Well, here we are at the end, and we end not far from where we began, at least geographically speaking. Down the road from Ypsilanti, and the home of our #12 game, Eastern Michigan lies the campus of another school you may have heard of, The University of Michigan. The Wolverines October 12th visit to Beaver Stadium is the second of two night kickoffs at home this season, and for my money the best game of the 2013 season.
For starters, this marks the Wolverines first visit to Happy Valley since an entertaining 2010 game that saw Matt McGloin, making his first start for Penn State, throw for 250 yards and a touchdown, in a 41-31 win. This year’s game will also mark the return of an annual meeting between two of the most storied programs in college football. Starting in 2014, this game becomes a divisional matchup that will see the Nittany Lions and Wolverines meet annually, as it should be.
Brady Hoke is going to be tasked with replacing one of the most dynamic playmaker in Michigan football history, with Denard Robinson gone to the NFL. Devin Gardner took over under center towards the end of last season, but the Michigan offense seemed to revolve almost exclusively around Denard at times. On the line, they return Taylor Lewan, who was a likely top 10 pick at left tackle, along with Michael Schofield on the right side. They will need the interior line to come together quickly, or a running game that already is a question mark becomes bigger. Fitzgerald Toussaint’s return from injury, and the arrival of Derrick Green have Michigan fans optimistic, but there is much to prove. So much of Michigan’s rushing attack revolved around the thread of Robinson, and they must now take the next step to more of a pro style running game.
So why does this game get top billing over, say, Ohio State? For one, location. We only get 7 or 8 football Saturdays in Happy Valley every year. And anytime you get a program with the cachet of Michigan in your house, it’s special. Add in the 5:00 start and homecoming weekend festivities, and you have the makings of a special Saturday. This is also PSU’s first chance this season for that real signature win. One of the biggest things I took away from the 2012 season was how well O’Brien and his staff got their players up for these big moments, especially with the lack of a post season. Michigan’s visit will be their first big chance to show that in 2013.
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