Matchup: No. 13 Penn State (1-0) vs. Pittsburgh (1-0)
Where: Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, PA
When: Saturday September 8th, 2018 at 8pm
Penn State Offense vs. Pitt Defense
By: Brandon Musso
Last week saw Penn State just narrowly escape an upset at the hands of Appalachian State. Penn State now has the tough task of putting that game behind them and immediately preparing for a primetime road matchup against Pitt. Like Penn State, the Panthers boast a 1-0 record after cruising to a 33-7 victory over Albany. The teams now meet up for a week two in-state rivalry matchup that will most definitely see a large crowd.
For as much success there may have been in scoring 45 points last week, the Penn State offense isn’t short of things to improve on. Trace McSorley and Co. came out flat in their first game and certainly didn’t look as polished as what 45 points may look like. This may be expected considering all the new players stepping in as well as a new offensive coordinator, now having just two games under his belt. However, this a huge game that the Pitt players will undoubtedly get up for, so the offense needs to sharper and more polished than last week.
Defensively, Pitt boasts a few impact players. On the defensive line, Dewayne Hendrix and Keyshon Camp are two players to watch. Last year, Hendrix racked up three sacks and five tackles-for-loss. The senior defensive end contributed Pitt’s only sack on Trace McSorley in last year’s matchup. The sophomore Camp, wasn’t all that productive in nine games last season, but he has already compiled two sacks in one game this season.
In the secondary, Dane Johnson is an impact player to watch. Johnson missed Pitt’s first game this year with some sort of injury, but he is expected to be back for Saturday’s game. The junior cornerback grabbed two interceptions last season, one of which came against Penn State.
As a defensive unit, Pitt allowed just seven points to Albany last week. However, they will be facing a much higher caliber of offense in Penn State this week. The Nittany Lion offense scored 33 points on them last year, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them do it again.
Penn State Defense vs. Pitt Offense
By: Kraigen Rasalla
A week after surrendering 38 points in an overtime bout with Appalachian State, the Penn State defense will look to make dramatic changes this Saturday against Pitt. Missed tackles and blown coverages mixed with precise throws and timely play calls was a formula that almost doomed the Nittany Lions in week one. Following a week of practice, Coach Franklin and Coach Pry will look to correct many of the mistakes that occurred against the Mountaineers.
Notching all 33 points in the first half, Pitt took care of Albany by a score of 33-7. QB Kenny Pickett went 13 of 13 in the first half against the Great Danes with two touchdowns through the air and another one on a zone read play. The Nittany Lions struggled with accurate dual threat QB Zach Thomas of App State in week one, Pickett presents another threat in week two.
On the ground, Pitt had a variety of backs carry the load in week one. A. J. Davis, Qadree Ollison, and Darrin Hall all serve as threats out of the Panther backfield. Also, continue to be aware of the jet sweep play that Pitt likes to utilize as Maurice Ffrench made a trip to the end zone using that play in week one.
Catching the ball for Kenny Pickett will be a variety of options on the outside and from the backfield. Rafael Araujo-Lopes hauled in two touchdowns against Albany while Taysir Mack, Tre Tripton, and Ffrench are all options Pickett has at his disposal. Meanwhile, Davis caught two balls out of the backfield for the Panthers.
Brandon Musso (1-0)
After last week’s narrow escape from Appalachian State it is easy for me to pick against Penn State this week. However, I don’t believe in defining a team after just one game. Despite looking like a team that maybe doesn’t even deserve a ranking, I think No. 13 Penn State can regroup enough to pull it out against Pitt. Although on paper Penn State may seem to have superior talent, this rivalry game under the lights will play a lot closer. As a result, I think Penn State will narrowly escape with a regulation win on the road.
Penn State 35 Pitt 31
Kraigen Rasalla (1-0)
I see the Penn State defense making the multiple corrections they need to make if they want to survive in week two. After all, I don’t feel like they could play much worse than they did in the fourth quarter against Appalachian State where they gave up 28 points and 292 passing yards. The offense will continue to roll as Miles Sanders returns to his hometown and Trace McSorley continues to do Trace McSorley things both throwing and running the ball. Expect this one to be close, as this rivalry has been the last two years with the Nittany Lions pulling away late and calming the nerves of Penn State fans from week one.
Penn State 34 Pitt 24