Perhaps it isn’t the most exciting NY6 game of this year’s bowl game slate, but the Memphis-Penn State is an intriguing one.
Category Archives: Game Previews
8-0 vs. 8-0. The No.4 Nittany Lions can taste their goals, but first have to travel to Minnesota to take on a surprising and surging Minnesota team. Can Penn State end the Golden Gophers unbeaten season? Penn State is 6.5 point favorites heading into the weekend.
Brandon Musso (8-0) & (5-3) vs. The Spread
Penn State has survived a gauntlet of tough matchups over the last three weeks. After their success making it through those tough games, many are already looking forward to a battle of unbeatens when the Nittany Lions head to Columbus to take in Ohio State. However, there is one problem: that gauntlet is not yet over as Penn State is on the road again to face an undefeated Minnesota team.
This game is another definite test and threat to the Nittany Lions undefeated record. As it has been for the last few weeks, it is imperative that Penn State starts fast. Kickoff is set for 11:00am local time at Minnesota, a slow sluggish start because of the early game time will not bode well for the Nittany Lions.
The biggest key to this game will be Penn State’s ability to get to the quarterback. The past two games have not played in their favor as they struggled to get any sustained pressure on the opposing quarterback. Solid defensive play starts upfront and in order for the Nittany Lions to come home with a win, the defensive line needs to get back on track.
I think the defensive line returns to form and helps limit the Minnesota offense as the Nittany Lions win another close one.
Penn State: 24 Minnesota: 14
Kraigen Rasalla (8-0) & (3-5) vs. The Spread
One of the two games between undefeated teams this week, Penn State and Minnesota are both coming off bye weeks heading into this highly anticipated match-up. Penn State was tested by their recent schedule, playing at Iowa and against Michigan before beating Michigan State on the road. Now, they will start their challenging back third of their schedule in Minneapolis.
Penn State comes in as the favorite and as the #4 team in the country, and for good reason. Their big play offense is combined with their #2 ranked scoring defense.
The weather forecast is looking like a cold afternoon in Minnesota, but that shouldn’t affect Penn State QB Sean Clifford, as he excelled in throwing accurate passes in the cold rain at Michigan State. A lot will be on his plate as Penn State has yet to develop a consistent running game.
I expect Sean Clifford to lead Penn State by finding his favorite receiver KJ Hamler. In addition, I think this will be the game where WR Justin Shorter has his break out game. Shorter has just 9 catches for 109 yards. I expect him to make 5 catches for at least 75 yards and unleash his potential in this huge match-up.
Penn State takes care of business on the road and passes another test in their quest for a perfect season.
Penn State: 31 Minnesota: 17
Cory Lestochi (7-1) & (4-4) vs. The Spread
Minnesota is good, but they don’t have the horses to run with the Nittany Lions late. All week this defense has been hearing about how big this Minnesota offensive line is. Let’s see how this high powered Golden Gopher attack does against an actual defense and a real starting quarterback–two things Minnesota hasn’t faced for over a month.
Clifford and Co. make enough plays to keep this one safe. Minnesota’s special teams is horrendous and is the difference in this one being close and this one being a 21 point win for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State: 38 Minnesota: 17
Picture by Kami Brand.
As I wrote earlier, this is the final game in a 3-game test for the Nittany Lions. There is a reason why they are only 6.5 point favorites heading into Spartan Stadium–they don’t play well out there. Penn State hasn’t won in East Lansing since 2009. Michigan State isn’t very good, but has had an off week to prepare and has another off week after this week, which means their focus for the past 2 weeks has been entirely on upsetting the Nittany Lions. Let’s dive into predictions.
Brandon Musso (7-0) & (4-3) vs. The Spread
The last two years of this matchup have not played in Penn State’s favor. Michigan State has had their number, dishing them a loss in East Lansing in 2017 and another at Beaver Stadium in 2018. Penn State comes into this game still undefeated and this will provide a serious threat to that record.
The key to this game is Penn State starting fast and playing with extreme discipline. The Spartans are a well coached team that will jump on the opportunity to capitalize on the Nittany Lions’ mistakes.
If Penn State can clean up their mistakes with both on the field play and coaching, they can manage to come out on top in East Lansing Saturday.
I think Penn State starts early and ends up leaving with a close victory.
Penn State: 27 Michigan State: 20
Kraigen Rasalla (7-0) & (2-5) vs. The Spread
Michigan State has been a thorn in Penn State’s side the last two seasons, pulling off the upset in both 2017 and 2018. They have the opportunity to spoil Penn State’s perfect season, yet again, if they can pull off a third straight upset of the Nittany Lions.
