Penn State Travels to Michigan for Big Game Saturday

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No. 14/13 Penn State takes on the Big Ten East Division leader when it visits No. 5 Michigan Saturday at 3:45 p.m. on ESPN.

Penn State Game NotesMichigan Game Notes

(Photo by Paul Burdick. Check out more of Burdick’s work here)

Penn State and Michigan are meeting for the 10th time as ranked teams and for the first time as ranked teams in back-to-back seasons since 1999. An average of 34 points has decided the last two meetings between the Wolverines and Nittany Lions, with the home team prevailing each time.

Penn State’s last four games have been decided by six points or less. After coming up on the short end with a pair of heartbreaking losses to Ohio State and Michigan State, the Lions have responded with wins over Indiana and Iowa in the last two weeks.

Senior quarterback Trace McSorley continues to lead Penn State, adding to his legend last week against Iowa after returning from injury to rush for a 51-yard touchdown en route to a Nittany Lions victory. McSorley and the Penn State offense are averaging 459.5 yards per game but will face another strong challenge, as Michigan leads the FBS in total defense, yielding just 220.0 yards per game.

Also standing out for Penn State the last two weeks is sophomore defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, who now leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss (1.6 per game) and is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. Gross-Matos has made 19 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks in the last two weeks after making 17 tackles, 6.5 TFLs and 2.0 sacks the previous six weeks.

Michigan enters the game coming off a bye week and riding a seven-game winning streak. Its lone loss came at now-No. 3 Notre Dame by a touchdown to open the season.


Michigan is ranked No. 5 and leads the Big Ten East Division with a 5-0 conference record. Overall, the Wolverines are 7-1 with their lone loss coming in the season opener at Notre Dame … Michigan boasts the nation’s top-ranked defense, which is yielding an average of just 220.0 yards per game allowed. The Wolverines are particularly strong at shutting down the passing game, leading the nation allowing just 122.9 yards per game. On the ground, Michigan ranks ninth in FBS allowing 97.1 yards per game. Michigan is averaging 14.4 points allowed to lead the Big Ten and rank sixth in FBS … U-M has held seven of eight opponents to their season low in yardage this year … On offense, Michigan ranks third in the Big Ten averaging 36.0 points per game … Quarterback Shea Patterson ranks second in the Big Ten in efficiency (155.5) and has thrown multiple touchdown passes in four of eight games this season … Running back Karan Higdon ranks second in the Big Ten and eighth in FBS rushing for 118.7 yards per game.


Penn State is playing the Associated Press poll fifth-ranked team for the first time since playing USC in the 2009 Rose Bowl … Penn State’s last win over the AP No. 5 was Oct. 15, 1994, at Michigan, 31-24. That game also marks Penn State’s last win on the road over an AP team ranked fifth or higher … The last time Penn State played a team ranked fifth or higher on the road was at No. 4 Michigan in 2016, a 49-10 loss.


Penn State became bowl eligible when it defeated Iowa for its sixth win of the season. … The Lions have appeared in 48 bowl games in program history, tied for ninth-highest among FBS schools at the start of the season … Head coach James Franklin has guided his team to a bowl appearance in each of his eight seasons as a head coach (3 at Vanderbilt; 5 at Penn State).


Penn State’s last four games have been decided by six points or less. The last time the Nittany Lions played four consecutive games decided by six points or less was 1894 (at Navy, 6-6 on Nov. 10; vs. Bucknell, 12-6 on Nov. 17; at Washington & Jefferson, 6-0 on Nov. 23; at Oberlin, 9-6 on Nov. 24) …. Penn State last played four consecutive games decided by seven points or less in 1985 (at Maryland, 20-18 on Sept. 7; Temple, 27-25 on Sept. 14; East Carolina, 17-10 on Sept. 21; at Rutgers, 17-10 on Sept. 28; Alabama, 19-17 on Oct. 12; at Syracuse, 24-20 on Oct. 19) … Penn State has played five games decided by seven or fewer points in 2018 and owns a 3-2 record in those games. It earned wins over Appalachian State (45-38, OT), Indiana (33-28) and Iowa (30-24) while falling to Ohio State (26-27) and Michigan State (17-21) … The Nittany Lions’ last five losses have been by a total of 12 points (2016: USC – 3 points; 2017: Ohio State – 1 point, Michigan State – 3 points; 2018: Ohio State – 1 point, Michigan State – 4 points), which is the smallest margin of defeat over five losses in program history … The 2016 loss to USC in the Rose Bowl and 2017 Michigan State loss came on field goals as time expired … Ohio State took leads with 1:48 remaining (2017) and 2:03 remaining (2018) … Michigan State took its first lead in 2018 on a touchdown with 19 seconds remaining … Penn State last lost a game by more than four points on Sept. 24, 2016, at Michigan (49-10).


QB Trace McSorley is among 20 semifinalists for The Maxwell Award … The Maxwell Award, named in honor of Robert W. “Tiny” Maxwell, has been given to America’s College Player of the Year since 1937 … Penn State is tied for the national lead among all schools with its seven Maxwell Award winners.


