Ordinarily, Penn State's defense would welcome the sort of challenge it faces Saturday. The Nittany Lions have been perennially stingy since 2004, allowing more than 24 points just 11 times over the last 82 games.
But when Denard Robinson and Michigan's high-powered offense visit Beaver Stadium at 8 p.m. Saturday, they will face a Penn State defense that might not be equipped to keep the Wolverines to 24 points.
Michigan (5-2, 1-2 Big Ten) averages 532 yards and 36 points per game. The Nittany Lions rank fifth in the conference in scoring defense and total defense but remain thin along the defensive line and in the secondary due to injuries.
"There's no question they have a fine offense and that it's going to be a very difficult job for us," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said.
The offense also has to do its part and build on a 33-point performance last week at Minnesota. Staying on the field is the first priority.
"I think we need to be able to run the ball pretty well this week," running back Evan Royster said. "That's how we control the clock and keep their offense off the field."
There are question marks for Penn State at quarterback. Starter Rob Bolden might not be available if he doesn't pass further concussion tests this week. Backups Matt McGloin and Kevin Newsome will both have a shot at earning the starting job.
Paterno isn't letting the Wolverines' current two-game losing streak sway his opinion of them and what they're capable of.
"I think we've got to play 60 minutes of really good football," Paterno said. "It's amazing when you look at the tapes of Michigan's games against Michigan State and Iowa, how well they played outside of turnovers and some major mistakes."
--Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, the all-time FBS/Division I-A coaching victories leader, looks for his 399th career win Saturday.
--Senior running back Evan Royster needs 31 rushing yards to move past Curt Warner and become Penn State's career leading rusher.
--Penn State has won its last two games against Michigan by an average of 27 points, but eight of the other 13 meetings in the all-time series have been decided by 10 points or fewer.
SERIES HISTORY: Michigan 10-5 (last meeting 2009, Penn State 35-10)
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Matt McGloin made some big plays off the bench against Minnesota, but the Nittany Lions need quarterback Rob Bolden to return from what has still not been officially diagnosed as a concussion to operate at full capability. Penn State's wide receivers shook off the drops last week and, after another awful start, the running game showed some momentum in the second half.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: A patchwork group devastated by injuries has held things together the best it can, but this unit is nowhere near where Penn State's defense has been the past six years. The Nittany Lions haven't allowed too many long passing plays despite a lack of pass rush, but opponents are averaging 143.9 yards rushing per game against Penn State this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The league's tougher this year than any year I can remember being in it." -- Penn State coach Joe Paterno on the Big Ten conference
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Michigan at Penn State, Oct. 30 -- The Nittany Lions welcome arguably their most hated rivals to Beaver Stadium for a prime-time bout. Michigan looks to snap a two-game losing streak while Penn State hopes to build on last week's 33-21 win at Minnesota.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Penn State must sustain drives to keep Michigan's dynamic offense off the field and turn its scoring chances into touchdowns, not field goals. The Nittany Lions must continue to be sound on special teams to give the Wolverines a long field and will likely need to force at least a couple of turnovers to have a chance.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Evan Royster -- The senior is only a few yards (31) from becoming Penn State's all-time leading rusher and could play a big role in keeping Michigan's offense off the field this week.
WR Derek Moye -- The 6-foot-4 junior has three touchdown catches in his last two games and gives the Nittany Lions a reliable big-play threat. He should have plenty of chances against a spongy Michigan secondary.
LB Chris Colasanti -- The Big Ten's leader in tackles has had a productive if not terribly dynamic season and will need to play at a high level Saturday if the Nittany Lions are going to contain Michigan QB Denard Robinson.
--TE Andrew Szczerba is out for the season with a back injury.
--WR Curtis Drake is out for the season with a broken leg.
--QB Rob Bolden was tested for concussion symptoms Sunday and was scheduled to be tested again Wednesday. The starter was listed as "probable" for Saturday's game against Michigan, but Joe Paterno said Tuesday his guess was that Bolden wouldn't be able to play.
--QB Kevin Newsome missed some practice time last week with the flu and suffered a minor injury to his left knee against Minnesota but has been able to practice this week and will compete for the starting job.
The TSX Files: Penn State Midweek
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