Penn State – Ball State Predictions
Matchup: Ball State Cardinals (1-0) @ Penn State Nittany Lions (1-0)
Where: Beaver Stadium
When: Saturday, September 11th @ 3:30pm EST
Penn State Football is BACK HOME! After a monster upset road win over Wisconsin last week, Penn State finally returns home to play in front of fans at Beaver Stadium for the first time since the 2019 season. In Tuesday’s weekly press conference, Deputy Director of Athletics Scott Sidwell mentioned that while there are just a few thousand tickets left, they seemed to be going quick and they were expecting to see a full Beaver Stadium come Saturday. So without further ado, our predictions!
Brandon Musso (0-1)
I am admittedly happy to be proven wrong last week in Madison when I picked Wisconsin to win. It was a truly an impressive win for Penn State and while Sean Clifford did enough to win, the credit belongs to the Penn State defense. They turned in one of the better performances in recent memory to lead the Nittany Lions to a win.
Fortunately for Penn State, they are not headed out on the road again and finally get to play in front of a full Beaver Stadium. The Ball State Cardinals comes to town fresh off a Week 1 win over Western Illinois. Now, while Ball State isn’t a top 20, Power 5 opponent like Wisconsin, I always advise caution for games like these. It’s so easy to overlook an opponent like Ball State especially when a prime time matchup with Auburn is right around the corner. James Franklin’s “1-0 this week” mentality is just the mindset the team needs to embrace this week.
Now for the X’s and O’s of the Nittany Lions Week 2 matchup. Last week, the Ball State defense got gashed through the air but remained stout on the ground. Given the Nittany Lions struggles on the ground last week, I think this will be the key to the game. The Nittany Lions need to win upfront and get the rushing attack up and “running.” A good rushing attack can overcome any more rust Sean Clifford is still trying to shake off. I think Penn States manages to do this behind a big game from Noah Cain and comes out with a comfortable win but not a traditional blow out.
Penn State 31
Ball State 13
Kraigen Rasalla (0-1)
The #11 Nittany Lions are back in action on Saturday after a HUGE Week One victory at Wisconsin. They now take on a Ball State team that had a bit of a dog fight against FCS opponent Western Illinois. The Cardinals held on 31-21 to move to 1-0, but leave me unimpressed heading into this matchup.
On Saturday, I have two expectations. 1. The Penn State offense will have a much bigger performance than they did against Wisconsin. 2. The Penn State defense will take a step back from their strong performance last Saturday. Connor Sampson of Western Illinois had a completion percentage just under 70 percent and threw for 367 yards against Ball State last week. Meanwhile, Dennis Houston had 12 catches for 237 yards and 2 TD. We saw Jahan Dotson leak out and catch a big TD pass, as well as racking up 100 yards against a dominant Wisconsin defense. If Thompson and Houston can have a big performance against Ball State like that, then I think Sean Clifford and Dotson, Washington, and Lambert-Smith can match them.
In terms of the defense, they lose Ellis Brooks for the first half because of a targeting call in the 4th quarter against Wisconsin. It’s a loss for Penn State. But, I think the defense will take a step back in general. The defense was on the field for over 90 plays last week, all of them being critical plays in a tight game. That is exhausting for any defense, especially one going against a physical offense. However, getting Brooks back for the second half will be a boost and will help Penn State have a lockdown defense in the second half.
Penn State will go back and forth with Ball State in the first half. But, the Nittany Lions will pull away starting about halfway through the second quarter and take the game over in the second half.
Penn State 41
Ball State 17
Cory Lestochi (0-1)
As good of a game as it was, it was still just one game. 1-0. It’s time to move forward and regather ourselves for Ball State.
Ball State should not be overlooked. They have talented weapons on the outside with WR Justin Hall and WR Yo’Heinz Tyler and they have an overall experienced team. I posed a question on Twitter wondering if there is potential for a big game letdown after last week. The consensus was with this being the first home game with fans being able to attend that Beaver Stadium would be rocking.
The defense will have to be ready to defend against the pass much more than last week and should be able to get pressure on QB Drew Plitt with a mediocre offensive line protecting him.
I’m not exactly what to expect from the offense in this game. I’m hoping for a faster start, but I’m not sure it will happen. Regardless, they get it going enough to win comfortably. Clifford accounts for 3 scores. Penn State covers the spread on a late-game pick-six.
Penn State 38
Ball State 14