DE Yetur Gross-Matos was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for his nine-tackle, 4.0-TFL and 2.0-sack performance in a win over Iowa … Gross-Matos set a career high for tackles for loss and matched his career high for sacks … Gross-Matos is the first Penn State Defensive Player of the Week since Jason Cabinda earned the honor following last season’s win over Michigan.

Trace McSorley is 3 yards shy of 9,000 career passing yards … 2 TDs shy of 100 career touchdowns responsible for … 121 yards shy of the PSU career QB rushing record of 1,637 yards held by Michael Robinson (2002-05) … 189 yards shy of the PSU career QB season record of 806 held by Michael Robinson (2005) … 372 yards shy of 2,000 passing yards on the season … 50 completions shy of 700 career completions … 383 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards this season … Miles Sanders is 166 yards shy of 1,000 rushing yards on the season.

Penn State has won its last four games on the road … Penn State has won its last nine games against Big Ten West Division opponents … Redshirt freshman WR KJ Hamler has a reception in all eight games of his career … True freshman TE Pat Freiermuth has a reception in his last seven games … True freshman K Jake Pinegar has made his last six field goals.


Penn State is 26-5 in its last 31 games, the best span since going 26-5 from the start of the 2008 season to the first four games of 2010 … Penn State is 28-7 over the past three seasons (2016-18), for the seventh-best record in FBS … Dating back to 2015, Penn State has won 23 of its last 26 home games … Penn State’s 42 wins over the last five years (2014-18) rank tied for 15th in FBS and third in the Big Ten (Ohio State, 56; Wisconsin, 50) … Penn State’s 84 wins over the last 10 years (2009-18) rank tied for 18th in FBS and fourth in the Big Ten (Wisconsin, 99; Ohio State, 97; Michigan State, 89) … Penn State’s 128 wins over the last 15 years rank tied for 16th in FBS and third in the Big Ten (Ohio State, 148; Wisconsin, 146) … Penn State and Wisconsin are the only Big Ten teams to have posted a winning season in the last 13 consecutive years … Penn State is one of eight teams (USC, LSU, Florida State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia Tech) in the Autonomy Five to have a winning record each of the last 13 years … Overall in the FBS, Penn State is one of nine teams with a winning record in each of the last 13 years (Boise State).


Penn State is second in FBS in scoring offense in the second half, averaging 23.38 points. Houston leads averaging 24.13 points … Penn State is also second FBS in fourth-quarter scoring, averaging 13.35 points. Houston leads averaging 14.38 points … For the season, Penn State is outscoring opponents 174-83 in the second half. The plus-12.13 points per game margin in the second half ranks fourth in FBS … Penn State’s plus-6.0 scoring differential in the fourth quarter ranks seventh in FBS. (Per Coaches by the Numbers)


Penn State ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 35th in FBS in scoring defense, allowing 22.3 points per game … Penn State ranks tied for 22nd in FBS and second in the Big Ten behind Iowa (4.75) averaging 4.25 three-and-outs per game … Penn State’s 1.17 points per possession ranks 10th in FBS and second in the Big Ten behind Michigan. (Per Coaches by the Numbers) … Penn State’s 1.14 points per possession over the last two years is fourth in FBS. (Per Coaches by the Numbers) … The Penn State defense owns three second-half shutouts this season: at Pitt, Kent State and Iowa … Indiana ran 100 offensive plays against the Nittany Lions, the most by a Penn State opponent in program history, but was held to 1.75 points per possession … Penn State broke up 15 passes against Michigan State, which was the most for the team since breaking up 16 passes against Purdue in 2000 … Penn State became the first team to hold Ohio State scoreless in the opening stanza this season. The Buckeyes had scored at least 10 points in the first quarter in each of the first four games of the season … Penn State was the first team to hold Ohio State under 100 yards of offense in a half since Oklahoma did it last year in the first half of their 2017 meeting … Penn State allowed just 221 total yards to Kent State, the sixth-fewest yards allowed under James Franklin, tied with 221 yards allowed at Indiana in 2014 … The 221 total yards allowed vs. Kent State are the fewest since allowing 200 vs. Rutgers in 2017 … The Nittany Lions allowed just 41 yards rushing by Kent State, the lowest value since giving up 39 at Rutgers in 2016 … Penn State held Pitt to just six points, marking the fewest points allowed by Penn State since holding Maryland to three points in the 2017 regular season finale.


Penn State’s place-kicking and kickoff specialists are both true freshmen … K Jake Pinegar has made his last six field goals and is 9-for-13 on the year … Pinegar is 6-for-7 on field goals inside 40 yards, and had field goals of 45, 49 and 44 yards against Iowa to improve to 3-for-6 from 40 yards or longer … Against Iowa, Pinegar became the first Nittany Lion kicker with three 40-yard field goals in a single game since Sam Ficken had boots of 47, 46 and 48 yards vs. Maryland in 2014 … Pinegar’s 49-yard field goal against Iowa was the longest field goal by Penn State since Sam Ficken kicked a 50-yard kick vs. Temple in 2014 … Pinegar leads the Big Ten with 68 points scored … K Rafael Checa has 33 touchbacks on 60 kickoffs this season and is averaging 60.0 yards per kickoff.

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