The most anticipated weekend in Happy Valley in quite some time is upon us.
James Franklin has talked all week about eliminating distractions — and they’re everywhere. From College GameDay being in town to a White Out setting, the buzz around State College has been palpable for days.
Now, it all comes down to Saturday. Will No. 2 Penn State continue its march to the College Football Playoff, and will Saquon Barkley take another step toward the Heisman Trophy on the big stage? Or can No. 19 Michigan — with a nasty defense and putrid offense — pull off a crushing upset?
Whatever you’re looking for, from a Penn State coverage angle, we’ve got you covered right here:
Previews (Looking at the game from different angles)
Penn State offense faces a “greedy” Michigan defense: Under the direction of coordinator Don Brown, Michigan’s defense doesn’t mess around with shutting down one option to allow another. The Wolverines go for broke — and we’ll see if Penn State’s attack can take advantage.
Nittany Lions describe White Out atmosphere: Penn State’s amped for Saturday’s White Out environment — but putting it into words is kind of hard. “I always tell people, because my friends always ask what’s the game to come to, and I tell ’em the White Out,” linebacker Koa Farmer said. “You just have to come. It’s something special.”
ESPN’s College GameDay crew — Herbstreit, Howard, Davis — talks Penn State: With the television set in their sights, GameDay host Rece Davis and analysts Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard fielded questions on Friday afternoon about the No. 2 Nittany Lions — who host No. 19 Michigan on Saturday night. They discussed Barkley, Franklin and more.
What to watch for: Michigan’s terrorizing front-four, a familiar face, Penn State’s pass defense and more — here are five things to keep an eye on when the Nittany Lions and Wolverines square off.
Scouting Michigan with The Detroit News’ Wolverines beat writer: The No. 19 Wolverines (5-1) have had an odd season so far. They can’t score (ranked 97th nationally with 23.7 points per game), beat Florida in the season opener, fell to Michigan State a couple weeks ago and needed overtime to hold off Indiana last week. To make sense of Michigan, we spoke to Wolverines beat writer Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News in this week’s “Ask the Beat Writer.”
Tight end Mike Gesicki ‘feeling great’: Gesicki, who was injured a few weeks ago against Indiana, played at Northwestern. He did so noticeably at less than 100 percent, but the senior knew the bye week was right around the corner. He knew he’d have time to rest up before the Nittany Lions’ White Out matchup with Michigan.
Details on College GameDay in Happy Valley: The seven-time Emmy-winning ESPN show will grace the Old Main Lawn on Saturday. Here’s what you need to know about attending the college football pregame mecca.
Penn State-Michigan preview podcast: Audrey Snyder of DKPittsburghSports joined McGonigal for a special episode of the CDT”s Penn State football podcast, “Airing It Out.” Snyder and McGonigal discussed College GameDay, the White Out and more.
Features (Getting to know the Nittany Lions)
Teasing family members motivate Ryan Buchholz to become dominant DE: When it came to childhood games in the backyard, Ryan was always the youngest — and, until he turned 15, the smallest — but that helped toughen him up and mold him into the fearless athlete he is now. “They wouldn’t take it easy,” Buchholz said. “But it was fun.”
Penn State facing one of program’s most critical 3-game stretches: McGonigal’s column on why this three-game stretch — vs. Michigan, at Ohio State and at Michigan State — means so much for Franklin, Barkley and the Nittany Lions’ College Football Playoff hopes.
Looking at the most memorable White Out games: Since its inception in 2004, a White Out at Beaver Stadium has been unlike any experience in college football. With No. 2 Penn State hosting No. 19 Michigan on Saturday, it’s time to take a look back at the best White Outs in a short-but-electrifying history.
Gesicki frequents restaurant of Michigan QB’s mom: Gesicki frequents The Naked Egg Cafe for breakfast — and when he does, the senior chats with someone who’ll be firmly cheering against the Nittany Lions on Saturday.
PSU assistant Ricky Rahne describes life from the booth: Rahne is Joe Moorhead’s eye in the sky. So what’s that like? Well, for one, it’s a bit hot. They have to keep the windows closed. “Sometimes my vocabulary can dip into some areas where I wish it didn’t,” Rahne said.
“5 Questions” with State College native, former Penn State linebacker Nate Stupar: Currently a special teamer on the New Orleans Saints, Stupar talked about college bragging rights within an NFL locker room, his Barkley comparison and more in this Q&A.
Miscellaneous (Other PSU stuff you might be interested in)
Franklin addresses reported interest from Texas A&M: Last weekend, a CBS Sports report linked Texas A&M to Franklin, should the Aggies part ways with current coach Kevin Sumlin. Franklin, after nipping it in the bud via Twitter last Saturday, addressed it at his weekly press conference. “I just wanted everyone to stop talking about it,” Franklin said.
Predictions (For Penn State-Michigan and elsewhere in the Big Ten)
No. 19 Michigan at No. 2 Penn State, 7:30 p.m. ABC
Josh Moyer: Penn State 24-20
John McGonigal: Penn State 23-16
Gordon Brunskill: Penn State 24-23
Ryne Gery: Penn State 42-24
Nate Cobler: Penn State 17-13
Maryland at No. 5 Wisconsin, noon FOX
Josh Moyer: Wisconsin 43-13
John McGonigal: Wisconsin 38-7
Gordon Brunskill: Wisconsin 40-6
Ryne Gery: Wisconsin 31-17
Nate Cobler: Wisconsin 23-10
Iowa at Northwestern, noon ESPN2
Josh Moyer: Iowa 20-17
John McGonigal: Northwestern 28-24
Gordon Brunskill: Iowa 16-10
Ryne Gery: Iowa 28-21
Nate Cobler: Iowa 17-10
Purdue at Rutgers, noon BTN
Josh Moyer: Purdue 38-10
John McGonigal: Purdue 35-6
Gordon Brunskill: Purdue 27-3
Ryne Gery: Purdue 35-17
Nate Cobler: Purdue 31-10
Indiana at Michigan State, 3:30 p.m. ABC
Josh Moyer: Michigan State 21-20
John McGonigal: Indiana 24-21
Gordon Brunskill: Michigan state 24-14
Ryne Gery: Michigan State 27-24
Nate Cobler: Indiana 27-24
Illinois at Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. BTN
Josh Moyer: Minnesota 28-17
John McGonigal: Minnesota 31-10
Gordon Brunskill: Minnesota 24-13
Ryne Gery: Minnesota 23-10
Nate Cobler: Minnesota 38-24
No. 11 USC at No. 13 Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m. NBC
Josh Moyer: USC 35-31
John McGonigal: USC 28-27
Gordon Brunskill: Notre Dame 31-30
Ryne Gery: USC 42-28
Nate Cobler: USC 38-27
Prediction standings: Nate Cobler 44-9, John McGonigal 44-9, Ryne Gery 43-10, Josh Moyer 43-10, Gordon Brunskill 39-14