Michigan plays Penn State at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pa. The No. 19 Wolverines (5-1, 2-1) need a win to strengthen its spot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and even to vault it back into the top 10. The Wolverines defeated Indiana 27-20 in overtime last weekend, and look for a signature win this season, against the No. 2 Nittany Lions (6-0, 3-0).
Here are three keys to the game and predictions from Land of 10 Michigan writers Rachel Lenzi and Kevin Goheen.
1. No turnovers
The Wolverines fulfilled this goal in its win last weekend at Indiana, and needs to continue that goal of having zero turnovers in each game. Easier said than done, right? The Wolverines average two turnovers a game; at the halfway point of the year, Michigan has lost six fumbles and its quarterbacks have been intercepted six times. Michigan has a turnover margin of minus-3, 11th in the Big Ten. Penn State is the exact opposite. The Nittany Lions have a turnover margin of plus-12 and are tied with Wisconsin with a league-leading nine interceptions.
2. Score red-zone touchdowns
Michigan has scored a conference-low six red-zone touchdowns this season, including only one against Indiana: Karan Higdon’s 12-yard run in the second quarter. The Wolverines held the ball for more than six minutes on each of its opening drives against Michigan State and Indiana, but both drives ended with field goals on plays from the 11-yard-line against Michigan State and the 22-yard line against Indiana. The Wolverines cannot afford to leave points on the table, especially against Big Ten East Division opponents.
3. Win on third down
That means capitalizing on third down, on both sides of the ball. The Wolverines finished 2 for 13 on third-down offensive plays at Indiana, and is 29 for 92 (31.5 percent) on third down this season, which is second-to-last in the Big Ten. Michigan’s opponents, meanwhile, are a scant 18 for 88 (20.5 percent) on third-down; the Wolverines lead the Big Ten in that statistical category.
Rachel Lenzi: Penn State 23, Michigan 17
Kevin Goheen: Penn State 26, Michigan 20