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Nittany Lions Roll Into Big 10 Championship by Hammering Spartans

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Another week, another notch in the win column as the Penn State Nittany Lions continue to roll through their 2016 regular-season schedule. A 45-12 victory over the Michigan State Spartans in Happy Valley capped off a 10-2 season that it includes a current eight-game winning streak.

Michigan State has had a historically awful year in a very competitive Big 10 Conference, but they are still extremely dangerous on any given Saturday. They were just a two-point-conversion away from beating Ohio State in the prior week, so James Franklin and his bunch went into this one knowing not to take the foot off the gas.

The game played out in a way similar to many in the past few weeks, as a highly competitive first half gave way to a second half in which the Nittany Lions completely dominated. This time, they outscored their opponent 35-0 in the final 30 minutes.

Trace McSorley had a field day in the Spartans secondary, completing 17 of 23 passes for nearly 400 yards and four touchdowns. The passing game looked great in the final two frames, and McSorley continued to add eye-popping statistics to a very impressive sophomore campaign.

If there is one thing to be a little nervous about, is the fact that SaQuan Barkley only managed to gain 14 yards on 12 carries. If Penn State is going to be able to do their thing in the Big 10 Championship this Saturday against a very hungry Wisconsin squad, those numbers will need to improve drastically.

If they are able to prevail with a victory on this huge stage, they will end up playing in perhaps the biggest non-playoff bowl game this year.

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Huge Bowl Game Awaits if Penn State beats Indiana and Runs the Board

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The Penn State Nittany Lions are 7-2 after a 41-14 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes at home. This pushes the win streak to five in a row, dating back to when they knocked off the then-undefeated Minnesota Golden Gophers on the first Saturday in October.

There are but three games left this year, and victories over Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State could put the Nittany Lions in a perfect position to have a major impact on the 2016 holiday bowl season.

If only they had not lost a heartbreaking three-point game at Pittsburgh in early September, Penn State might be banging the drum and making their case for being ranked in the top five.

But it is better to focus on reality than theoretical situations, and the reality is that the squad can completely re-galvanize a fan base that has been hungry for a winner and a perennial championship contender.

Head coach James Franklin has made all the right moves over the course of the last five Saturdays, but the team need not get ahead of themselves before they make a visit to Indiana to take on a sometimes dangerous Hoosiers squad.

Now ranked at #12 nationally, PSU has a strong offense, a stout defense and a very special special teams. By the numbers, this game seems to be more difficult for Penn State than many fans would imagine. The Nittany Lions have the 59th-ranked overall offensive nation and the 32nd-ranked overall defense.

Conversely, the Hoosiers have the 35th-overall ranked offense and the 51st-overall ranked defense. These numbers bode well for the squad from Indiana, and they have been putting up just short of 300 yards per game through the air.

This means that once again quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley will have to initiate substantial offense in order to neutralize any momentum that Indiana hopes to create with designs to upset a squad on a sizable winning streak against very quality opponents. Again, Penn State finds themselves 6 1/2 point favorites in Vegas, which boded very well for them against Ohio two weekends ago in Happy Valley.

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Nittany Lions Trounce Iowa Hawkeyes, Run Win Streak to 5 Games

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Penn State rattled off their fifth consecutive impressive victory on Saturday evening with a 41-14 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes in Happy Valley. A numerical palindrome outcome is always fun, especially when your team is on the higher end of it.

Offensive leaders Trace McSorley and Saquon Berkeley gave all in attendance plenty of reasons to be cheerful throughout a dominating 60-minute performance that has catapulted the squad near the top 10 of the overall rankings. This is truly surprising given that they began the year 2-2, and were reeling after a 49-10 loss in Ann Arbor against the Michigan Wolverines on the final Saturday of September.

The uptick squad now stands on the doorstep of representing the Big 10 East if things go their way over the final few weeks. Barkley’s hoofprints were all over the field after he scored on a huge touchdown run in the first quarter and caught a 44-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Iowa came into the game determined to stack the box and prevent the run, but the Nittany Lions offensive attack basically rendered their plan obsolete. Third-down efficiency was huge, as Penn State converted on 50% of their attempts and Iowa achieved the sticks just twice in 10 attempts.

Net yards were also incredibly lopsided, as Penn State racked up just 1 yard short of 600 on the day and Iowa ran 52 plays for a total of 234 yards.

Penn State now stands on the doorstep of putting themselves in major contention for not only the Big 10, but a major bowl game with upcoming winnable games on the road against Indiana and Rutgers, and a finale at home against Michigan State.

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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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