Penn State Will Have Tough Time Covering -9 Spread Against Michigan

Penn State Will Have Tough Time Covering -9 Spread Against Michigan

Michigan vs Penn State Betting 2019

Penn State won yet again last week, and I was just barely off in the final score prediction. Let’s be real, if Pat Freiermuth’s touchdown wasn’t incorrectly overturned, the game is 21-12 instead of 17-12. Regardless, I predicted 23-13 with Penn State covering and the total points being under the line. Both were true, so it’s fine anyways. I’m now 7-1 on the season with the spread and over/under, so I think I’m doing alright thus far.

This week, Penn State is a -9 point favorite at PlaySugarHouse in PA with a total of 45. Can Penn State cover the spread again this week?

A look back at Penn State/Iowa

As for the game itself, everything sort of went the way we thought it would. Defensive minded teams who emphasize the run are typically easier to predict because there’s less variance with turnovers on run-heavy teams. The game script in this one was fairly straightforward. Both teams likely wouldn’t be able to pull away from one another, so they would likely be sticking with rushing heavily and utilizing play-action.

It pretty much went that way and it was a game Penn State won in a fashion eerily similar to their epic battles of the mid-1980’s, when both were on top of the college football world. An Iowa fumble and late interception allowed Penn State to distance themselves enough to cling to a narrow victory. This week, Penn State will be tested again, this time by a team slightly deeper in talent, but possibly less disciplined in execution.

Last week, I said Penn State needed to do two things to come out of Iowa City victorious. The first was keeping Sean Clifford clean in the pocket. Relative to the competition, Penn State accomplished this. Clifford was hurried just four times and sacked three. That’s not great, but Iowa has a very strong defense, so it was impressive, nonetheless.

The second point of emphasis was that Penn State needed to force Nate Stanley to beat them. After holding the Hawkeyes to just 70 yards on 30 carries (2.3 YPC), the Nittany Lions put all the game pressure on Stanley to come up with big throws and it worked, for the most part. On a few occasions, Stanley came up with big throws, but one was a result of Fields stumbling on a double move before the half that set up the second field goal for Iowa. The other was the late Iowa touchdown that was not only a difficult throw but a tremendous, Randy Moss-like catch for a futile score. Aside from a few big passing plays, the Penn State defense was buttoned up.

Michigan is Penn State’s toughest matchup of 2019 season so far

This Saturday’s Michigan game will present Penn State with their biggest challenge on the year, from an athletic matchup standpoint. Michigan has one very talented receiver, Ronnie Bell, by which they have tragically underutilized. The Michigan run game is about the same as Iowa’s from a potency and frequency standpoint, but Shea Patterson is a much more dangerous athlete than Nate Stanley at quarterback, so that’s going to add a dynamic to the Michigan offense Penn State didn’t have to consider with Nate Stanley.

Penn State needs to keep Shea Patterson contained and turn him into a pocket passer

It’s probably the same plan Jim Harbaugh had for Patterson when he arrived on campus from Ole Miss. “We want you to develop your game as a pocket passer and only make plays with your feet when the pocket breaks down or you’ve progressed through your reads.” Well, it’s been a few years and that didn’t happen. Patterson remains a paranoid yet dynamic scrambler who is capable of making big plays but also has the propensity to make mistakes.

Citing the Pitt game from earlier in the season, Penn State collapsed the pocket from the edge all game long, unfortunately, the Pitt quarterback was able to step up and either run away or step forward and complete a nice throw downfield. Penn State can’t let that happen again. I believe Penn State needs to pressure Patterson through the inside, clogging up the run lanes and forcing Patterson to one side or the other. Spying the quarterback would also help with containment, but I think Penn State may actually benefit most if they can bait him on defense without blitzing and letting him try to make the throws. I don’t think Patterson is capable of throwing on a defense like Penn State, so stopping the run and containing Patterson will be the key on defense.

Penn State must keep Michigan guessing on defense

We can cite the Iowa game for this, since both teams have now played Iowa. Michigan had eight sacks and three interceptions in their home victory (10-3) just two weeks ago against Iowa. This Penn State offensive line is going to have their hands full with pressure from Michigan. I expect Penn State will employ an array of screens, counters, and quick passes to keep the Michigan blitz at bay. It’s not very likely Sean Clifford will have time in the pocket to make deeper throws. Luckily, KJ Hamler is a dynamic playmaker who should be a real issue for Michigan with the ball in his hands. Make no mistake, Michigan has had trouble putting it together for an entire four quarters (see Army game & Illinois game) but they are more than capable of competing with anyone in the country for stretches of time.

Prediction

Penn State is a favorite at -9 with a total points line of 45 points. I really can see this game playing out similar to the Iowa game a week ago. Both teams like to run the ball and control the line of scrimmage, but I don’t see Penn State as a slight favorite in the offensive or defensive line matchups, so I don’t feel nearly as confident as I was a week ago. I believe the game script, regardless of who is ahead, to stay pretty conservative for both teams. We should see some creativity here and there, with more than a few trick plays, but ultimately it should be another close game throughout. I expect Penn State to come out on top, once again.

Final Score: Penn State 23 Michigan 17