Michigan welcomes Penn State to town for a Thanksgiving weekend battle between two struggling programs. The Wolverines have mustered up two wins on the season while the Nittany Lions, a one-time “top 10” team, is winless and has a ton of questions on offense.
This will be a big chance for Michigan to get back to .500 and keep its division rival in the gutter. Here’s what I’ll be watching in the 6th game of the season:
1. Keep Penn State Winless
Somehow the preseason top 10 team is 0-5 this year but, weird, you hardly hear anything about their struggles. I wonder why? Hmm. But even though winless, this isn’t the worst team in the conference. The loss to Indiana in the opener was as close as possible though the team looks like it has gotten worse as the season has gone on.
James Franklin’s team is talented but a little lost, similar to how Michigan has been playing. However, the quarterback play for the Wolverines has been much better and that looks to be quite a difference.
This is a game Michigan needs to win. There are already enough bad losses on the resume this season and at least one other one more coming up. Need to get this one.
2. Can Cade Keep the Job?
Thanks to Vincent Gray’s slip up in a media session, Cade McNamara is expected to be the starter on Saturday. But will he be the only Michigan quarterback to play? Jim Harbaugh made it clear that Joe Milton wasn’t a problem in the Rutgers game, making it seem like he’ll still get some run at some oint.
McNamara played really well against Rutgers and the offense clearly just runs better with him under center. This will be his first career start against the #37 ranked defense in college football that gives up an average of 230.5 passing yards per game.
If he can keep the offense humming along like in the 2nd half against Rutgers, Michigan should win this one and solidify McNamara as the clear cut starter on this team. Let’s see if he can deliver, otherwise, we might see a two-QB system to finish this season where the hot hand gets the ball.
3. Injuries Piling Up
This season couldn’t end soon enough as not only have the results and game play been painful to watch at times but the amount of painful injuries to the players has been tough as well.
The defense has been gutted by injuries. Aidan Hutchinson is out for the year, Kwity Paye hasn’t played since week 3 against Indiana, and now Cam McGrone is going to be out for an extended period of time after being carted off against Rutgers.
The offense may be missing plenty as well. The offensive line was without Jalen Mayfield, Ryan Hayes and Andrew Vastardis last week. Will any of them return this week? Hayes may be the best bet of the three. But now there’s a report that Giles Jackson will be out as well, which is a blow to the passing game and the return game.
Michigan will need the next man up to make some plays in all three facets of the game. Another good chance for young talent to get some much needed experience.
4. Kicking Game
Like this entire season, the kicking game has been a rollercoaster. Neither kicker has been very good after Jake Moody went 0-3 in week one and then Quinn Nordin has gone 2-5 in his attempts.
Will Jim Harbaugh go back to Moody or will Nordin continue to get first kicks? This is something to watch closely because every point will matter for Michigan. They’ll need to get this figured out before it costs them a game.
What are you looking to see in the Michigan-Penn State matchup? Will the Wolverines keep the Nittany Lions winless on the season? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar