Michigan vs. Penn State: Rudock needs pocket protection

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News breaks down Saturday's Michigan-Penn State game at Beaver Stadium (noon, ABC / WWJ 950, WTKA 1050).

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg has been sacked 76 times in the last 23 games.

Nittany Lions to watch

Christian Hackenberg, QB: Penn State's career passing leader in yards (7,924), completions (650) and attempts (1,151). In his last seven games, Hackenberg has 15 TDs (12 passing, two rushing, one receiving), one INTs. He has 13 TDs and three INTs this year. Penn State, however, is last in the Big Ten in sacks allowed (33)

Saquon Barkley, TB: The freshman is 27th nationally in rushing (104.5 yards) after missing 2.5 games with an injury. Barkley leads the team with 836 yards rushing, and his seven TDs ties D.J. Dozier's record for a freshman (1983). Against Ohio State, he had 194 yards rushing, only the second back with 175 yards or more against the Buckeyes since 2000 (Indiana's Tevin Coleman had 228 yards last season).

Carl Nassib, DE: The former walk-on is a game-changer, setting Penn State's season sack record (15.5). Nassib is the main reason why the Nittany Lions lead the country with 4.2 sacks a game and 42 total. He has been nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding player in the country who began his career as a walk-on.


On the road again: Michigan is unbeaten in Big Ten road games, but Beaver Stadium has been tough on the Wolverines — 5-4, although they have lost the last three. Michigan hasn't won at Penn State since 2006.

Defensive strengths: Michigan is licking its wounds after giving up a season-high 527 yards, including 307 rushing, to Indiana. But, the Wolverines are still No. 2 in total defense (268.7 yards). Penn State ranks 13th, allowing 311.2 yards. The NIttany Lions also are No. 2 nationally in pass defense.

Bye bye: The debate will wage on whether it's good for a team to have a bye, or does it ruin the rhythm of the season. Michigan had a bye after losing to Michigan State and then needed a goal-line stand to win at Minnesota. Penn State is coming off a bye and is 15-13 in those games since 1993.

Big-play capability: Penn State is tied for first in the Big Ten in plays of 30 yards or more with 31. This is not good news for the Wolverines who were gouged last weekend by Indiana TB Jordan Howard (238 yards). In Penn State's victory over Maryland, it had 10 pass plays of 30 or more yards.

Picking up fumbles: Michigan has eight INTs (three by Jeremy Clark), but have recovered one fumble (LB Joe Bolden). Meanwhile, Penn State has forced 17 fumbles and recovered 10, eighth nationally.

Facts and figures

*Michigan CB Jourdan Lewis leads the nation in pass breakups (2.0 average). He has 20 so far this year, a new Michigan record.

*Penn State is 6-0 at home, its best mark since 2008 when it went 7-0. It's the fourth time since 2000 the Nittany Lions are 6-0 at home.

*Michigan is 6-2 against Penn State in games decided by seven points or fewer. In the last 10 years, Michigan has won four of those games.

*Michigan is 14th in the AP poll and 13th in the coaches poll, the eighth straight week it has been ranked in the Top 25. It is 2-1 against ranked teams.

*Through nine games, Penn State has used six starting offensive line combinations. G Brian Gala is the only player who has started all nine games.