Penn State will have to find more consistency in their offense, as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead, but went stagnant against Michigan. They also need much more out of the running backs, as they ran for just 88 yards as a group, with 44 coming on one play by Ricky Slade.
Yes, Michigan State has allowed on average 36 points against Ohio State and Wisconsin in their last two contests. But, coming off a bye at home, this is the perfect week for them to correct their problems from the first half of the season.
Penn State wins. But, it will be a very uncomfortable victory in East Lansing.
Penn State: 17 Michigan State: 10
Cory Lestochi (6-1) & (3-4) vs. The Spread
The whole week I was going to pick Michigan State to win. Penn State has played so poorly against the Spartans as of late and it doesn’t help that the Green & White has had two weeks to prepare.
That being said this is the worst Michigan State team Penn State’s played in the past 3 seasons and the Lions are bringing their best defense in a long time into town. Additionally, the Penn State offense has shown the ability to prevent turnovers even in hostile environments like Iowa.
Michigan State won’t be able to run the ball and I have to believe this defensive line is tired of not getting to MSU’s magician-like quarterback when he scampers around the field.
Michigan State’s season is teetering on the edge of collapse with players transferring midseason. Wouldn’t be shocked if Penn State loses a close one, but I am going to go bold and say this game is the straw that breaks the Spartans back emotionally. Penn State jumps on them early and unlike the Wolverines last week, Michigan State doesn’t pick themselves up nor do they have the playmakers to do so anyway.
Penn State: 35 Michigan State 6
The real season begins for the Nittany Lions this weekend when they head to Iowa City to take on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Two years ago it took every second of regulation for Penn State to survive in Kinnick Stadium. The 5-0 Nittany Lions look to prove to the rest of the country that one of the youngest teams in the nation is for real. At the time this was written, Penn State was 3.5 point favorites. Here are our predictions:
Brandon Musso (5-0) & (2-3) vs. The Spread
Going into this game, I believe this is Penn State’s first real test of the season. Playing against Iowa in a prime time game at Kinnick is a tough task for any team. It will be interesting to see how all the young players on Penn State will respond to such tough atmosphere.
One of the keys to this game will be Penn State’s ability to get to the quarterback. Iowa relinquished eight sacks to Michigan last week and the Nittany Lions’ are coming off a ten sack performance themselves. If they are able to have the same success, it will be a long night for the Hawkeye offense.
In the end, I think the defensive line has big game to help shut down Iowa’s offense and the Penn State offense makes the plays they need to win a nail biter at Kinnick.
Penn State 20 Iowa 13
Kraigen Rasalla (5-0) & (1-4) vs. The Spread
The classic Iowa night game that will have Penn State fans on the edge of their seats and biting their nails is here. Every time the Lions head to Iowa City, no matter what record the Hawkeyes have, there is reason for concern.
Now, if Penn State was playing this game the week after the Pitt game, I would be VERY concerned. But, coming off two dominating wins against Maryland and Purdue, I at least feel a little bit better about this game, even if I don’t feel great.
The key will be having Sean Clifford continue his great play over the last two weeks. He has tallied 8 total touchdowns in the last two games and is leading a top five scoring offense in the country. But, Iowa has some fearsome defenders, including defensive end AJ Epenesa. If Clifford continues to be efficient, keeps Penn State out of third and long situations, and finishes drives in the red zone with touchdowns, not field goals, Penn State will win this game.
But, if the offensive is reliant on big plays, constantly in third and long situations, and only managing field goals in the red zone. Clifford may see Penn State’s perfect season come to an end like Daryll Clark did in 2008 and Trace McSorley almost did in 2017.
Do I think Clifford will be as good as he was in the last two weeks? No, this Iowa defense is #3 in scoring defense for a reason. But, I think Clifford will play well enough and allow the Penn State defense to continue their amazing play, as well.
Penn State 20 Iowa 7
Cory Lestochi (5-0) & (3-2) vs. The Spread
Over the summer I marked this game down as one of Penn State’s losses and I have been battling with this one all week. I can see reasons why each side could win. Statistically, Penn State should win by two touchdowns. But when Penn State and Iowa play you can throw out everything you know about football. The score will be weird, and the team that should probably win–won’t.
I was at the game two years ago and can confirm it is one of the wildest environments in the country. I also distinctly remember crying when Iowa upset Penn State in 2008 in Iowa City–I have nightmares about this place.
