Monthly Archives: October 2015

Nittany Lions Ready for Showdown with Illini

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The Penn State Nittany Lions stumbled out of the gate against a tough Temple team on opening day, and they lost by four touchdowns in Columbus to the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes a few Saturdays ago. Other than those two blemishes, they have put together a very impressive season.

During last Saturday’s win at Maryland, the team showed that they have a toughness and resiliency akin to top-flight college football programs. They left town with a 31-30 victory following their second consecutive road game. The squad has come back home and practiced in Happy Valley all week in preparation for this Saturday’s showdown against Illinois.

The Fighting Illini come in with a 4-3 overall record and a 1-2 record in the Big Ten. They are at the bottom looking up at the major players, and the Lions will need to dispatch of the squad if they want to be considered in this exclusive bunch.

Penn State has increasingly become a team that leans on the running game instead of the arm of Christian Hackenberg. Freshman Saquon Barkley has shown amazing talents in just a half-dozen games this season, racking up over 600 yards and four touchdowns by way of an eye-popping 7.2 yards per carry. He is an explosive runner who makes his way through small holes quickly and has keen awareness of both the first down chains and the importance of protecting the football.

Even though the overall statistics are not gaudy, Penn State is a very difficult team to stop when Christian Hackenberg is handling the ball well and making good decisions. The now Junior arrived on campus with incredibly lofty expectations a few years ago, and he has done his best to live up to them. Although some would argue that his NFL stock is lower than many predicted when he began his freshman season, that is simply a testament to the pedigree of so many defenses he has played.

Illinois has a solid stop unit, and they are keeping their opponents under 200 yards through the air and under 150 yards on the ground. If they do accomplish both of these feast against Penn State, there is a very good chance they win this football game. Although they come into the game with a shaky 4-3 record, the oddsmakers in Vegas have only made Penn State a five point favorite, which means that they expect this game to be very close. Prediction: Illinois 17 Penn State 21

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Penn State Travels to Columbus: Recipe for an Upset?

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After an off-season filled with positive news and lofty anticipations, the Penn State Nittany Lions came out and laid an egg at Temple to begin their season, losing by 17 points as seven-point favorites in Las Vegas.

In the five Saturdays since, they have easily dispatched of each of their opponents, running their record to 5-1 and once again exciting a large and passionate fan base in Happy Valley.

Their schedule is one of the most interesting and challenging in all of college football. The advantages involved with a stretch of five consecutive home games will come to an end this weekend when they travel to Columbus to face the #1-overall ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.

Ohio State comes into the game is a 17-point Vegas favorite and owners of a 6-0 record. But the Buckeyes have shown some weaknesses throughout the course of their first half dozen games, including a close victory over Northern Illinois on September 19 and a huge scare at Indiana two weeks ago.

Urban Meyer and his talented bunch allowed Maryland, a huge underdog, to hang around for the majority of the 60 minutes of last weekend’s affair. Translated to common terms, Ohio State has allowed opponents to hang around for much longer than a #1 squad typically would, indicating that they are perhaps ripe for an upset.

Will it come this weekend? Probably not.

Ohio State’s 2014 championship season was so unique and unusual, they are actually using the first half of the 2015 season to get their sea legs underneath them and figure out exactly what role each player will fulfill. Being stacked with too much talent is a problem that every coach in college football would love to have, and once Meyer figures out the exact buttons to push at the exact times, the Buckeyes will be stronger than ever.

Ranked 26th overall on offense and 18th overall on defense – highlighted by the ninth overall ranked passing defense in the nation – Ohio State will definitely make things difficult for the Nittany Lions on both sides of the football.

If Penn State is going to emerge with the biggest upset victory of the college football season to this point, they will need to lean heavily on their defense and make the game a low-scoring affair. Few fans expected that Christian Hackenberg’s efforts through the air would only amount to the 96th-overall ranked passing attack in the FBS, but that is exactly the case halfway through the year. They will need to win the turnover battle as well as the special teams battle to keep this one close heading into the fourth quarter. The more likely outcome is Ohio State by about two touchdowns.

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