PSU at MICH Preview
Ann Arbor, MI - Michigan's home struggles in recent years might have made venturing into Ann Arbor a slightly less daunting prospect for some Big Ten opponents than it once was.
For Penn State, it still has to be pretty intimidating.
The 13th-ranked Nittany Lions haven't won at the Big House since 1996, and they'll look to put their five-game losing streak at Michigan Stadium to rest Saturday afternoon.
Oddsmakers from online sports book Sportsbook.com have made Penn State –4.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on Michigan +4.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Penn State (6-1, 2-1) entered its matchup with Michigan (5-2, 1-2) undefeated or with one loss six times in nine games from 1997-2007, but couldn't escape with a win.
The Nittany Lions snapped a nine-game skid in the series last season at Beaver Stadium on their way to winning the Big Ten, but even that wasn't as easy as the 46-17 score indicated. Michigan led 17-14 at halftime before fading again in Rich Rodriguez's first season on the sidelines, ultimately finishing 3-9 - the most losses in the program's 129-year history.
Penn State still hasn't won at the Big House since leaving with victories in 1994 and 1996 - its first two trips. Once again, the Nittany Lions head in with a Big Ten title still a possibility, though they'll need Iowa to lose along the way.
Penn State has won three straight by a combined 107-20 since losing at home to the Hawkeyes on Sept. 26, the latest a 20-0 victory over Minnesota last Saturday in which it outgained the Golden Gophers 464-138.
"I'm excited. As soon as the game ends, we're thinking Michigan," senior defensive tackle Jared Odrick said. "I'm excited to go back out there and play again. We had an opportunity my sophomore year to get a win and we came up short."
The Nittany Lions lost that game 14-9, their most recent visit to Ann Arbor. That was one of only seven Michigan wins in 15 home games over the past two seasons.
The Wolverines have won all five of their games in Ann Arbor this year, but needed late touchdowns to win the two they've had against notable opponents - 38-34 over Notre Dame and 36-33 over perennial Big Ten doormat Indiana.
Despite Penn State's struggles at the Big House, Paterno doesn't find the 106,000-seat venue all that frightening.
"I think we've played good, competitive football the times we've been there; they were just better than we were," Paterno said. "I don't think it's particularly a tough place to play if you're ready to go and you've got some kids that look forward to playing in places where there are 100,000 people there to watch you."
Penn State's offense has averaged 510.0 yards over the past three games, but the defense has been consistently excellent all season. The Nittany Lions are tied with Florida for the nation's top scoring defense (8.7 points per game) and are sixth in run defense (75.4 yards per game).
Not one offense that Penn State has faced, however, ranks higher than 75th overall.
That will change Saturday. Michigan ranks eighth in rushing offense (235.0 ypg) and ninth in scoring offense (37.3 ppg).
Those numbers were inflated with a 63-6 home win last Saturday over Football Championship Subdivision foe Delaware State. The Wolverines ran up a school-record 727 yards of offense - 461 on the ground.
Banged-up freshman quarterback Tate Forcier played only one series and leading rushers Carlos Brown (concussion) and Brandon Minor (ankle) sat out to rest for Penn State.
Additionally, center David Molk, who's missed four games with a broken foot, is expected to return.
"Our guys will be juiced up to play because they understand the importance of it, they understand the intensity we have to play with," Rodriguez said. "Not that we didn't have it last weekend, but they know it's got to be a little different level now."
Forcier - who nearly went to Penn State - is fully recovered from a concussion suffered Oct. 10 against Iowa, but Rodriguez said he will split time with fellow 19-year-old Denard Robinson.
While no Michigan receiver has 20 receptions, the Nittany Lions have four. Leading the way is 6-foot-5 Derek Moye, who caught six passes for 120 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota.
The focal point of Penn State's offense, though, is junior tailback Evan Royster, and he may face even more pressure Saturday if backup Stephfon Green (ankle) can't play.
Royster had 174 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the rout of Michigan last season.
"Just the fact that they were on a streak of beating us nine or 10 years, there's always going to be hard feelings, and we're going to want to beat a team that's done that to us the last decade," Royster said.
"I guess it has something to do with the rough feelings between the two schools. ... They always come to play us no matter what."
Posted: 10/21/09 1:13AM ET