Last week, Purdue’s defense found success against Penn State when they kept everything in front of them and made Penn State drive the length of the field. That’s exactly what the Hawkeyes plan to implement and that terrifies me. I wouldn’t be shocked if the offense stalled. Penn State has the better athletes, they have the momentum, they have the stats on their side (Iowa is only slightly better in turnover margin), and they should win this game.
But I don’t think they will. I hope they prove me wrong, but I need this year’s team to win these types of games before I take them in them. Why I am at least optimistic that Penn State should win this game? They are bringing one of the best defenses in the country to Iowa and I expect Offensive Coordinator Ricky Rahne has a lot better cards than he has showed so far.
Penn State 15 Iowa 16
Penn State plays their in-state rival, Pittsburgh, for the 100th time on Saturday at 12 PM on ABC. The graphic below provides a general breakdown of the opponents, but if you want more information about Pitt, check out our preview here. Penn State comes in as the favorite, with the spread sitting at -17. Penn State covered the first two weeks, let’s see if the For The Glory team thinks they’ll cover for a third straight week and advance to 3-0.
Brandon Musso (2-0) & (1-1) vs. The Spread
The last two match-ups between these two teams haven’t been close. Penn State has been relatively dominant over those two years. I don’t expect this year to be any different as I believe Penn State will again exhibit its dominance.
The key to the game will be the Penn State wide receivers’ ability to get open facing a relatively strong secondary in Pitt. They struggled in certain spots last week to get open. If they want to move the ball consistently, the receivers are going to have to find space.
The 2019 Stripe Out is here and Penn State will roll for a third straight year.
Penn State 35 Pitt 17
Kraigen Rasalla (2-0) & (0-2) vs. The Spread
After I predicted a 28-point victory last week and the Lions narrowly covered with a 32-point victory on a 29.5 point spread, I am sitting at 0-2 on the young season in this category. But, I will surely take the spread into much more consideration this week as Penn State faces Pitt.
We have seen this exact type of Pitt team the last two seasons. They are inept on offense, simple as that. Kenny Pickett is not developing as the type of quarterback the Panthers are expecting and it is leading to their offense scoring only 17 points per game to start the season.
Meanwhile, I think James Franklin and Ricky Rahne open up the playbook a bit more this week. I think they were very vanilla last week with their play-calling basically because they could be against Buffalo and manage a victory. I think Sean Clifford will have a big game on Saturday, spraying it around to all of his targets all day long.
Penn State wins this one with ease and I get into the win column against the spread.
Penn State 45 Pitt 16
Cory Lestochi (2-0) & (2-0) vs. The Spread
Pittsburgh is not nearly as talented as Penn State. They will try to keep the football away from the Nittany Lions, but I don’t think they will be successful since they have a -2 turnover differential.
Penn State triumphs at home.
Penn State 42 Pitt 14
Matchup: No. 14 Penn State (8-3) vs. Maryland (5-6)
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
When: Saturday November 24th, 2018 at 3:30pm EST
Penn State Offense vs. Maryland Defense
By: Brandon Musso
Despite earning the win and breaking a record on Saturday, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley still wasn’t satisfied with his performance: “I think I didn’t play well, really, at all. Missed too many opportunities, didn’t take advantage of them. We’ll look at the film and see how we grade out, but right now, I don’t think I played all that well.” The senior quarterback still thought he didn’t play well even after becoming Penn State’s all-time winningest quarterback. McSorley would end the day with just 183 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception in Penn State’s 20-7 win over the one-win Scarlet Knights.
Meanwhile, the Maryland Terrapins were playing the game of their season as they took top ranked Ohio State to overtime before suffering a one-point loss. Despite the loss, their performance was something to behold. They managed to score 51 points on a talented Ohio State defense.
By the numbers:
Maryland has given up their fair share of points this season as they currently rank 64th in the nation in points allowed per game, having allowed just under 28 points per game. In terms of yardage allowed, the Terrapins come in at 52nd in the nation having allowed around 375 total yards per game. Their defense is rather balanced which in other words says that they don’t have a particular strength in terms of rushing and passing defense. They are allowing opponents just over 172 rushing yards per game while allowing around 200 passing yards per game.
