Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stingy Defenses Should Be on Display Points, Yards Could Be Hard to Come By

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Stingy Defenses Should Be on Display Points, Yards Could Be Hard to Come By

Article excerpt

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Some people might have been surprised when initial betting lines established Penn State as a 12-point or so favorite over Michigan.

Not only because the Wolverines are a pretty fair team - after all, they're 5-1 and ranked 19th in the country - but because there's no guarantee Penn State and Michigan will combine to score enough points to reach double-digits.

Sure, they probably will, and there are enough playmakers on each team that the game might even turn out to be something of a shootout.

That likely isn't the way to wager, though.

Not when the No. 2 Nittany Lions enter the game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Beaver Stadium with the stingiest scoring defense in Football Bowl Subdivision, allowing just nine points per game, and the Wolverines are giving up just 223.8 yards per game, fewest among FBS teams.

Now, Saquon Barkley could singlehandedly surpass that figure by breaking three or four long runs, but Michigan opponents don't do that sort of thing very often. The Wolverines are allowing an average of just less than 86 rushing yards per game.

"We've got one of the best offenses in the country," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "We've got a tremendous challenge this week against one of the best defenses in the country. . There's going to be some pretty interesting chess matches going between all the coordinators."

The most celebrated of those is Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, architect of a system that has earned the Wolverines high rankings in numerous categories, from most three-and-outs forced (7.8 per game) to fewest third-down conversions allowed (20.5 percent).

Brown's defense not only is laden with quality personnel - "They're extremely physical, but also extremely athletic and fast," Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki said Wednesday - but is extremely aggressive. …

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