Penn State vs. Michigan Betting Preview & Predictions: Our Staff’s Spread & Total Picks
Stacy Revere & Nic Antaya/Getty Images. Pictured from left: PJ Mustipher #97 of the Penn State Nittany Lions and Eyabi Anoma #18 of the Michigan Wolverines.
- No. 10 Penn State and No. 5 Michigan is one of the best matchups of Week 7 in college football.
- That means our staff is diving in deep to preview this Big Ten affair, with total and spread picks.
- Read below to get the full preview experience before kickoff.
Penn State vs. Michigan Odds
|Penn State Odds|
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Penn State begins its three-week gauntlet on Saturday with a trip to Ann Arbor to take on fellow Big Ten powerhouse Michigan. The teams represent two of the just 15 remaining unbeaten teams in the FBS.
Both teams have reached Week 7 of the college football season undefeated after navigating fairly soft schedules to this point. The Nittany Lions’ and Wolverines’ strength of schedule rank only 90th and 95th, respectively.
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy is coming off of the best statistical performance of his short career, passing for 304 yards and three touchdowns in Michigan’s 31-10 road victory over Indiana.
McCarthy’s offensive burden has been eased by Heisman Trophy candidate Blake Corum. Corum already has 11 rushing touchdowns on the season and will be going against a stingy Penn State defense that ranks second in the Big Ten, allowing 79.7 yards per game.
Penn State’s Sean Clifford has shown modest improvement this season, particularly in the turnover department, but he will be facing the best pass rush he’s seen this season in the Wolverines and their 22 sacks.
The Nittany Lions already have one win in a hostile environment over a stumbling Auburn program, but Michigan has held serve at home, winning three of the last four against Penn State in the Big House.
Michigan opened as eight-point favorites on Sunday before bettors quickly jumped on the Penn State side, moving the line to where it is now.
Can the Wolverines cover the spread and stay perfect heading into their bye week, or will Penn State play them close and potentially keep its Big Ten title hopes alive? Our staff details their favorite bets for the matchup below.
Penn State vs. Michigan Point Spread
Penn State +7
Penn State has a chance to put not only the Big Ten on notice but the entire nation with a statement road win over Michigan in the early kickoff window.
How will the Nittany Lions emerge victorious in this top-10 clash? It’s going to be all about the Penn State front seven.
After giving up 31 points in Week 1 against Purdue, Penn State has battened down the hatches on defense, giving up just 10.8 points per game since then. During this four-game stint of shutdown defense, Penn State went on the road and drummed Auburn, 41-12. The Auburn contest was a trial run for a taller order.
The Nittany Lions have been shutting down opposing offense run games all season, ranking fifth in the nation in rushing offense by allowing just 79.8 yards per game. The front seven has been outstanding, giving up just three runs of 20-plus yards.
This will be the stiffest test of the season for the run-first Michigan offense.
The Wolverines have one of the top-ranked offenses in the country, but we need to discount the first three games of the season against Colorado State, Hawaii and UConn. These are arguably the three worst teams in the country that got outscored a combined 166-18 by Michigan.
Michigan came back to reality in the following three games against Power Five competition but relied heavily on the run game behind junior running back Blake Corum.
By shutting down the run game, Penn State will force J.J. McCarthy to stay in the pocket and make throws. McCarthy has done his best on the run but will face limited opportunities against a Penn State defense that ranks 12th in the nation in Defensive Havoc.
Look for Penn State to counter the Michigan run game with a ground onslaught of its own after a bye week to prepare.
Defense will keep this game close throughout. A touchdown and extra point are too many points in this Big Ten East rivalry game.
Staff Pick: Penn State +7
Penn State vs. Michigan Over/Under
With the exception of Penn State’s sloppy game against Northwestern in the remnants of Hurricane Ian, both the Wolverines and Nittany Lions haven’t had much trouble scoring.
Michigan’s 43.0 points per game are the seventh-most in the country, which includes scoring 27 against the Iowa voodoo, nearly double the next closest Hawkeyes opponent. Penn State, meanwhile, is a little further back in the pack but still averaging 34.4 points a game.
While this game will likely be pretty physical, and both teams prioritize the run, Penn State and Michigan each have home-run hitters in the backfield.
Michigan’s Blake Corum is tied for the national lead with 10 carries of at least 20 yards, while Penn State freshman Nick Singleton ranks 12th with six such carries in one fewer game. Both backs are capable of scoring quickly on chunk plays.
