Penn State’s showdown with Michigan is drawing near.
With 6-0 Michigan being ranked fifth in the AP Poll and fourth in the coaches, a triumph on the road would be No. 10 Penn State’s first “statement win” of 2022.
Here are three keys for James Franklin’s team to beat Jim Harbaugh’s team.
Key No. 1: Run, Baby, Run
Penn State is suddenly a running team thanks to “Nick and the Fatman.”
Freshmen studs Nick Singleton and Kaytron “Fatman” Allen came to Penn State with high expectations.
Both of them have at least met, if not exceeded them.
Singleton and Allen have combined to rush for 766 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging around 6.4 yards per carry.
The season isn’t halfway over, but it seems clear that Penn State’s bread and butter is running the ball.
It’s hard to beat a top five team on the road without your offense successfully doing what it does best, and therefore, the legends of Nick, the Fatman or both might have to grow for Penn State to pull the upset
Key No. 2: Stop the Run
Is it a cop out to have two of three keys revolve around the running game? Maybe.
But the two are separated because one centers around Penn State’s offense and the other its defense.
Like Penn State, Michigan’s offense can run the ball. Unlike Penn State, Michigan has an established veteran leading the way in Blake Corum, who is right there with the best runners in college football.
The third-year running back has 735 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 6.2 yards per carry through six games.
Penn State’s biggest question mark on defense, both before the season and through five games, has been its linebackers.
If Penn State’s linebackers wrap up Corum when the opportunities presents themselves, he’ll likely have a big day. If Corum has a big day, Penn State will likely lose.
Key No. 3: Jake Pinegar
This choice will surprise some people, but don’t be shocked if Penn State’s kicker plays a big role, for better or worse, in Saturday’s game.
Pinegar, the fifth-year senior has been iffy for Penn State this season after reclaiming his starting role following Jordan Stout’s departure to the NFL.
In double-digit wins over Ohio and Central Michigan, Pinegar missed two field goals, and extra point and had another extra point blocked.
Michigan ain’t quite a MAC school, so if Pinegar misses a kick, it could well play a big part in a bad result for Penn State.
On the other hand, this is the type of game that could give Pinegar a chance to be a sports hero.