The biggest player to watch on the Maryland defense is definitely Tre Watson. Watson is a graduate transfer from Illinois and is a force to be reckoned with as a Maryland linebacker. He leads the team in total tackles by a wide margin while also nabbing a team leading five interceptions including one for a touchdown. Look for his name to be called plenty in Saturday’s game. In the secondary, look out for Tino Ellis. The defensive back is one of the team’s best as the junior has collected 11 passes defended. Junior Antoine Brooks was converted from linebacker to defensive back and is currently leading the team in tackles-for-loss with 9.5. Finally, upfront, look for defensive lineman Byron Cowart who is the team leader in sacks.
Penn State Defense vs. Maryland Offense
By: Kraigen Rasalla
Penn State comes into Senior Day looking to send off Nick Scott and Amani Oruwariye among others on the defensive side of the ball with a victory in their final game at Beaver Stadium. Let’s see how the Terps from Maryland stack up against the Nittany Lions.
After losing Kasim Hill to a torn ACL, Tyrell Pigrome was thrust into the starting QB spot and put on an excellent performance against the Buckeyes, leading the Terps to 51 points in their loss last week. Pigrome showed the ability to scramble while connecting on some big throws down the field. Although Pigrome is a back up, he is certainly a capable quarterback.
At running back, Anthony McFarland has been outstanding for the Terps. McFarland reached the 1,000 yard plateau on the season last week with a 298 yard effort. The freshman is certainly a big threat as he reeled off two runs of over 75 yards in the first quarter against Ohio State. Tayon Fleet-Davis will also see some time in the backfield as well as Ty Johnson if he suits up. Johnson has been dealing with a calf injury and is questionable for Saturday’s contest.
At receiver, Jeshaun Jones and Taivon Jacobs lead the way for Maryland. Jones leads the team in touchdowns with five while Jacobs leads the team in receptions with 23. With Hill and now Pigrome at the helm, the offense is certainly more of a running offense under Interim Coach Matt Canada, as no receiver has over 300 yards entering the final game of the season
Brandon Musso: (10-1)
The Terrapins may have lost last week but offensively I still believe they have quite a bit of momentum. I think the Nittany Lions ability to limit Maryland’s offense is the key to this game. The Maryland rushing attack had their way with Ohio State last week as they rushed for 339 yards and five touchdowns. If Penn State can’t contain Anthony McFarland and the rushing attack, they will have an awfully hard time winning this game. With all the being said, I think Maryland goes on the road and steal a win from the Nittany Lions.
Maryland 35 Penn State 20
Kraigen Rasalla: (8-3)
This is a huge game for both the Nittany Lions and the Terrapins as the Lions look to impress enough to make their way back to their third straight New Year’s 6 bowl while the Terps are looking to become bowl eligible after a season that had its fair share of ups and downs. The Penn State offense took a major step back last week against Rutgers, but the Terps are certainly not a defensive juggernaut. I think Trace McSorley, the all-time winningest QB in Penn State history, will look to give Nittany Lions fans one last memory of him by having the big game he hasn’t had since the Ohio State game back in September.
Penn State 27 Maryland 23
Matchup: No. 14 Penn State (7-3) vs. Rutgers (1-9)
Where: HighPoint.com Stadium, Piscataway, NJ
When: Saturday November 17th, 2018 at 12:00pm EST
Penn State Offense vs. Rutgers Defense
By: Brandon Musso
Last week was the bounce back win that Penn State needed as they closed out Wisconsin to improve to 7-3 on the season. This seemed to be a pivotal game for the Nittany Lions as they were coming off a blowout loss to Michigan the previous week and needed a win to avoid dropping to four losses. Wisconsin was once the favorite to win the B1G West, but injuries has dropped them out of a shot at a B1G Championship. Nonetheless, their defense was still a tough matchup for the Penn State offense. In the 22-10 win, the offense put up 20 points but Trace McSorley failed to find much rhythm in the passing game. He threw for just 160 yards and a touchdown. The rushing attack was working just as the Nittany Lions would want it to. Miles Sanders rushed for 159 yards and touchdown, a good chunk of the Nittany Lions team total of 183 rushing yards.
Luckily for Penn State, their defensive opponent this week will not be as tough as Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions will head east to take on Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights are currently sitting at 1-9 having had serious struggles this year with their lone win having occurred all the way back in week one against Texas State. They have had a lot of trouble containing offenses as they are ranked 84th in the country in total defense having averaged just over 418 total yards allowed per game. However, splitting down a little further reveals that they are much stronger at defending the pass than the run. They come in at 25th in the country in passing yards allowed but 119th in the country in rushing yards allowed. They average just under 190 passing yards allowed per game but 230 rushing yards allowed per game. If there is a weakness for the Nittany Lions to exploit this is it.
