We finally have a marquee matchup in the state of Michigan; a top-ten bout between the #10 Penn State Nittany Lions & the #5 Michigan Wolverines. Going into Saturday's contest, we've compiled a few Penn State players that Michigan fans should get to know. Some of these players are going to even double as potential targets for Detroit Lions fans looking at how the team can improve its dreadful defense. Without any further adieu, here are players for the Nittany Lions that Michigan fans need to know by 12:00 PM Saturday.
#9 Joey Porter Jr., Cornerback
This is a guy that will be a focal point not only on FOX's broadcast but in the offensive play scheme for Michigan. Joey Porter Jr. is one of the most highly touted secondary players in the country and there is a good reason why. While not flying off the page with flashy stats like sacks or interceptions, Porter Jr. is tied for first in Division 1 with 10 pass breakups on the season.
#9 will cause all kinds of fits for Ronnie Bell & company while also forcing J. J. McCarthy to be able to make throws that he hasn't had to make so far this season. It will be a focus to see the type of route trees and formations play-caller Matt Weiss has to get Porter off his game.
#16 Ji'ayir Brown, Safety
Ji'ayir Brown has been the most statistically impactful player on the Penn State defense, leading the team with 2.5 tackles for loss, 25 tackles, two interceptions, and one forced fumble. Wherever there is a positive play for the Nittany Lions, Brown is almost assuredly there making an impact.http://gty.im/1242897783
For Michigan, the running game is fundamental to the success of this team, especially in a game against the type of secondary that Penn State has. Blake Corum & Donovan Edwards being able to run downhill, to set up play-action for JJ McCarthy will go a long way to a comfortable win for the Wolverines. Brown, with a penchant for reading action behind the line of scrimmage better than any other Nittany Lion, could disrupt this flow by breaking up running plays from his safety position. Fooling him into overpursuing, and sneaking his eyes into the backfield, will help dramatically and keep drives sustained on Saturday.
#10 Nicholas Singleton, Running Back
Everyone in the state of Michigan and across the Big Ten knows about how dangerous Penn State teams are with a competent running game. In fact, this year's version of PSU is 33rd in the nation averaging almost 200 yards per game running the ball. This presents a challenge the Wolverines have not seen yet this season and it all follows with the emergence of yet another NFL-bound back, Nick Singleton.
Singleton has been an absolute revelation this year, averaging 7.3 yards per carry, touching the ball 63 times on the ground for 463 rushing yards and five touchdowns. Being a freshman, #10 has done a huge favor to James Franklin, bolstering an offense that needed his help. At 6 feet- 218 pounds, Singleton is an absolute unit and in the highlights below, you can see the workhorse he is destined to become. There have already been comparisons to Saquon Barkley, and we know what that could potentially mean for the Wolverines.
#86 Brenton Strange, Tight-End
A Penn State tight end makes the list as well, isn't that a shocker? Obviously, it shouldn't be, as Penn State has also produced a fair amount of NFL tight ends over the years. Brenton Strange is no different, holding a pivotal place in the PSU passing game that Michigan will need to be cognizant of.http://gty.im/1235391743
Strange leads the Nittany Lions passing attack this season with 15.4 yards per catch and four touchdowns. He is second on the team in receiving yards (231) & receptions (15) as well. With the emphasis being heavily marked on Nick Singleton, it will be a fascinating game of chess between the Penn State play-action game, specifically over the middle, and what defensive coverages Jesse Minter dials up. Much of the damage of the Penn State offense will come in situations over the middle of the field with Strange running free off of play fakes and short route calls.