No. 2 Penn State vs. No. 19 Michigan: Defensive struggle with huge stakes

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

No. 2 Penn State vs. No. 19 Michigan: Defensive struggle with huge stakes

No. 2 Penn State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) vs. No. 19 Michigan (5-1, 2-1 Big Ten)
Beaver Stadium, State College
Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC

Scouting Penn State
The second-ranked Nittany Lions were idle last week, after beating Northwestern, 31-7, on Oct. 7, as Trace McSorley went 25 for 34 for 245 yards and two touchdowns. McSorley, taking advantage of a defense stacked in an attempt to limit the effectiveness of star running back Saquon Barkley, completed a school-record 15 straight passes in one stretch. Barkley, while held to 75 yards on the ground, did break off a 53-yard touchdown run, one of two scores he had in the game. He leads the nation in all-purpose yards per game (217.0). The Lions, who are also atop the nation in scoring defense (9.0), are led on that side of the ball by linebacker Jason Cabinda and safety Marcus Allen with 40 and 35 tackles, respectively. Fourteen players have had a hand in a sack, and 26 have been part of a tackle for loss.

Scouting Michigan
The No. 19 Wolverines beat Indiana 27-20 in overtime last week, on a 25-yard run by Karan Higdon. Higdon finished with 25 carries for 200 yards and three TDs, all career highs, and to date has rushed for 401 yards (5.7 a carry). Quarterback John O’Korn, who has taken over for the injured Wilton Speight, was just 10 for 20 for 58 yards against the Hoosiers. He has clicked on 54.9 percent of his throws, for 563 yards and a touchdown, and has been picked off four times. UM has allowed the fewest yards per game in the FBS this season (223.8), and while middle linebacker Devin Bush is fourth in the Big Ten in tackles (49) and second in sacks (5), the key to the Wolverines’ D is Maurice Hurst, an eyeblink-quick defensive tackle.

History
Michigan leads the all-time series 13-7 and has won the last three meetings. The Wolverines routed the Lions last year in Ann Arbor, 49-10, in the most one-sided game ever between the two teams. PSU has gone 15-1 since.

Storyline to watch
It’s pretty simple: In a game that has “defensive struggle” written all over it, which offense can gain traction? And which team can avoid a killer mistake? 

What’s at stake
A PSU victory sets up a showdown against No. 6 Ohio State next weekend in Columbus.

Prediction
Penn State 21, Michigan 13.

Penn State can't keep streak alive against No. 6 Purdue

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AP Images

Penn State can't keep streak alive against No. 6 Purdue

BOX SCORE 

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Carsen Edwards scored 27 points to lead sixth-ranked Purdue to a 76-73 victory over Penn State on Sunday night.

Dakota Mathias added 18 points and Isaac Haas had 12 points and six rebounds for the Boilermakers (24-5, 13-3 Big Ten), who snapped a season-worst three-game skid.

Tony Carr had 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, Shep Garner had 17 points and Lamar Stevens had 13 points and six rebounds for the Nittany Lions (19-10, 9-7). The loss ended a stretch of six wins in seven games.

Ryan Cline's 3-pointer with 5:31 remaining gave Purdue a 61-58 lead, and the Boilers never trailed the rest of the way.

It wasn't easy for a Purdue team in search of the same offensive flair that made the Boilermakers unbeatable during a program-record 19-game winning streak that stretched from November until a 64-63 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 7. It became more difficult without starting forward Vincent Edwards, one of the team's most consistent players.

Vincent Edwards sat on the bench wearing a walking boot after spraining his left ankle in practice on Saturday. The team disclosed the injury in a statement before tipoff.

It was another uncharacteristic game for the Boilermakers. They trailed by as much nine points in the first half, during which they shot 42.3 percent from the field and went 2 for 9 from 3-point range.

Penn State led 36-32 at halftime.

Big picture 
Penn State: Despite another poor offensive night by Purdue, the Nittany Lions proved their recent hot streak, which included a 79-56 blowout of No. 8 Ohio State, may not have been a fluke. Even after the Boilermakers found a groove in the second half, Penn State still never trailed by more than 11 points.

Purdue: After dropping three straight conference games and falling in the Big Ten standings, the Boilermakers needed to get back on track quickly with just two regular season games remaining.

Up next 
Penn State: The Nittany Lions host Michigan on Wednesday.

Purdue: The Boilermakers are at Illinois on Thursday.

Garner and Carr lead Penn State to 3rd straight win

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USA Today Images

Garner and Carr lead Penn State to 3rd straight win

BOX SCORE

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Shep Garner scored 16 points and Tony Carr had 15 points to lead Penn State to a 74-52 victory over Illinois on Sunday night.

Illinois missed its first nine second-half shots and didn't score for seven-plus minutes as Penn State went on a 12-0 run to make it 49-36. The Nittany Lions (18-9, 8-6 Big Ten) led by at least nine points the rest of the way.

Carr hit three 3-pointers, grabbed six rebounds and had six assists. Lamar Stevens finished with 11 points, while Mike Watkins and Josh Reaves scored 10 apiece, for Penn State.

Illinois had the lead for more than 15 minutes in the first half, but squandered it late. Carr air balled a 3-pointer from the right wing, but Jamari Wheeler grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Garner, who nailed a corner 3.

On the ensuing play, Mark Alstork stepped on the baseline while inbounding the ball, giving Penn State possession with 3.6 seconds left. Carr scored a layup before the buzzer to take a one-point lead into the break.

The Nittany Lions shot 54.5 percent from the field, outscored Illinois 34-12 in the paint and won their fourth consecutive game against the Illini. Penn State has won six of its last seven overall.

Leron Black led Illinois (12-14, 2-11) with 18 points.

Big Picture
After finishing three games below .500 last season, the Nittany Lions continued their impressive turnaround this year. With a strong finish in conference play, Penn State could make its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011.

After scoring career-high 32-points in a 78-69 loss to Wisconsin on Thursday, Trent Frazier was held to just six against Penn State. He has been Illinois' best player in conference play, and without a strong performance from him the Illini struggled.

Up Next
The Illini will face Indiana on the Wednesday night. Illinois knocked off the Hoosiers on Jan. 24 for its first Big Ten victory of the season.

Penn State returns home to face No. 14 Ohio State. The Buckeyes sit atop the Big Ten after a one-point win over No. 3 Purdue last week.