Individually, the Rutgers’ defense has just a few players of note. The first is linebacker Trevor Morris. The senior serves as the stop gate for the defense as he is the team’s leading tackler with 87 total tackles. Elorm Lumor is another player to watch. Lumor is a sophomore defensive lineman that is leading the team in tackles-for-loss with six as well as in a tie for the team lead in sacks with three. In the secondary, keep your eye out for Saqaun Hampton. The senior defensive back Hampton has nabbed two interceptions on the season while keeping pace in tackles with the secondary’s leader, freshman defensive back Avery Young.
Penn State Defense vs. Rutgers Offense
By: Kraigen Rasalla
Following a dominant defensive effort against Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions take on Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have struggled all season, only winning one game, a blowout against Texas State in week one. Let’s see how the Nittany Lions stack up against the Rutgers offense.
The Rutgers passing attack is one of the worst in the country. Artur Sitkowski has a completion percentage below 50 percent and a touchdown to interception ratio of four to 16. Safe to say the freshman is not too efficient. The Penn State secondary and pass rush should have a field day, continuing their impressive play from last week.
On the ground, Rutgers has a variety of running backs that they like to utilize. Raheem Blackshear is the best of the bunch as he averages over four yards per carry and leads the team in rushing attempts. Blackshear also leads the team in receptions (40) and receiving yards (332). If Rutgers has any shot of beating the Nittany Lions, they will need an outstanding performance from their star tailback. Also contributing for the Knights out of the backfield are emerging freshman Isaih Pacheco (5.5 yards per carry) and Jon Hilliman (6 TD). Pacheco also had an 80 yard touchdown run last week against Michigan to tie the game in the first half.
With only two touchdowns among the wide receivers, this group is not much of a threat. Bo Melton and Eddie Lewis are the only receivers with over 20 catches, but neither has a touchdown catch on the season.
Brandon Musso: (9-1)
Penn State has had its fair of struggles this season but they are still a much superior team than Rutgers. On paper it is hard to miss the level of talent superiority Penn State has over the Scarlet Knights. As a result, I don’t think they will have much of a problem taking care of business on the road. As long as the Nittany Lions don’t hurt themselves they should come out of Piscataway with a blowout win.
Penn State 41 Rutgers 10
Kraigen Rasalla: (7-3)
Rutgers is in consideration for one of the worst Division I football teams of all time while Penn State is looking to seal its eighth win of the season. Seems like a long time ago when the Rutgers old coaching staff was calling this a rivalry game and Penn State was narrowly leaving Piscataway with a victory. Things will be much different this time around as I expect the offensive line to assert their dominance as they did from time to time against Wisconsin and for Miles Sanders to take full advantage. This should be a big game to see younger players in action and should give fans a reason to watch the game in its entirety. Expect the defense to come close to pitching a shut out, as well.
Penn State 45 Rutgers 7
Matchup: No. 20 Penn State (6-3) vs. Wisconsin (6-3)
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
When: Saturday November 10th, 2018 at 12:00pm EST
Penn State Offense vs. Wisconsin Defense
By: Brandon Musso
Last week did not go well for Penn State last week against Michigan. The Nittany Lions left the Big House with an embarrassing 42-7 loss and there weren’t really any positives to take from it. Michigan is simply a better team than Penn State is right now and that showed on Saturday. The offense failed to get going against the best defense in the country and Trace McSorley did not look 100% healthy after suffering a knee injury in the Iowa game. He completed just five passes for 83 yards and failed to rush for a positive yard total. In the end, the offense scored just seven points and they came near the end of the game with Tommy Stevens in at quarterback. The Nittany Lions now return home to Beaver Stadium to try and shake off the loss sporting a 6-3 record. Their opponent is another 6-3 team in Wisconsin who has also dealt with similar disappointment after high preseason expectations.
If the Wisconsin defense has a strength it is their passing defense. They are currently ranked in a tie with Alabama for 30th in the nation for the least passing yards allowed per game. They are averaging just 193.3 passing yards allowed per game. Although still rather strong, their rushing defense is not as good as their passing defense. This may be the best way for the Penn State offense to attack. They rank 62nd in the country in rushing yards allowed as they are averaging just under 160 rushing yards allowed per game. Look for Miles Sanders and the rushing attack to be busy on Saturday. Overall, Wisconsin is ranked 35th in the country in total defense so this will still be a tough matchup especially if McSorley’s knee is still ailing.
