Year one of the Jim Harbaugh Era in Ann arbor will see Michigan playing for the Big Ten East Division next week in Michigan Stadium. That is the situation after No. 12 Michigan (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) took to the road and left Penn State (7-4, 4-3 Big Ten) with a 28-16 win.
On fourth and goal from the two-yard line, Penn State elected to kick a field goal while down 21-13 with roughly eight minutes to play. Michigan made them pay for that decision. After the short field goal was blocked but still managed to sneak in for three points, Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis returned the ensuing kickoff to the Penn State 4-0-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Jehu Chesson swung to the left side of the field and ran down the left sideline for a 20-yard gain to put the Wolverines in the red zone in the blink of an eye. De'Veon Smith capped the drive with a short touchdown run by leaping and extending the ball over a pile for a decisive touchdown. Penn State went four-and-out on their next, and final, possession and Michigan ran the clock out for the final three minutes and change because Penn State used its final timeout with over five minutes to play in the game.
It was a long afternoon for Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg, who completed just 13 of his 31 pass attempts and was roughed up from start to finish, especially in the second half. Penn State converted just three of 14 third-down situations (Michigan converted seven of 14) and the offense ended with just 207 yards of offense. Freshman running back Saquon Barkley had 68 rushing yards, but 56 came on a long run on the game’s opening drive. Too many times Penn State went for a big pass and hoped to come down with the football, and Michigan would have taken that strategy all day long. Michigan was rarely burned by a big play.
Michigan’s quarterback, Jake Rudock, was much more efficient and effective, completing 25 of 38 pass attempts for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Michigan also had to overcome discipline issues as well. Michigan was flagged for 13 penalties amounting for 117 yards. Michigan also had two turnovers in the game.
Michigan remains in position to win the Big Ten East Division, but it still needs to beat Ohio State next week and hope Michigan State takes a loss thanks to an earlier head-to-head going the way of the Spartans earlier this season. Ohio State hosts Michigan State today, and Michigan State will host Penn State next week. Odds are Michigan fans will actually be pulling for the Buckeyes here, which has to feel a bit weird.