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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will host No. 16/18 Michigan under the lights in sold out Beaver Stadium on Saturday (5 p.m. on ESPN) for its 94th Homecoming Game.
The Nittany Lions (3-2) and Wolverines (5-0) will meet for the 17th time when they collide on Saturday in Happy Valley. Penn State opened Big Ten play on the road last week at Indiana, while the Wolverines hosted Minnesota in their conference opener.
In a matchup of traditional college football powers, Penn State and Michigan are among 12 programs with at least 725 all-time victories. The series between the two foes began in 1993 when the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten Conference. The two teams have not played since 2010 when the Lions knocked off Michigan, 41-31, on the field.
Last week, junior wide receiver Allen Robinson set a career-high with 12 receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson is ranked No. 7 in the nation in receiving yards with 621 (124.2 ypg). Freshman Christian Hackenberg broke the Penn State single game record with 55 pass attempts against Indiana. Hackenberg finished 30-of-55 for 340 yards and three touchdowns.
Michigan is one of just two remaining unbeaten teams in the Big Ten (Ohio State is 6-0). Led by third-year head coach Brady Hoke, the Wolverines defeated Minnesota, 42-13, last week in Michigan Stadium. Michigan leads the all-time series against the Nittany Lions on the field, 10-6.
Penn State welcomes back its alumni this weekend for the Homecoming Game. All fans are encouraged to wear white for Saturday night's clash for an All-Stadium White Out. The Nittany Lions own a 67-21-5 on-field record on Homecoming. The Alumni Blue Band will join the Blue Band performance at halftime, and the Homecoming court will be introduced and the 2013-14 King and Queen will be announced during halftime.
Welcome to the Gameday Preview for Penn State's first Big Ten home game of the 2013 season.
What to Watch For - Penn State
1. The Nittany Lions are 4-1 under head coach Bill O'Brien in a week following a loss. Penn State turned the page on the Indiana game and went right back to work on the practice field when the team began preparations on Monday afternoon. Since he arrived, O'Brien has been impressed with the resiliency of the players on the roster. This season's squad is no exception. The Nittany Lions are excited about the opportunity to be playing under the lights in sold out Beaver Stadium during a white out. Senior Glenn Carson said earlier in the week that a game like Penn State vs. Michigan in primetime is a reason why you aspire to play for the Nittany Lions. Look for a motivated squad in Blue and White from the moment they take the field.
2. As head coach Bill O'Brien mentioned in the Gameday Preview interview, the outcome of the game will likely be determined in the trenches. O'Brien said that the Nittany Lions need a strong outing from their offensive line against a Michigan rushing defense that has only allowed 90.4 yards per game. Additionally, the Penn State defense will be looking to slow down the Wolverine rushing attack led by quarterback Devin Gardner and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. Establishing the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball is atop the gameplan for the Nittany Lions.
3. Penn State and Michigan are two teams that are looking to improve the turnover margin as the season reaches the mid-way point on Saturday. Both teams are tied for 10th in the Big Ten with a negative-3 margin in the turnover battle for the season. Michigan has lost 12 turnovers this season, including nine fumbles, while the Nittany Lions have lost nine turnovers. Like the battle in the trenches, the turnover margin could likely play a big role in Saturday's game. Michigan's win over Minnesota marked the first turnover-free game for the Wolverines since Oct. 1, 2011.
What to Watch For - Michigan
1. Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner has recorded at least one rushing touchdown in nine-straight regular season games. The talented dual-threat junior has the tools to make plays with both his arms and his legs. Gardner ranks second in the Big Ten in total offense with 270.8 yards per game. Keep an eye on Gardner's ability to get outside the pocket. Fifth-year senior receiver Jeremy Gallon (24 rec. in 2013) and tight end Devin Funchess (15 rec. in 2013) are Gardner's favorite two targets in the passing game. Michigan leads the Big Ten in third down conversion percentage this season (53.7 percent).
2. Michigan ranks among the nation's elite in rushing defense. The Wolverines are No. 9 nationally in rushing yards allowed per game and have yet to give up a rushing touchdown this season. Led by defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, Michigan's boasts a physical defensive unit. Coach O'Brien noted that Michigan's defensive success begins with strong play up front.
3. Wolverine cornerback Blake Countess is tied for the NCAA FBS lead in interceptions this season with four. Overall, Michigan's defense has forced nine turnovers in five games this season. Michigan's defense may get a boost on Saturday should 2012 All-Big Ten linebacker Jake Ryan return from injury. Ryan suffered a torn ACL during spring practice, but Hoke revealed this week that Ryan is cleared to play. Ryan made 88 tackles and 16.0 TFL last season.
The Final Word:
As a player, coach or fan of college football, it's hard to ask for much more than the opportunity to see Penn State and Michigan battle under the lights in a primetime atmosphere like the one that will greet both teams on Saturday night in a full-stadium white out inside Beaver Stadium. It's a big game for both teams as the Nittany Lions look to get back on track following the setback in the Big Ten opener and the Wolverines will look to remain unbeaten in their quest for a Big Ten title. Keep a close eye on the battle in the trenches when both teams have the ball. The stage is set for the 2013 Big Ten home opener. Fans are encouraged to wear white in the final home night game of 2013.
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