Wisconsin has had some trouble getting to the quarterback but TJ Edwards is a still player to watch in that department. The linebacker leads the team in tackles-for-loss and sacks although he only has three of the team total of 11 sacks. Edwards is an all-around good defensive player as he is also second on the team in total tackles and serves as one of the defense’s vocal leaders on the field. Alongside Edwards is the team leader in total tackles, Ryan Connelly. The linebacker is also a steady force and leader for the Wisconsin defense. In the secondary, it is hard to miss safety Scott Nelson. The redshirt freshman has come on strong this season with an interception and five passes defended. Keep an eye on his status for this week’s game, he is listed as questionable after missing the last two games with a knee injury.
Penn State Defense vs. Wisconsin Offense
By: Kraigen Rasalla
A game that was highly anticipated in the preseason has much different implications than many would have thought in August. As both teams come limping into Happy Valley, Penn State and Wisconsin will both look to end their seasons on a few high notes this Saturday. Let’s see what the Penn State defense will be facing this week.
The QB position is up in the air for the Badgers as experienced starter Alex Hornibrook has dealt with concussion symptoms over the last two weeks. He missed the Northwestern loss and had to leave the game early during the Rutgers victory. Filling in for Hornibrook was sophomore Jack Coan. Coan has filled in nicely for Hornibrook going 25 of 38 in relief of Hornibrook over the last two games. However, neither signal caller is a major threat for the Penn State defense.
The big threat for the Badger offense is RB Jonathan Taylor. The sophomore tailback is having another huge season as he leads the country in rushing with almost 1,400 yards and getting his yards at 6.6 yards per carry. Taylor is definitely one of the best backs in the country and should be the focal point in Brent Pry’s game plan. If the Lions can slow down Taylor, the Lions have a great shot of winning.
On the receiving end, the Badgers have a variety of pass catchers, who despite some struggles from the quarterbacks, that can be impact players. Following a recent history of great Badger tight ends, Jake Ferguson leads the team in receptions in 2018. Receiver A. J. Taylor has 24 catches, good for second on the team behind Ferguson, and averages over 17 yards per catch. With so much focus likely to be on Taylor, the Badgers need either of these guys to make a big play in order for Wisconsin to come out with the victory.
The matchup to watch this week is the defensive line of Penn State against the Badger offensive line. The Penn State line played well last week, despite the final score looking ugly. They kept the Nittany Lions in the game through three quarters until a pick six, another interception that put the defense deep into their own territory, and overall fatigue from being on the field for so long caught up to them. With every starter on the line coming back next year, this will be a great test to see how great this unit could be the rest of the season and more so how dominant they can be in 2019.
The Wisconsin offensive line is impressive again as both Beau Benzschawel and David Edwards were both named Preseason First Team All Americans by USA Today. Look for this line to wear down the defense if Taylor can keep moving the sticks when he has the ball.
Brandon Musso: (8-1)
Penn State is coming off an embarrassing loss to Michigan that all but wiped out their chances at even a New Year’s Six bowl game. This is a team that is down on themselves after what is turning out to be a rather disappointing season. After the fallout from the Ohio State loss, it’s hard to predict a bounce back victory for the Nittany Lions. However, Wisconsin is dealing with their fair share of injuries on both offense and defense leaving the door open for Penn State. If McSorley is healthy enough to be mobile, I think Penn State gets the job done and sneaks out a win.
Penn State 28 Wisconsin 24
Kraigen Rasalla: (6-3)
This figures to be a low scoring matchup with both QBs banged up and the weather getting a bit cooler for this game. The Penn State offense needs to have longer possessions to avoid the Badger O Line and Jonathan Taylor wearing down the defense. If Penn State could do that, I think they pull out a victory and set themselves up for a nice finish to the season.
Penn State 21 Wisconsin 16
Matchup: No. 14 Penn State (6-2) vs. No. 5 Michigan (7-1)
Where: Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
When: Saturday November 3rd, 2018 at 3:45pm EST
Penn State Offense vs. Michigan Defense
The struggles continued last week for the Penn State as they narrowly escaped the grasps of Iowa at Beaver Stadium. Despite getting the job done in a 30-24 victory, the offensive numbers were not particularly appealing. It’s clear that this team still has some things to work on. Trace McSorley, who was briefly out of the game with a leg injury, threw for just 167 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. He did add a touchdown on the ground while leading the team in rushing yards though. The hobbled quarterback led the team in rushing yards with 63 while running back Miles Sanders was right behind him with 62 yards of his own.
