Penn State Football

Gameday breakdown: Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1 Big Ten) at Michigan Wolverines (2-4, 0-2 Big Ten)

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is pressured and tripped up by the Rutgers defense. Sacks and hurries have led to Hackenberg miscues.
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg is pressured and tripped up by the Rutgers defense. Sacks and hurries have led to Hackenberg miscues. CDT file photo

WHEN: 7 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Michigan Stadium

SERIES: Michigan leads, 10-7

LAST MEETING: Penn State won 43-40 in four overtimes on Oct. 12, 2013

COACHES: Michigan — Brady Hoke, 4th season, 28-17 (75-67, 12th overall); Penn State — James Franklin, first season, 4-1 (28-16, 4th overall)

TELEVISION: ESPN2 (commentators: Mark Jones, Rod Gilmore, Jessica Mendoza)

RADIO: WQWK 1450, WBUS 93.7 (announcers: Steve Jones, Jack Ham, Loren Crispell)

TIPS TO WIN:

For Penn State — Execute on big plays. Penn State aims to run at least eight explosive plays — of 20 yards or more — per game. If the Nittany Lions can’t get the running game going and can’t move the ball consistently, the next best thing is to be great sporadically. Penn State has much more explosive play potential than it showed against Northwestern. Michigan has allowed 27 plays of 20 yards or more so far. Hitting those plays will also hush what should be an angst-ridden crowd desperate for something good to happen.

For Michigan — Rough up No. 14. The more time Christian Hackenberg spends on his back, rather than in the pocket making throws, the better for the Wolverines. Especially since the Nittany Lions have to count on Hackenberg’s arm so routinely. As long as Michigan keeps Hackenberg from establishing a rhythm, Penn State’s offense will likely struggle to move the chains.

MICHIGAN PLAYER TO WATCH: Frank Clark. The defensive end for the Wolverines is a painfully large, dangerously quick athlete who rushes with force. At 6-foot-2, 277 pounds, Clark does a lot of work behind the line of scrimmage and can put devastating hits on quarterbacks. Penn State blockers must account for him.

PENN STATE PLAYER TO WATCH: Anthony Zettel has made more than 40 percent of his tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season. He could be in a showdown with Clark to see which defender causes more havoc. Zettel, noted for his edge and endurance, is from Michigan and shouldn’t need any extra motivation to play well.

KEY MATCHUP: Penn State’s defensive backs have a tricky assignment. They’ll face a quarterback who is mobile, has a strong receiving corps around him and can make good throws. But Michigan’s Devin Gardner can also be awfully inaccurate on some of them. He has thrown seven interceptions and can be hurried into making bad throws. Penn State may need a defensive back to snag one of these errant passes to set up its offense in good field position.

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