Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.
Game details: No. 15/14 Penn State vs. Buffalo, 7:30 p.m., broadcast on FOX.
Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State boasts an all-time record of 291-74.
Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 73 degrees, partly sunny and pleasant.
The line: Penn State – 28.5
Last week: Penn State pounded Idaho 79-7, while Buffalo defeated Robert Morris 38-10.
All-time series: Penn State leads 2-1.
Last meeting (2015): Penn State won 27-14 at a soggy Beaver Stadium. This game also represented the beginning of the legend of Saquon Barkley, who pulled off the first of his many impressive hurdles over an unsuspecting Bulls defender. Barkley also scored a touchdown and ran for more than 100 yards in his first home game.
Throwback classic (1900): We’ll give this category to the Bulls, who defeated Penn State 10-0 at Buffalo. While William “Pop” Golden led the Nittany Lions, the Bulls played without a coach.
Overview: The one question everyone seems to be asking is “Just how good is this Penn State team?” There’s a ton of talent, and perhaps more experience than some fans think — thanks to guys redshirting and getting game reps last year — though can this year’s Nittany Lions compete for a Big Ten title? It’ll probably be another month before we have a clear answer, though they can continue to impress Saturday against another overmatched opponent. However, Buffalo is capable of making this competitive. The Bulls won a school-record 10 games last season, winning the MAC East Division. Buffalo rushed for 285 yards last week in its season-opening victory against Robert Morris, though Penn State’s impressive defensive front will (obviously) present a much, much bigger challenge. Still, it might be good for Penn State’s long-term interest if the team faces more pushback before facing Pitt and the Big Ten slate.
Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions avoid mistakes. Penn State clearly has more talent, size, and strength, and it’s difficult seeing Buffalo sustain long drives the entire game. Don’t give the Bulls a short field and stay on schedule offensively, and Penn State should have a carousel of reserves see game time this Saturday, too.
Buffalo wins if: Penn State loses it. Even if the Bulls play a near-perfect game, chances are it still won’t be enough to pull off a historic upset. Making a few plays early will certainly help, and if this were a noon kickoff, maybe that could be more probably, though a primetime kick at Beaver Stadium will have all of Happy Valley rocking from the start.
Count on: another running back rotation. It worked so well the first week, so why change anything? Five backs combined for seven rushing touchdowns, and the offensive line should have its way against the Bulls. Chances are no one back will get more than 12-15 carries (Noah Cain’s nine attempts against Idaho were a team-high mark), so look for the most talented group of running backs in the country to once again share carries.
Keep an eye on: Jahan Dotson. The sophomore wide receiver was quiet last week, totaling just one catch for 13 yards. Dotson has plenty of speed and has earned the praise of coaches and teammates in the fall, and this could be the week when he begins to post numbers that match his big-time talent.
Trivia tidbit: Penn State has been ranked in the AP poll for the last 41 weeks — the fifth-longest streak in the country. It’s also the fifth-longest mark in program history.
John Patishnock: Penn State 48, Buffalo 13
Vince Lungaro: Penn State 50, Buffalo 13