No. 4 Michigan Hopes To End Its Big Ten Championship Drought

LARRY LAGE, AP Sports Writer

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan is proud of its 928 victories, the most in major college football, and a Big Ten-best 42 conference titles.

The Wolverines, though, have not won a Big Ten championship in 12 years — their longest stretch without one since falling short between 1950 and 1964 titles.

“We don’t really talk about the drought too much,” defensive end Chris Wormley said. “We just talk about trying to win a Big Ten championship and a national championship and thinking big about what we want to accomplish this season.”

In the Big Ten opener for both teams, No. 4 Michigan (3-0) will host Penn State (2-1) on Saturday.

The Wolverines need to win their first of nine conference games to move a step closer to their goal. They’re expected to win by nearly three touchdowns after taking the first three games easily against Colorado, Central Florida and Hawaii.

Here are some things to watch when the Nittany Lions visit the Big House:

DELAYED DEBUT: Jourdan Lewis, one of Michigan’s top players, is expected to start at cornerback after missing the first three games with an undisclosed injury. The Wolverines will welcome the second-team All-American back to the lineup to help cut down on big plays. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh praised Lewis for the way he has dealt with the nagging injury.

“The guy has been a stud, a real stud in everything he’s done,” he said.

LACKING LINEBACKERS: Penn State has lost three starting linebackers to injury, including Nyeem Wartman-White, who hurt his right knee against Temple and has a second straight season-ending injury. Brandon Smith, a walk-on, has made the most of his opportunity to play. Nittany Lions coach James Franklin said White played 57 snaps last week after playing just three in his career.

“He’s a great example of you never know in life when opportunity is going to knock professionally, personally,” Franklin said.

The inexperienced linebackers will face quite a test, trying to defend tight end Jake Butt.

PIVOTAL PLAYS: Michigan has had success getting offenses off the field, letting opponents convert just 4 of 38 third downs, the best success rate in the FBS. The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, have converted a Big Ten-low 27 percent of their third downs on offense. Franklin said what happens before third down is the key factor.

“First and second down kind of tells the story for both teams,” Franklin said. “Tells the story for their defense. Tells the story for our offense.”

BALL SECURITY: Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley has shown some promise in his first three starts, but has lost three fumbles and thrown two interceptions.

“We’ve had multiple turnovers in each game and it’s something we need to cut out,” McSorley said.

GUESSING GAME: Harbaugh chose to start quarterback Wilton Speight ahead of John O’Korn and Shane Morris, but he has played both backups in part to give opponents one more player to prepare for.

“It’s a good thing to let your opponent know that a lot of things are options,” Harbaugh said.

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AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org

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This version corrects to identify a Penn State linebacker as Brandon Smith.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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