Even with the explosive play threat of the backs, however, each team is facing one of the best run defenses it’s played so far this season. Penn State has allowed just one team to surpass 100 yards rushing this season, and that was due to Auburn’s pair of much more mobile quarterbacks than J.J. McCarthy. The Wolverines, meanwhile, are allowing just 81.4 rushing yards a game.
A lack of consistent ground games from both teams will mean that more will be asked of McCarthy and Sean Clifford. The two have played clean football so far with only three combined interceptions and have proven options who can get behind defenses in players like Ronnie Bell and Parker Washington.
With the lowest total available at 50.5 and this game likely being decided within a touchdown, we’re only asking both teams to score somewhere in the mid-20s — something the teams have done in 10 of their 11 combined games.
Both defenses have played just one Power Five offense each this season that ranks inside the top 50 in scoring, and each time, that offense scored at least 27 points. It’ll be close, but we’re leaning over 51.5.
Staff Pick: Over 51.5
J.J. McCarthy Over 217.5 Passing Yards
Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy is by no means an elite passer. This Michigan team, as a whole, isn't much of a passing offense. The Wolverines rank ninth among Big Ten teams when it comes to passing, averaging just 246.3 passing yards per game.
McCarthy sits 12th out of 14 Big Ten quarterbacks, averaging just 192 passing yards per contest. Only one Michigan receiver — Ronnie Bell (8th) — ranks inside the top 20 in receiving yards.
However, the Penn State rush defense is second in the conference and fifth in the country, giving up just 79.6 rush yards per contest. Meanwhile, every opposing quarterback has gone for more than 200 yards against Penn State, except Ohio’s Kurtis Rourke and Auburn’s T.J Finley (who played only half of the game. He and Robbie Ashford combined for 296 passing yards).
McCarthy has eclipsed this mark in three out of five games. In one of the games he didn’t, he still put up 214, which came against UConn when he didn't play more than halfway into the third quarter.
I expect Michigan to struggle on the ground, and as a result, lean more heavily into the passing game.
Pick: J.J. McCarthy Over 217.5 Passing Yards (Play to 222.5)
Michigan Team Total Under 30.5
The Wolverines started this season on an offensive tear, scoring 50 points in their first three games and then 27 or more in their three latest conference games.
Because of this, I believe the total for this game is inflated, and the total for the Wolverines as a team is greatly inflated.
This Michigan team keeps the ball on the ground, running 58% of the time (17th in the country). Granted, it’s extremely good at that, as it ranks sixth in Rushing Success Rate. However, this Penn State defense is very solid against both the run and the pass.
I expect the Wolverines to keep the ball on the ground and chew some clock — they rank 108th in seconds per play. Back the Nittany Lions to lock down this Michigan offense.
Pick: Michigan Team Total Under 30.5
Michigan 2H Team Total Over 13.5
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy and the Wolverine offense will face one of the best running defenses in the nation on Saturday. As a run-heavy team, the stout Penn State front seven should be able to slow down the Wolverines early on.
As the game progresses and Penn State’s fifth-ranked rushing defense takes hold, look for Michigan to revert to a pocket passing game. This is where Penn State wants McCarthy, given his lack of experience — and likely what Harbaugh has been reserving in the playbook as we near the halfway point of the season.
Once the ground game stalls, McCarthy will have an easier time against a Penn State secondary that ranks 109th in the nation, giving up 262.0 passing yards per game.
In the last three games against Big Ten competition, Michigan has outscored itself in the second half, including last week when McCarthy threw all three of his touchdowns in the second half.
Vegas is off the mark with a second-half team total that’s lower than the first-half total for a Michigan team that will eventually fall back on the passing game in the later stages of this game.
Leverage McCarthy’s elite athleticism in the second half against a weak Penn State passing defense.
Pick: Michigan 2H Team Total Over 13.5
1H Under 24.5
New year, same Michigan. While not quite at the same elite level as its playoff predecessor, this team still prides itself on an elite run game and a stout defense.
It will be tested on the offensive end, as Penn State fields an elite defense — one that’s above average in both Defensive Passing and Rushing Success Rate.
While they haven’t gone against a dual-threat quarterback like JJ McCarthy so far this season, you can expect James Franklin to have his defense ready to limit Michigan’s offensive production.
As for the Penn State offense, it’s been a roller coaster. Sean Clifford has been prone to making mistakes, and it won't be any easier under Michigan’s backfield pressure.
Expect a heavy dose of the run from Michigan and more offensive struggles from Penn State. I'm taking the first-half under in what may be a chess match with both coaches figuring out each other's defense.