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Michigan vs. Penn State Football Prediction and Preview

Michigan Wolverines vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Football Prediction and Preview

Nittany Lions look for third straight win over the Wolverines when Big Ten East rivals clash in Happy Valley on Saturday

The Michigan Wolverines may have taken a recent stumble against Michigan State, but they remain in the thick of the Big Ten East race with just three games to play in the regular season. But if Jim Harbaugh and Michigan (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten) are going to remain in the hunt, they will have to solve a team that has had their number in recent years. Michigan heads to Penn State this weekend looking to get out of Beaver Stadium with a big win.

The Nittany Lions (6-3, 3-3) snapped their three-game losing skid last week with a road win at Maryland, but they will have to bring their best effort this week if they hope to hand the top-10 Wolverines a loss and clinch a winning record for the 2021 season.

No. 6 Michigan at Penn State

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 13 at 12 p.m. ET
TV: ABC
Spread: Michigan -1.5

When Michigan Has the Ball

The formula for success in Ann Arbor this season has been effectively running the football. That should easily be the game plan for the Wolverines this week as they bring the Big Ten's top-ranked rushing offense into the week. Michigan averages 234.1 rushing yards per game, with Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum giving Michigan a powerful 1-2 punch. Penn State has struggled to slow down teams that can run the ball well this season. Four teams (Wisconsin, Auburn, Illinois, and Ohio State) have rushed for at least 160 yards against the Nittany Lions this season. Michigan should join that list.

Michigan will hope quarterback Cade McNamara protects the football well, too, which is something he has done fairly well this season. McNamara has thrown just two interceptions, but both have come in Michigan's most recent road trips to Michigan State two weeks ago and Nebraska in early October. Penn State's Ji'Ayir Brown is among the nation's leaders in interceptions and coming off Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors, and safety Jaquan Brisker is always ready to make a play.

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When Penn State Has the Ball

On the flip side, Penn State has no running game to speak of. The Nittany Lions rank 13th in the Big Ten with just 107.1 rushing yards per game, and the next 100-yard rusher this season will be the first for the team with just three games remaining. Fortunately for Penn State, Sean Clifford and the passing game have been getting the job done. Wide receiver Jahan Dotson is coming off a career day with a school-record 242 receiving yards (on 11 catches) and three touchdowns. Expect offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to try taking chances with Dotson on multiple occasions throughout the game.

The Nittany Lions' offensive line will have their hands full with Michigan's defensive pressure. Linebacker David Ojabo leads the Big Ten with eight sacks, and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson is tied for second with seven.

Final Analysis

Penn State has won three of the previous four meetings in this series, and could very well come out on top again this weekend at home. Home-field advantage has been key in this series in recent years. The Nittany Lions won last year's meeting in an empty Michigan Stadium, but you'd have to go back to 2015 for the last time a road team won in front of fans. Penn State may not have quite as much at stake anymore after an October slump took things off course but will find a way to make just enough big plays on offense while the defense clamps down once more to hand Michigan its second loss of the season.

Prediction: Penn State 26, Michigan 23

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— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB, on Instagram, and Like him on Facebook.