By: Aidan Champion
The air is crisp, the leaves are falling, and November football is at its pinnacle. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this college football season will play out, but for every team in the playoff hunt, it’s a one-game-at-a-time mindset.
Here’s what to look for this weekend from the No. 6 and 7 teams from this week’s CFB Playoff rankings.
Michigan at Penn State
This matchup will surely be one of the Wolverines’ biggest tests of the season and will determine where their season goes from here.
Jim Harbaugh and company travel to a hostile Beaver Stadium where they will take on No. 23 Penn State.
The Nittany Lions had a strong start to the season and were considered a top candidate to compete with Ohio State for the Big Ten East. Despite a solid 5-0 start, though, Penn State dropped three consecutive games to Iowa, Illinois and Ohio State.
James Franklin’s crew turned things around last week, handling Maryland on the road, 31-14.
Michigan comes off an impressive outing against Indiana, having conquered the Hoosiers in a 29-7 victory. The Wolverine defense showed up big time, limiting Indiana to just 88 yards in the air.
Michigan running back Hassan Haskins rushed for 168 yards and a touchdown, contributing to the Wolverines’ 411 total offensive yards for the contest.
The main concern for Michigan will be the status of recently injured key players like running back Blake Corum, wide receivers Andrel Anthony and AJ Henning, tight end Erick All and a few others.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Wolverines adapt to such adversity, but a road win against a ranked Big Ten team would be huge for the program’s resume this season.
Michigan’s contest with Penn State is set to kick off at noon on Saturday and can be watched on ABC.
Maryland at Michigan State
The Spartans face a similar injury problem, as guard Matt Carrick will miss the rest of the season while cornerback Charles Brantley posted an implication on Instagram that might suggest he won’t be suiting up for the Spartans until next season. Wide receiver Jalen Nailor is also still battling an injury and is probably unlikely to participate in this weekend’s game.
The status of kicker Matt Coghlin is also unknown for Saturday’s contest. The program’s all-time field goals made leader sat out in the loss to Purdue.
Nevertheless, this weekend’s matchup against Maryland is one that MSU just simply needs to win.
Maryland is 16th in the nation in passing yards per game (309.2), a note that should concern Spartan fans, considering the drastic lack of execution from MSU’s secondary this season.
Then, again, when a defense gives up 536 passing yards to Purdue quarterback Aidan O’Connell, it can’t get much worse … right?
On the other side of the ball, the Terrapins allow 153.4 rushing yards per game, a weakness that should light up the eyes of Heisman Trophy candidate Kenneth Walker III and the rest of the Spartan backfield.
I feel like a broken record predicting MSU’s opposing quarterback — in this case, Taulia Tagovailoa — to have a dominant passing game, but it’s really almost a guarantee at this point, especially when Tagovailoa is second in the Big Ten in passing yards per game with 306.1.
Should MSU’s secondary be fueled from arguably its worst performance of the season last week, it will be a sound victory for the Spartans before they head on the road to face their biggest threat yet in Ohio State.
The Spartans’ and Terrapins’ matchup kicks off at 4 p.m. on Saturday and can be watched on FOX.
Written by: Aidan Champion
Aidan is an MSU Journalism Student and Spartan Football writer for: impact89fm.org
Photo Courtesy of The Centre Daily Times