Superb Michigan defense faces challenge in Penn State's Barkley

Tuesday, 17 October 2017, 08:22:23 PM. The do-everything running back of the second-ranked Nittany Lions must find ways to beat a Wolverines defense that has been one of the best in the nation this season.
Michigan’s defense has been one of the best in the nation this season, but the unit is going to have to play at its best against No. 2 Penn State on Saturday night when it will try to contain do-everything running back Saquon Barkley. “It’ll be a team effort defensively to go against a great player,” Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh said Monday at his weekly news conference, “and a really outstanding offense – really good quarterback, good receivers, line and backs that are hitting on all cylinders. So I think our guys are excited for that task.” Despite returning just one defensive starter from last season, the 19th-ranked Wolverines (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten) are No. 1 in FBS in total defense (223.8 yards per game), opponents’ third-down conversions (20.5 percent) and pass efficiency defense (opponents are completing just 44.1 percent of their passes). They also are in the top 10 nationally in pass defense (138.0 yards per game, third), rush defense (85.8 yards per game, sixth), sacks (20, tied for sixth), and scoring defense (14.7 points per game, eighth). In Saturday’s 27-20 overtime win over Indiana, Michigan did not allow the Hoosiers to record a first down on six consecutive second-half drives. In six games this season, its defense has forced opponents to punt 52 times. The defense will challenge a Penn State offense that is averaging 39.7 points and 456.2 total yards per game. The catalyst is Barkley, a 230-pound junior who has rushed for 649 yards, scored nine touchdowns...Read more
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