No. 2 Penn State proves its legitimacy in blowout win over No. 19 Michigan

Penn State’s Saquon Barkley (26) scores a touchdown as Michigan’s Josh Metellus (14) tries to chase him down during the first half of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris Knight)

Any doubts about the legitimacy of Penn State’s No. 2 ranking were put to bed on Saturday night.

The Nittany Lions welcomed No. 19 Michigan to Happy Valley for their annual “whiteout” game and put the hurting on the Wolverines. When the dust settled, Penn State emerged with an emphatic 42-13 victory.

And it could have been worse.

Behind Heisman frontrunner Saquon Barkley, the Nittany Lions stormed out to a 14-0 lead. On PSU’s second play from scrimmage, Barkley took a direct snap and exploded through the Michigan defense for a 69-yard touchdown.


And after PSU forced the Wolverines to go three-and-out, Penn State tacked on another Barkley touchdown, a 15-yarder, to make it 14-0 in fewer than five minutes of play.


With Beaver Stadium going nuts, Michigan again went three-and-out on the next drive, punting back to the Penn State offense. It looked like the Nittany Lions were primed to run Michigan out of the building, but Don Brown’s defense made a play when PSU quarterback Trace McSorley had a miscommunication with tight end Mike Gesicki and threw the ball right to UM’s David Long.

The interception looked like it would be a major turning point in the game. Michigan put together an 11-play scoring drive after the turnover and added another touchdown late in the second quarter to cut PSU’s lead down to 14-13 (Michigan missed an extra point).

But before the half, Penn State extended its lead. McSorley rebounded from the interception and connected with the likes of DaeSean Hamilton, Juwan Johnson and Mike Gesicki before he finished the drive off with a three-yard touchdown run to give PSU a 21-13 at the half.

The second half was all Penn State, and it was the defense that set the tone.

PSU became known for its big-play offense during its run to the Big Ten championship last fall. This year, the offense, led by Barkley, has done really well once again, but the defense has stepped up its play, leading the nation in scoring defense.

The Nittany Lions were close to sacking Michigan QB John O’Korn several times in the first half, but the senior was able to slip away for a few first downs with his legs. In the second half, PSU got home time and time again, finishing with six sacks on the night.

While the defense swarmed and kept the Wolverines in check, PSU’s offense chipped away. McSorley, who finished the night with 282 passing yards, added two more rushing touchdowns and also hit Barkley down the right sideline for a 42-yard touchdown.


Barkley, who rushed for 108 yards and two touchdowns while adding 53 receiving yards and another score, dropped a wheel route in the red zone from McSorley in the first half. He almost did the same, but corralled the ball after an initial bobble for his third score of the night.


By the time the clocks struck zero, Penn State finished with 506 yards of offense, nearly doubling what the No. 1 Michigan defense had been allowing all year long. The win marked PSU’s 16th straight in the regular season. PSU’s last regular season loss? A 49-10 blowout in Ann Arbor from last fall.

Penn State turned the tables on Michigan this time.

Penn State hadn’t played a ranked opponent during its 6-0 start. Michigan was the first of three straight ranked Big Ten East foes with trips to No. 6 Ohio State and No. 18 Michigan State around the corner. The Nittany Lions passed their first test with flying colors and did so without playing their best game.

The Nittany Lions, now 7-0, are an extremely dangerous team. Meanwhile, Michigan (5-2, 2-2) has pretty much been eliminated from College Football Playoff contention.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!