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No. 6 Michigan (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) got another big road win on Saturday, defeating Penn State (6-4, 3-4 Big Ten) 21-17 in Happy Valley.
Needing to win out to have a shot at the College Football Playoff, the Wolverines’ defense stepped up when they needed to most. Michigan junior quarterback Cade McNamara hit junior tight end Erick All for a 47-yard score to put Michigan ahead with 3:29 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Penn State still had plenty of time to go down the field and win the game.
That’s when the No. 6 ranked defense in the FBS showed why they’re deserving of that ranking. Penn State redshirt quarterback Sean Clifford went 1-of-4 on the last drive of the game, turning it over on downs.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh’s defense didn’t care to see any theatrics this week, as was the case in their loss to No. 7 Michigan State two weeks ago. Instead, they shut it down.
“This team is full of all the championship qualities,” Harbaugh said after the game. “They were born for this, for these kind of days.”
Senior defensive end Aidan Hutchinson led the way for the Wolverines, sacking Clifford three times and forcing a fumble. It was yet another performance from Hutchinson that shows why he’s in the discussion to be a top-five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Hutchinson is now up to nine sacks on the season.
“Can there be a better player than him out there? I don’t know, I haven’t seen him,” Harbaugh said of Hutchinson.
Offensively, it wasn’t pretty for Michigan, but once again it was the rushing attack that led the way. No Blake Corum, no problem. Even with the sophomore running back sidelined with an injury, senior Hassan Haskins had no problem leading the backfield. Haskins ran for 156 yards on 31 carries, punishing his way through the front seven of Penn State’s defense all game long.
“He has a quality about him that he wants to and will put the team on his back. … I just enjoy the incredible of what he can do,” Harbaugh said of Haskins.
Haskins came up just short of matching his career high of rushing yards. He ran for 168 yards in a win against Indiana last Saturday, showing his capability of being a lead back.
For Penn State head coach James Franklin, the 28-20 over Auburn at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 18 feels like eons ago. After a 5-0 start catapulted Penn State into the top-10, Franklin’s team has dropped four of its last five games. Franklin’s flirtations with USC and LSU continue to persist with the losses beginning to snowball. His 2021 is looking a lot like Jimbo Fisher’s 2017. Then head coach of Florida State, Fisher underwent his worst season at the helm, before bolting to Texas A&M. That just might be what Franklin does when the season ends.
With the win, Michigan keeps its Big Ten Championship game hopes alive. After a road tilt against Maryland (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) next Saturday, Harbaugh’s biggest challenge will await him…again.
Yes, it’s true. Harbaugh has never beaten Ohio State. At times, it feels like his job is on thin ice because of it. This season, it’s arguably the Wolverines’ best shot to do so. Michigan will host No. 4 OSU (8-1, 6-0 Big Ten) on Saturday, Nov. 27 at Noon on FOX. The winner will potentially represent the Big Ten East in the Big Ten Championship game on Dec. 4.