the coaching staff noted this week that they will continue to rotate a number of guys in the backfield. Sophomore receiver Cornelius Johnson had a breakout performance with 105 yards and two touchdowns on five receptions. Seven different receivers had four or more catches on the night.
Saturday will present the Wolverines with an opportunity to keep the offensive momentum headed in the right direction when they take on a Penn State defense that is giving up 36.0 points per game — coincidentally tied with the Wolverines for 12th in the conference.
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