No. 3 Michigan steeled by critics, marches into No. 10 Penn State

Field Level Media

November 08, 2023 at 1:01 am.

Under siege off the field, Michigan and coach Jim Harbaugh have yet to be affected on the field.

That could change Saturday when the Wolverines, ranked third in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, roll into University Park, Pa. to face No. 10 Penn State.

Michigan (9-0 overall, 6-0 Big Ten) hasn’t faced a close call all season. The lowest margin of victory was 24 points.

Harbaugh served an NCAA suspension during the first four weeks for a recruiting snafu unrelated to the active firestorm involving his staff and an alleged signal-stealing scandal.

Low level assistant Connor Stalions resigned last week and the Big Ten, under urging from opposing coaches, and NCAA informed Michigan of potential sanctions.

“Nobody wants criticism. That’s why I work so hard to do everything from both on and off the field,” Harbaugh said. “It’s been that way for a long time since I was 22 years old. If the criticism is directed to me and not towards my adolescent kids at home or the players on the football team, then I am OK with it.”

The Wolverines continued to roll along since the scandal was first reported, pounding Michigan State 49-0, then manhandled Purdue 41-13 last weekend.

The running game wasn’t efficient against the Boilermakers but quarterback and Heisman Trophy candidate J.J. McCarthy threw for a season-high 335 yards and wideout Roman Wilson had nine receptions for 143 yards.

Harbaugh tossed around some big names when praising McCarthy’s 2023 performance.

“He’s this Tom Brady in his preparation, his willingness to be coached, his wanting to do anything and everything that he can for his own personal growth and also for the team,” Harbaugh said.

“He’s got this side of him in only one other quarterback, Jim McMahon, which is the love of playing and the fun the guy has playing the game of football. Yeah, I’ve never seen that personality. An ultra-competitive but empathetic, come together, football quarterback and the way it does, he’s like a blend of Tom Brady and Jim McMahon from what I’ve seen. Hard not to love that.”

The Nittany Lions (8-1, 5-1) have bounced back from their 20-12 loss to Ohio State with victories over Indiana (33-24) and Maryland (51-15). Against the Terrapins, Drew Allar passed for 240 yards and four touchdowns.

Coach James Franklin said his staff will make its own preparations for any necessary modifications related to the allegations of Michigan’s sign-stealing.

“I’m going to focus on the things that we can control,” he said. “We always have to have a plan and I think I’ve kind of covered this and talked about this in terms of what we do and how we communicate to the players and team during games.”

He doesn’t need to remind his players about Michigan’s firepower. The Wolverines won last year’s meeting 41-17 as Donovan Edwards rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns and Blake Corum accounted for 166 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Penn State will have to face the same 1-2 punch on Saturday.

Franklin believes his run defense is more prepared this time around.

“I think we have been much more disciplined and consistent in gap responsibility,” he said. “There have been times where we have tried to make plays and get out of our gap, and against good teams the ball will find the open gap. I think we’re a little bit bigger. I think the size has helped us as well.”

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