Four things to watch
UW quarterback Jack Coan is set to make his second start and third appearance of the season with Alex Hornibrook recovering from a second concussion this season. Coan was OK in his starting debut when he completed 20 of 31 passes for 158 yards, with one touchdown and one lost fumble, in a 31-17 loss to Northwestern. He replaced Hornibrook for the second half against Rutgers and attempted only seven passes but completed five and appeared more comfortable. Penn State’s defense features playmakers on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary and winning at Beaver Stadium isn’t easy, but Coan should be equipped to handle the challenge.
COAN ON THE BIG STAGE:
RUN THE BALL, SHORTEN THE GAME:
The Nittany Lions excel at pressuring quarterbacks but they have proved vulnerable against power running games. UW is No. 1 in the Big Ten in rushing at 273.0 yards per game; Penn State is 10th in the league against the run (172.2). Tailbacks Jonathan Taylor (6.6 yards per carry), Taiwan Deal (6.7) and Garrett Groshek (6.7) are averaging more than 6.0 yards. Michigan’s Karan Higdon rushed 20 times for 132 yards and the Wolverines finished with 259 yards rushing on 52 carries in their 42-7 victory over Penn State. UW should be able to control the ball, keep pressure off Coan to make too many plays and control the clock.
KEEPING THE POCKET CLEAN:
Penn State and Michigan are tied for the Big Ten lead in sacks with 29, an average of 3.2 per game. Ends Yetur GrossMatos (seven), Shaka Toney (five) and Shareef Miller (four) have combined for 16 of the 29 sacks. If the Badgers get into too many third-and-long or obvious passing situations, they will be setting up Penn State’s pass-rushers for success. That isn’t a formula for a UW victory.
MAKE PENN STATE DRIVE FOR POINTS:
Penn State’s offense lives off big plays and quick strikes. The Nittany Lions have generated 48 plays of 20 yards or longer (32 passes, 16 runs) and 51 scoring drives in regulation. Of those 51 drives, only four have lasted 5 minutes or longer and 30 have lasted less than 21⁄2 minutes. The best way to keep the Nittany Lions out of the end zone is to limit their chunk plays and make them drive the length of the field. Can UW’s defense hold up against quarterback Trace McSorley and company?