After No. 3 Michigan’s 24-15 victory over No. 10 Penn State on Saturday, the chase for the Big Ten East crown will likely come down to a battle of unbeatens in The Game on Nov. 25.
The Wolverines took care of business in a defensive slugfest in State College, Pennsylvania, despite being without head coach Jim Harbaugh, who is serving a suspension from the Big Ten as a result of Michigan’s ongoing sign-stealing investigation. Michigan’s victory potentially sets up a de facto Big Ten East championship game between Ohio State and Michigan on Nov. 25, marking the third-straight season in which the winner of The Game would claim the divisional crown.
The Wolverines were able to gut out the victory behind the dominant play of their defense. Michigan’s stop troops held Penn State to just 238 yards of total offense, while Penn State quarterback Drew Allar registered just a 45.5 percent completion percentage and 70 yards through the air.
While the Wolverine defense feasted, Michigan’s offense largely opted to attack Penn State with its ground game. The Wolverines racked up 227 rushing yards — led by 145 yards and two touchdowns from star back Blake Corum — while quarterback J.J. McCarthy only attempted eight passes, completing seven for 60 yards.
The Nittany Lions drew first blood with a 20-yard field goal from senior kicker Alex Felkins with 2:17 remaining in the opening quarter. However, Michigan responded in the second frame with a pair of touchdowns from its talented running back tandem of Corum and Donovan Edwards to pull ahead 14-3 with 6:07 to play in the half.
Penn State quickly closed the gap with a 10-play, 75-yard drive, which was highlighted by a pair of fourth-down conversions and capped off by an 11-yard touchdown run by Allar. The Nittany Lions’ ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed, giving Michigan a 14-9 lead heading into the break.
After a fumble from Allar on its opening possession of the second half, Penn State’s deficit extended to 17-9 after a 22-yard field goal from kicker James Turner on Michigan’s ensuing possession.
Both offenses went quiet from there until Corum put the game out of reach with a 30-yard touchdown run to push Michigan’s lead to 24-9 with 4:15 remaining in the contest. The Nittany Lions added a late touchdown with 1:59 remaining, but Michigan was able to hold on Penn State's two-point conversion attempt and close the game out with a 24-15 advantage.
Both Ohio State and Michigan still need to take care of some business before another massive edition of The Game, however. The Buckeyes still need wins in home bouts against Michigan State on Saturday and Minnesota on Nov. 18, while the Wolverines require a victory over Maryland in College Park, Maryland next week.