What It Means: Penn State pounds Michigan, builds College Football Playoff case

Penn State provided a major statement Saturday night in front of a record-setting Beaver Stadium crowd, beating Michigan 42-13. The Nittany Lions surged to a 14-0 lead during the game’s first five minutes and closed out the Wolverines with a dominant second half.

What it means

James Franklin delivered an emphatic message to the rest of the Big Ten with a start-to-finish performance for his team. The Penn State coach entered this game without a career win vs. the Wolverines, but left little doubt in front of 110,823 fans.
The Nittany Lions have now won 13 consecutive Big Ten games, and 16 straight regular-season contests overall. This secures Penn State’s status as the No. 2 team in Top 25 polls, where it sits for the first time since 1999.

5 things we learned

1. Penn State’s dynamic offensive backfield makes life difficult for everyone: Quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley both shined against a Michigan defense that entered this game leading all FBS teams in yards allowed per matchup. Barkley surpassed 100 rushing yards before halftime and scored total touchdowns, including 69-yard dash on the second play. Meanwhile, McSorley rushed for three touchdowns and consistently avoided pressure. He added a touchdown toss to Barkley and finished with more than 350 total yards. If Michigan was torched by this tandem, is any team safe?
2. This Nittany Lions defense is the real deal: Penn State players wanted to prove they also carry plenty of clout as a defensive unit. They delivered again against Michigan, repeatedly bringing Wolverines quarterback John O’Korn to the ground, forcing turnovers and largely shutting down a typically effective rushing attack.
3.  Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki is feeling good: Gesicki suffered an upper-body injury Sept. 30 against Indiana and didn’t return in the second half. Though he caught a pair of passes vs. Northwestern, Gesicki wasn’t at full health in that game. Following the bye week, he looks fully healthy and a made a couple acrobatic catches.
4. Will Fries is Penn State’s right offensive tackle: Fries has clearly overtaken Chasz Wright as the Nittany Lions right tackle. This redshirt freshman earned the start vs. Michigan and played a key role in the most impressive performance we’ve seen from this offensive line in 2017. Expect him to stay in the lineup moving forward.
5 . Beaver Stadium has never been more packed: Beaver Stadium has now surpassed 110,000 in attendance on seven occasions but never squeezed more people in than the collection of fans who attended this game. It was an incredible atmosphere that rivals any in sports, and it surely contributed toward some offensive struggles for the Wolverines.

Player of the game

McSorley certainly made a case but let’s go with Barkley. His 69-yard touchdown less than a minute into this game set the tone. He broke out with more than 100 rushing yards by halftime and again showed off his receiving skills, catching a touchdown that essentially stuck a dagger in the Wolverines. He is the fourth player in Big Ten history with 3,000 career rushing yards and 1,000 career receiving yards.

Play of the game

Barkley’s 61-yard sprint put Penn State on top immediately and sent the crowd into a frenzy. It’s a defining play of his season and Heisman Trophy campaign.

What’s next

 A matchup in Columbus with Ohio State looms large next Saturday. The Buckeyes can jump right back into the College Football Playoff conversation with a win. The Nittany Lions pulled off an upset victory in this rivalry last year.

The post What It Means: Penn State pounds Michigan, builds College Football Playoff case appeared first on Land of 10.

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