Despite losing to the Spartans just a couple of weeks ago, No. 6 Michigan will be out to prove that it deserved to be ranked ahead of No. 7 Michigan State when it travels to Penn State this weekend. In a week that didn't see a lot of movement in the College Football Playoff Rankings, the Wolverines' place in the top 10 has been the biggest story.
Playoff rankings aren't important to Michigan, though. It has its sights on winning the Big Ten East, then the Big Ten and reaching the playoff. None of that happens if it doesn't beat Penn State this weekend.
While the Nittany Lions likely don't have a chance of winning the Big Ten, they still have a say in who it will be. They're also hoping last week's 31-14 win at Maryland was the start of a solid finish that will have everyone within the program feeling good about where they're headed in 2022. A home upset over Michigan would ease some of the hurt left over from losses to Iowa, Ohio State and Illinois.
Michigan vs. Penn State: Need to know
Michigan's pass rush is phenomenal: Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford will have a few priorities before each snap. First, he'll want to see what kind of coverage the Michigan defense appears to be in. Second, he's going to look to see where Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo are and stress to his offensive linemen the importance of blocking those guys. Ojabo enters the weekend as the Big Ten's leader with eight sacks, one more than Hutchinson. Those two have made life miserable for opposing offenses and will look to do the same against the Nittany Lions.
Michigan has gotten its rushing attack going again: The Wolverines ran all over their nonconference opponents, averaging 350.3 yards per game and 7.15 yards per carry against Western Michigan, Washington and Northern Illinois. Numbers usually drop off anyway once conference play begins, but they fell off a cliff against Wisconsin and Rutgers. In those two games -- both wins -- Michigan managed only 224 yards rushing and 2.73 yards per carry. While the run game hasn't gotten completely back on track, things have improved over the last four games with an average of 4.95 yards per carry. While that number is not as high as it had been earlier in the year, it's been balanced out by a more potent passing attack. Overall, this Michigan offense has shows signs of being one of the more balanced units of the Jim Harbaugh era.
Penn State must find a way to run the ball: It's been one of my biggest concerns about Penn State all season long, and it's going to be even more essential to help slow down the Michigan pass rush. The Nittany Lions don't need to turn into one of the greatest rushing teams of all time, but they must do a better job than they have so far. In six Big Ten games, the Nittany Lions have averaged only 92.33 rushing yards per game and 3.01 per carry. And if that's not bad enough, remember they rushed for 209 yards in their 24-0 win over Indiana. Remove that game, and the numbers become much worse. While Clifford has improved in 2021, he's not at the level where it's fair to put the entire offense on his shoulders. If Penn State wants to compete with the best teams in the Big Ten, it has to figure out how to run the ball effectively to keep defenses honest.
How to watch Michigan vs. Penn State live
Date: Saturday, November 13 | Time: noon ET
Location: Beaver Stadium -- University Park, PA
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Michigan vs. Penn State prediction, picks
I do not trust Penn State offensively in this matchup. It hasn't shown an ability to run the ball nearly all season and I don't see them suddenly discovering a run game against Michigan. The good news for Penn State is that, defensively, it can keep this game close, which means maybe a bounce here or there tips the scales its direction. Still, that's not something I'm willing to bet. Michigan's been the better team all season long. Prediction: Michigan (-1)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 11, and which top-15 team will get stunned? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,500 in profit over the past five-plus seasons -- and find out.