Penn State went 0-6 against the Big Ten East's top three programs during James Franklin's first two years in State College. He gets a seventh crack at an upset on Saturday, and the Nittany Lions could really use one against No. 4 Michigan. It'll be difficult, however.
Jim Harbaugh's team hasn't been without its warts through three games, but the Wolverines have been good overall. They fell behind 14-0 against Colorado at the Big House last Saturday before winning the rest of the day by a 45-14 score. Quarterback Wilton Speight is throwing for 228 yards per game, and the offense lit up its (soft) non-conference schedule for 53 points per contest. That will do.
Penn State's had its problems, but 2-1 is about where most expected it to be right now. The Lions lost a nail-biter at Pitt in Week 2 and let Temple hang around quite a while last weekend, but they've ultimately beaten the teams they should beat and lost to the ones they shouldn't. That's how it's gone for Franklin through two years and change. This is a chance to tell a different story.
How to watch, stream, and listen
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC. The broadcasters are Dave Flemming, Brian Griese, and Todd McShay.
Online streaming: WatchESPN
Spread: Michigan opened as a 15.5-point favorite.
Three big things to know
1. Trace McSorley's getting his biggest test yet. Penn State's Christian Hackenberg replacement has made mistakes, but he's done an altogether nice job so far. He's thrown for a league-best 828 yards, and he's flashed mobility when Penn State's offensive line has forced him out of the pocket. Michigan's havoc-wreaking defense will force McSorley to think on his feet, and he'll need his skill-position weapons (Saquon Barkley, DaeSean Hamilton et. al) to help him.
2. Michigan's secondary will have its hands full, too. The Wolverines have a great defensive backfield, anchored by cornerback Jourdan Lewis and the versatile Jabrill Peppers. They'll be busy Saturday. Penn State has one of the country's most dynamic receiving groups, led by Hamilton and top target Chris Godwin. McSorley has targeted Godwin on a third of his throws so far, with Hamilton and skilled tight end Mike Gesicki also busy. (Peppers has the size and skill set to watch either a receiver or Gesicki on any given play.)
3. The pressure's pretty significant on everyone here. Michigan's expected to contend for the Big Ten East with Ohio State and Michigan State. Penn State's expected to do something other than lose against at least one of those teams. A Michigan loss would set the Wolverines back significantly in the East race, and Franklin's seat can't get cooler by moving to 0-7 against the division's blue bloods. Much is on the line.