Penn State’s Prey 2019: Michigan Wolverines
Week 8 brings us the greatest spectacle in sports: a Penn State Whiteout. Unfortunately, there is a possibility that this game ends up kicking off during the day; you can blame FOX for that.
A lot of people are pledging this is finally the year that Michigan (10-3, 8-1 BIG) beats Ohio State, wins the Big Ten East, wins the Big Ten Championship, and goes to the College Football Playoff. I say, “wait just a minute.” Michigan has a fairly tough schedule: they host a really good Army team, travel to Wisconsin, host Iowa, come to Happy Valley, and have Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Ohio State in the Big House. Now a lot of those matchups are home games, but in the tough Big Ten East I am not crowning anyone king in August.
It will be interesting to see how new Michigan offensive coordinator and former Penn State receivers coach, Josh Gattis, redefines the Wolverines’ offensive scheme. If his new offense is successful, Michigan will be a tough team to beat as you can expect Don Brown’s defense to be stout.
Offense (35.2 PPG, Returning Starters: 8)
As you can tell from the number of returning starters, Michigan is loaded with offensive experience. The one position they will have to fill is running back. Both of last years top backs (Karan Higdon and Chris Evans) are gone. Christian Turner should be the expected starter but I wouldn’t be surprised if true freshman Zach Charbonnet shares the load before the end of the season.
Whoever the tailback is will be running behind an experienced offensive line that brings back four starters from 2018. Andrew Strueber, who played in the Peach Bowl, will be the lone replacement at the right tackle spot.
Michigan also brings back returning receivers in Donovan Peoples-Jones (47 catches, 612 yards, 8 TDs) and Nico Collins (38 catches, 632 yards, 6 TDs). Keep an eye on Tarik Black, who has had foot injuries the past two seasons, and Ronnie Bell. Both have earned praise from Coach Gattis and could see expanded roles in this new high-flying offense.
Shea Patterson (64.6%, 2,600, 22 TDs, 7 INTs and 76 rushes, 273 yards, and 2 TDs) returns for his final season at quarterback. Patterson is the closest thing to a formidable quarterback that Coach Harbaugh has had since arriving at Michigan. It will be interesting to see how he performs in a more expanded role this season. Will he be as efficient when he is asked to stand in the pocket and run through more progressions? If the running attack isn’t successful can he put the team on his back? If the answer is yes to those questions then the Wolverines offense will be tough to beat.
Defense (19.4 PPG, Returning Starters: 5)
What Michigan’s offense returned, Michigan’s defense lost. This group lost a bunch to the NFL and lost their defensive line coach to Ohio State (awkward).
Speaking of the defensive line, let’s start there. Mike Danna transferred in from Central Michigan where he was first-team All-MAC (66 tackles, 15 TFLs, 9.5 sacks). Across from him will be Aidan Hutchinson (12 tackles, 1 TFL) who was only a freshman last year. In the interior the starters appear to be Carlo Kemp (20 tackles, 4 TFLs, 1 sack) and Donovan Jeter. As soon as Michael Dwumfour (19 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks) is healthy expect him to slide into the starting role.
You can’t simply plant another Devin Bush, but that’s exactly what Michigan will try to do this year as the stud linebacker is now with the Steelers. John Ross (54 tackles, 5.5 TFLs, 1 sack) the part-time starter last year will try and fill the void Bush left. Devin Gil (31 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 sack) and the do-it-all linebacker Khaleke Hudson (39 tackles, 3 TFLs, 1 sack) will be cover the outside. Hudson could be Michigan’s most important player this season.
The secondary is one big fat worry for Michigan. If you need proof just go watch the Ohio State game from a year ago. Remember Lavert Hill? He is finally a senior and will be the only dependable player at the corner position. Josh Metellus is also back at the safety position, but there is a lot of competition for the vacant corner and safety positions.
Another tough prediction as both teams have question marks that could make me lean one way or another if I knew the answer to them. However, Michigan has to replace most of their defense, which is usually their staple. And there is no promise that the offense finds their groove under Coach Gattis, who has never been an offensive coordinator before. If the matchup comes down to Gattis vs. Pry, I am taking the man from Altoona. Penn State in a close one.
Penn State: 31