Penn State vs. Michigan: Preview, Prop Pick and Prediction

Field Level Media

November 08, 2023 at 9:45 pm.

All of a sudden, Michigan’s schedule appears even easier than it did before the season kicked off.

A Who’s Who?

Nope. More of a Who’s That.

East Carolina, UNLV, Bowling Green, Rutgers, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan State and Purdue. Whew.

The Wolverines can’t control what schools they play (other than scheduling a more difficult nonconference slate, of course), and they have allowed only two of those opponents to reach double digits in scoring (Minnesota, 10; Purdue, 13).

Is Michigan good enough to turn back a desperate top-10 team?

This epic matchup offers Penn State a last-gasp opportunity to jump back into the College Football Playoff conversation, a chance to finally get out of its own way – and throw the ball downfield successfully.

We have stats, news, quotes and betting predictions for our college football (betting) game of the week.

–Kickoff: Noon, ET
–Television: Fox
–Location: Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa.
–Point Spread, Total: Michigan -4.5; Total 45.5 (BetMGM)


Penn State quarterback Drew Allar will have to complete a couple of deep passes for the Nittany Lions to loosen up the Wolverines’ talented front.

That’s asking the Penn State offense to go against form, given more than 70 percent of Allar’s pass attempts travel less than 10 yards (averaging only 6.4 per attempt).

It’s difficult to believe that even with a decisive home-field advantage, Allar (in concert with the coaching staff) can solve the elite Michigan secondary.

The line opened at Michigan -5.5 points and, though 64 percent of the early spread tickets, according to VegasInsider.com, were on the Wolverines, 58 percent of the spread money was on Penn State.

Given that “fade the public” move, the line moved to its current 4.5 number. More encouraging for our purposes: The total was bet up to 45.5 points, allowing for a play in our parlay wager.

Michigan trails only Air Force in its sometimes-painfully slow playing pace, taking more than 30 seconds to run a play.

If ever there were a grind-it-out setup, this is it. These teams love to eat clock and try to push opponents around.

Penn State will try to outmuscle the Wolverines, employing similar ground-based schemes, so we’re not ready to lay the full 4.5 points.

Instead, we’ll take a nice cushion in a two-leg parlay.

The pick: Michigan 23, Penn State 20
The bet: Parlay at +105 (BetMGM), teasing Michigan to +3.5 with teased under of 49.5.

It’s a must-have game for any shot at the national championship.

With a few weeks’ worth of fighting the sign-stealing distraction, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff are likely focused and attacking the task at hand.

Given Allar’s limitations, the Nittany Lions must depend on their run game. Penn State’s Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen haven’t been able to muster more than 4.6 yards per carry, and there is little danger of breaking a big one.

Action Network has the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack at 121st in rushing explosiveness.

To no one’s surprise, the Wolverines have dominated their soft opponents in the run game, allowing only 3.1 yards per carry and, again per Action Network, among the top-five in Rushing Success Rate and EPA/Rush Allowed.

And yet, Penn State likely will stubbornly try to establish the run and hope that Allar can hit a couple of big throws downfield.

Wolverines quarterback JJ McCarthy has completed more than 75% of his pass attempts with 18 touchdowns and three interceptions. He is a guy who’s seen the intensity of big games, and he’s unlikely to be rattled.

He has star running back Blake Corum looking like a lead dog, and the wealth of playmakers includes wide receiver Roman Wilson (36 catches, 10 touchdowns).

Michigan thumped Penn State 41-17 last season as Corum scored twice and rolled up 166 rushing yards.


“He’s … 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.”

– Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on Wolverines quarterback JJ McCarthy.