On Saturday (11/11/23), the Penn State Nittany Lions play host to the Michigan Wolverines in a Big Ten matchup with massive implications. In this article, find the latest betting odds and a full preview of the game. In addition, find our best bet which is over 45.5 points.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Prediction
When Michigan faced Penn State last season, the Nittany Lions had no answer for the Michigan rushing offense. The Wolverines picked up 423 rushing yards and four touchdowns. RBs Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards are back, but it’s been quarterback J.J. McCarthy who has defined this season for Michigan.
McCarthy has 2,134 passing yards and 18 touchdowns to just three interceptions. He has put NFL level throws on tape every single week. He has quickly become a clear first-round prospect in the upcoming draft. Penn State’s defense has been elite this season, but I have questions about their ability to get pressure on McCarthy behind an outstanding offensive line.
The Lions only got pressure on McCarthy on 25.9% of his dropbacks last year despite a 55.6% blitz rate. It could be a long day for their defense if they can’t get consistent pressure on McCarthy without blitzing. Look for Roman Wilson, who leads the team with 589 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, to have another big game.
I believe Penn State can keep up its end of the bargain with scoring, as well. Before this season started, Drew Allar was being discussed as a Heisman dark horse candidate. While that hasn’t come to fruition, Allar is coming off perhaps his most impressive game of the season. On the road against a Maryland team ranked top 60 in coverage, Allar completed 73.5% of his passes for 240 yards and four touchdowns.
It’s clear that the Penn State coaching staff is gaining confidence in Allar. He has seven big-time throws over the past two weeks after just four in the seven games prior per PFF. The Lions are finally opening up the playbook and allowing him to be the driving force of their offense. That’s a welcome sight for an offense ranked last in explosive plays.
Allar faces a Michigan defense that ranks first in passing EPA per play allowed. However, the Wolverines have faced a laughable slate of opposing passers that includes three Group of Five teams and three backups. Even the version of Allar we saw before the last two weeks would have been the best quarterback they had seen all year.
I expect Michigan to get the road win here, but I don’t see much value in the spread at a dead number. Instead, bet on an elite McCarthy and an ascending Allar trading blows in what should be a surprisingly back-and-forth scoring affair. I bet this over at 43.5 points at open and would play it all the way to 48.5 points.
Michigan vs. Penn State Prediction: Over 45.5 Points
Michigan vs. Penn State Best Odds
The sportsbooks currently have Michigan priced as 4.5-point road favorites against Penn State, putting it in a relatively dead zone with 3 and 7 being the most key numbers. The total currently sits at 45.5 points after being as low as 43 points earlier in the week.
Michigan vs. Penn State Key Matchups
When these Big Ten foes face off on Saturday, each has star players who will be looking to make his mark on this crucial game. Here, let’s break down some of the most key matchups that will determine the winner of the game.
J.J. McCarthy vs. Penn State’s Pass Defense
For most of the Jim Harbaugh era in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines have been a team that wins with its run game and defense. While those two aspects of the team remain strong, J.J. McCarthy’s maturation into a star quarterback is the calling card for Michigan. Currently sitting third or fourth on the Heisman odds board, McCarthy is one of the best passers in the country.
McCarthy has completed 75.7% of his passes, the second-best mark in the country, which is even more impressive when you consider that 18.4% of his passes have come 20+ yards downfield. His 91.3 PFF passing grade is tied for the best in the FBS and he has just five turnover-worthy plays all season.
This will be McCarthy’s toughest test of the year against a Penn State defense ranked first in success rate and second in EPA allowed via the pass. However, the Lions also haven’t faced a quarterback close to as good as McCarthy all season. Penn State ranks fourth in pass rush grades and 20th in coverage per PFF, so this will be a fascinating matchup.
Michigan’s JJ McCarthy with an absolute bucket drop to Donovan Edwards on the vertical route. Edwards showing off his wicked receiving ability for an RB too.
McCarthy continues to add to his resume as the QB3 in the 2024 NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/UH8LiGdrm5
— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) November 4, 2023
Drew Allar vs. Michigan’s Pass Defense
With McCarthy giving the Penn State defense all it can handle, Drew Allar will need to step up with one of the best games of his young career. I’ve been impressed with his production in recent weeks, particularly as the downfield passing offense has been opened up. Allar has attempted 12 passes of 20+ yards over the last two weeks – he had just 15 all year before that.
It won’t be easy to complete those downfield passes against Michigan, especially against cornerback Will Johnson, who has allowed a passer rating of just 31.7 in coverage. That ranks sixth in the Power Five per PFF. However, the potential absence of cornerback Amorion Walker is worth monitoring here.
Allar’s top receiver this season has been Keandre Lambert-Smith, and he has 14 catches for a combined 191 yards over the last two games. Kent State transfer Dante Cephas is also starting to emerge for Penn State, and he had season highs with six catches for 53 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Drew Allar delivers a perfect pass to Dante Cephas to capitalize on the huge stand by the D 💪
— State Media (@StateMediaPSU) November 4, 2023