Now Michigan week has rolled around, and the Nittany Lions are facing their toughest task since Ohio State. This time however, Penn State must do it on the road at the Big House. The Penn State offense will have their work cut out for them as Michigan’s defense is one of the best in the country. In fact, they are currently ranked as the top team in the FBS in total defense with an average of just 220 total yards of offense allowed per game. Breaking it down a little further reveals that they are also ranked as the top passing defense. The Wolverines are averaging just 122 passing yards allowed per game. Additionally, although not tops in the country, their rushing defense is very good. They are ranked 9th in the FBS as they average just over 97 rushing yards allowed per game.
Individually, the Michigan defense is packed with impact player talent. On the defensive line resides Chase Winovich and Rashan Gary. Winovich is a proven senior with a lot of experience that ranks top 10 in the country and tops on his team in tackles-for-loss with 10. Gary is an interesting player to watch, he is a force to be reckoned with when he plays but he has been out with shoulder injury for the last few games. He appears to be questionable, but he could possibly return this week to cause some problems for the Penn State offense.
In the defensive backfield, look out for linebackers Devin Bush and Josh Uche. Bush is one of the best linebackers in the country so it’s hard to overlook him. He is second on the team in tackles while also compiling six tackles-for-loss and four sacks. Uche is an interesting player to watch as well. Although relatively inexperienced, he is making the most of his opportunity this year as he holds the team lead with five sacks.
Finally, the secondary contains cornerback Lavert Hill and safety Josh Metellus. Hill is Michigan’s clear-cut number one cornerback as the junior is excellent in one-on-one coverage. Also, a junior, Metellus is having a fine season, ranking in the top five in total tackles and leading the team with three interceptions.
Penn State Defense vs. Michigan Offense
Penn State heads into Ann Arbor to take on the 5th ranked Wolverines of Michigan. Penn State comes in as a double-digit underdog this week, a rare sight in the last few years. Let’s see how the defense matches up with the Michigan offense.
Quarterback transfer from Ole Miss, Shea Patterson, does not have the huge numbers of some of the other Big Ten QBs but has played very well to this point. Patterson is completing 67 percent of his passes while throwing for 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Patterson is also a threat on the ground, although the pro-style offense the Wolverines run under Jim Harbaugh limits his running opportunities to mainly scrambles when the play breaks down. A key highlight for Patterson was his 81-yard touchdown run against Wisconsin a few weeks ago. All in all, Patterson has rebounded nicely from his poor performance in week one against Notre Dame.
In the backfield, Karan Higdon has been a beast for the Wolverines so far this season. Higdon averages 118 yards per game on the ground has found the end zone six times on the ground. His 118 yards per game is good enough for third in the Big Ten behind Jonathon Taylor of Wisconsin and Miles Sanders. Look for Tru Wilson or Chris Evans to spell him at times, as well.
On the receiving end for Patterson, Michigan has a variety of options and they are all mostly big targets. Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins are both over 6’ 2’’ and very physical receivers. The matchups on the outside between these two and the corners from Penn State, especially the physical Amani Oruwariye, could be very interesting throughout the game. In addition, Zach Gentry is a 6’ 8’’ monster tight end who has 23 catches and averages over 14 yards per catch. With Patterson’s mobility look for Gentry to be involved in play action roll out plays, as well as in the middle of the field.
On this side of the ball, it seems to be strength against strength with the Michigan running game behind Higdon going against the Penn State defensive line that has stepped up in recent weeks. Yetur Gross-Matos is coming off Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors. Shareef Miller, Kevin Givens, Shaka Toney, and Robert Windsor are all playing their best football of late, as well.
Brandon Musso (7-1):
This is one Penn State’s toughest games as they face a very good Michigan team that comes into game with just one loss to fourth ranked Notre Dame. Penn State had their way with Michigan at last year’s whiteout with a blowout win but I expect this week to go much differently at the Big House. The road atmosphere is a serious factor to be considered as well as the talent level on the other side. A combination of those to factors and Penn State’s recent sloppy play leads me to pick against the Nittany Lions this week.
Michigan 31 Penn State 14
Kraigen Rasalla (5-3):
Despite being a pretty big underdog, I see Penn State keeping this one very close. The defensive line will be able to keep Higdon in check, while the Michigan defense will also control Sanders. Despite being banged up, I think Trace McSorley will play a solid game. However, I think the Penn State special teams will hinder them too much. In a game where field position will be important, the Penn State punting unit has not been very good lately, as most prominently proven by last week’s performance. I think Michigan takes a defensive battle, but I would not be surprised if Penn State spoils the Playoff hopes of the Wolverines.
