Michigan vs Penn State Odds, Picks: Your Big Ten Betting Preview
James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Michigan running back Blake Corum.
Michigan vs Penn State Odds
-115o / -105u
|Penn State Odds|
-115o / -105u
Separation Saturday kicks off with two undefeated teams from the Big Ten East Division — and neither is named Ohio State.
The series between Michigan and Penn State could not be more even through the last decade, with each winning five and the Wolverines covering in six of the 10. Dating back nearly 20 years, Michigan has won eight of the 10 games played in Ann Arbor.
Michigan returns home after two consecutive conference games on the road. The Wolverines broke away in Kinnick Stadium for the cover against Iowa, but a grind against Indiana saw head coach Jim Harbaugh fall just short of a cover.
The Wolverines struggled in expected points on rushing attempts, but the Hoosiers are one of the best defenses in limiting chunk yards.
Penn State hits the road after two consecutive games at home before a bye week. Head coach James Franklin owns an 8-9 record against the spread in weeks following a bye, cashing just once at the window since the 2020 pandemic season.
Although the Nittany Lions are undefeated, wins over Auburn and Central Michigan were assisted by a net-positive eight turnovers. Penn State put on a defensive clinic before the bye week against Northwestern, allowing only two drives to cross the 40-yard line, resulting in no points.
There should be plenty of credit given to Harbaugh for the seamless transition to new coordinators after last year's run to the College Football Playoff.
Defensive coordinator Jesse Minter has continued the defensive dominance despite losing contributions to the trench. Edge Mike Morris has the highest pass rush productivity grade of any defender in college football with at least 100 snaps.
Overall Havoc numbers are down from a season ago, but this is the highest-graded defense in terms of tackling, per PFF.
— JOSE ALVARES (@Alvaresjose11) September 3, 2022
The rush defense is lacking in the advanced statistics with no individual player graded in the top 200 of PFF rush defense. However, the defense ranks 17th in Line Yards and has dominated inferior teams by limiting Indiana and Iowa to a combined 54 yards rushing on 49 attempts.
Only three rushing attempts have gone over 20 yards this season — a number that will be challenged by Penn State.
The offense has seen no drop-off after adding co-coordinators following last year's College Football Playoff run. Matt Weiss and Sherrone Moore balanced snaps between two quarterbacks until Cade McNamara got injured, leaving starting duties to JJ McCarthy.
McNamara is not the only offensive player dealing with injury for the Wolverines, as tight end Erick All and lineman Trente Jones find themselves in a similar boat.
Luckily for Michigan, Karsen Barnhart returned from injury to fill the roll at offensive tackle after recording 606 career snaps in three previous seasons. Barnhart was the second-highest-graded lineman in blocking in 49 snaps against Indiana.
As for McNamara, there's no timetable for his return. His father has also denied any rumors of a potential transfer.
Share your source Adam[!!
— Gary McNamara (@GaryMcNamara23) October 11, 2022
After a spree of fumbles against Maryland and Iowa, McCarthy played a clean game against Indiana on a half-dozen rushing attempts. The quarterback threw his first interception of the season against the Hoosiers and has now tossed nearly as many turnover-worthy plays as big-time throws.
The Michigan offense has recorded the second-most standard down plays this season, which is easily the biggest key against the Nittany Lions.
Franklin had numerous items to address during the bye week, from player health to preparing for a trio of Big Ten games that will decide the season.
The biggest area of focus comes on quarterback Sean Clifford after numerous lackluster results. The fifth-year signal-caller has more turnover-worthy plays than big-time throws — a stark contrast to last season under coordinator Mike Yurcich.
Clifford has cut his big-time throw rate in half while also posting the lowest average-depth-of-target number of his career.
The offensive line has fallen outside the top 50 in pass blocking, which has a direct relationship with Clifford's efficiency under pressure.
True freshman Nick Singleton after this 54-yard TD:
2 TD pic.twitter.com/f0x2ozmuq9
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 17, 2022
The great news for the Penn State passing attack is the return of a running game after a multi-year absence.
Nick Singleton averages an astounding five yards after contact with seven explosive runs on 63 rushing attempts. Over half of the rushing attempts have come outside the hashes with plenty of success.
New defensive coordinator Manny Diaz has continued Penn State's strength in terms of creating Havoc.
The Nittany Lions rank third nationally thanks to leading the nation in pass breakups. Penn State averages 11.2 passes defensed per game, an astronomical number compared to 7.3 for runner-up Pitt. A triumvirate of cornerbacks in Joey Porter Jr., Kalen King and Johnny Dixon lead the charge in forced incompletions.
The front seven has been just as instrumental in stopping the rush, ranking 10th in Stuff Rate and Line Yards.
PJ Mustipher continues to be a wrecking crew at the defensive interior with more tackles than any defender in rushing attempts. His absence due to injury last year was a key element of Penn State's defensive struggles. Since his return, the Nittany Lions own one of the lowest rates of standard down plays by forcing opponents to get off schedule.
Penn State vs. Michigan Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Penn State and Michigan match up statistically:
Penn State Offense vs. Michigan Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Michigan Offense vs. Penn State Defense
|** Pass Blocking (Off.) vs. Pass Rush (Def.)|
Pace of Play / Other
|SP+ Special Teams||68||3|
|Seconds per Play||26.8 (73)||29.3 (119)|
|Rush Rate||54.2% (65)||59.5% (23)|
Data via CollegeFootballData.com (CFBD), FootballOutsiders, SP+, Pro Football Focus and SportSource Analytics.
Penn State vs. Michigan Betting Pick
The new and improved Penn State rushing attack is most potent outside the tackles with Singleton and Kaytron Allen. Both backs have feasted on opposing defenses that miss tackles, an area in which the Michigan defense excels.
Cornerbacks Gemon Green and DJ Turner have combined for over 200 snaps against the rush, recording just a single missed tackle. Slot cornerback Mike Sainristil is the second-highest graded run defender for the Wolverines with the second-best average depth of tackle among all cornerbacks in college football.
These expected run interruptions will lead to passing situations for Clifford, who has failed to post a big-time throw in the past two games of this series.
Penn State also ranks outside the top 50 in pass blocking, so Michigan's top-25 pass rush will create a crowded pocket conducive to turnovers.
There has not been a better defense in terms of forced incompletions than Penn State. The Nittany Lions have been one of the best teams in the nation in forcing passing downs. Central Michigan consistently found itself in passing downs, as dual-threat quarterback Daniel Richardson was limited in establishing the ground game.
For Michigan to sustain drives and stay ahead of schedule, McCarthy must be successful in running the offense outside of the tackles to get away from Mustipher and Penn State's defensive interior.
The Action Network projection makes this game Michigan -8 with a total of 59. While both offenses have slim advantages in Finishing Drives, other key statistics call for a cover by the home team.
Michigan enters as the top tackling team in the nation, evidenced by three cornerbacks who have not missed a single tackle in the open field this season.
Penn State, meanwhile, ranks 114th in tackle grading thanks to a pair of edge rushers in Nick Tarburton and Chop Robinson, along with safety Keaton Ellis. When opposing offenses have completed passes, safety Zakee Wheatley has recorded the highest number of missed tackles against passing targets.
Michigan running back Blake Corum is well on his way to setting career records in missed tackles created. With Donovan Edwards back to full strength after injury, the Wolverines have the skill position players to assist McCarthy in creating rush explosive plays outside the tackles.
This victory on the field for Michigan keeps the offense away from a swarming Penn State defense that has dominated in passing downs.