Penn State 17 Michigan 21
Matchup: No.17 Penn State (5-2) vs. No. 18 Iowa (6-1)
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
When: Saturday October 27th, 2018 at 3:30 EST
Penn State Offense vs. Iowa Defense
By: Brandon Musso
Penn State managed to get back on track last week as they improved to 5-2 after a win over Indiana. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but escaping Indiana with a victory after two heartbreaking losses was exactly what they needed. The offense ended up scoring 24 points if you take away Jonathon Thomas’s kick return touchdown. Quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 220 yards but from watching the game, some of his passes looked visibly off. However, despite an “off” game in the air, McSorley got the job done on the ground by rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns. Miles Sanders added 72 yards on the ground with a touchdown.
Now Penn State comes back home to face an Iowa team that finds themselves 6-1 and ranked just below Penn State at 18. Iowa’s one loss came from its only ranked opponent to this point, Wisconsin. In that game, the Iowa defense really struggled to stop the Wisconsin run game. The Badgers rushed for over 200 yards while quarterback Alex Hornibrook added 205 passing yards and three touchdowns. If there is anything to take from that game, it’s that the Nittany Lions key to success this week will rely heavily on Miles Sander’s as well as Trace McSorley’s ability to move the ball on the ground effectively.
Looking into individual impact players, it is hard to miss three of their defensive lineman that have cause absolute havoc in the backfield. First is sophomore AJ Epenesa. The defensive end is the team leader in sacks with six and tied for first in tackles-for-loss with seven. He is tied in that category with fellow defensive end Parker Hesse who also has three sacks of his own. Finally, there is redshirt junior Anthony Nelson who has collected five sacks and 5.5 tackles-for-loss.
Behind them Penn State should be on the lookout for Kristian Welch and Amani Hooker. The linebacker, Welch, is the team’s leading tackler and figures to be one of their defensive leaders. Hooker is junior defensive back that has two interceptions while also ranking in the top five in tackles on the team.
Penn State Defense vs. Iowa Offense
By: Kraigen Rasalla
After escaping from Bloomington with a win, the Nittany Lions look to close out October with a win at home against the Iowa Hawkeyes. As seen throughout this century, the Hawkeyes give the Nittany Lions problems almost every year, including the 2004 6-4 loss, the 2008 one point loss in Iowa City, and the narrow escape the Lions had last season. Let’s see how the Lions defense stacks up with the 19th ranked Hawkeye offense.
QB Nate Stanley is back for the Hawks in 2018 and is having a very good season. He has thrown for 16 touchdowns so far and only six interceptions. He leads an offense that has put up over 40 points in two of their last three games. Despite struggling early on, the Iowa offense has picked up and that directly correlates with the way Stanley has played in the last few weeks.
The Hawkeyes rely on a committee in the backfield. Torren Young, Mekhi Sargent, and Ivory Kelly-Martin are all sophomores and have all made key contributions this year. It may depend on who has the hot hand early on to see who will take the bulk of the carries this week.
The strength of the Iowa offense is the tight end group. Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson are two of the best tight ends in the country and can create major problems for the Penn State defense. Fant has six touchdowns this season while Hockenson leads the team in receiving yards with 424. This dyanmic duo will be an interesting challenge for Brent Pry and his defense as most teams don’t feature a great tight end, never mind two of them.
On the outside, the Hawkeyes return their leading receiver from 2017, Nick Easley. Other than Easley, the position has not contributed much as the Hawks have relied on their two standout tight ends to produce the bulk of their passing offense.
Brandon Musso (6-1):
Penn State seemed to barely escape Bloomington with a win last week over Indiana. Iowa is a tough team that is going to come to State College ready to pounce and expose a struggling Penn State team. As a result, I think this will be a hard-fought battle that will come down to the final minutes of the game. While it is easy to be down seemingly really struggling Penn State team, I believe that they are much better than they have shown the last three games. I think Penn State gets the play they need at the end of the game and pulls out a close victory.
Penn State 24 Iowa 21
Kraigen Rasalla (5-2):
The forecast for this game appears to be nasty with cold temperatures and heavy rain. Sloppy conditions do not favor the Nittany Lion offense that has struggled to throw the ball in recent weeks. I can see the Hawkeyes offense controlling the game with time of possession, a strong O Line, and a short passing game. I think the Hawks will haunt the Nittany Lions on this Halloween Weekend.
Iowa 20 Penn State 16