Penn State Preview: Nebraska

James Franklin and the Nittany Lions head west this weekend, looking for their first win of the season at Nebraska. (Photo by Steve Manuel)

Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions this football season.

Game details: at Nebraska, noon kickoff (EST), broadcast on FS1.

Venue: Memorial Stadium.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 54 degrees, mostly cloudy with patches of sun.

All-time series: Nebraska leads 9-8, with the first meeting occurring in 1920.

Last meeting (2017): Penn State 56-44 at Beaver Stadium, where the Nittany Lions thoroughly outplayed the Huskers. Saquon Barkley set the program record for rushing touchdowns with 39, eclipsing Curt Warner. Barkley scored three times on the ground, as Penn State led 56-24 with about 10 minutes left in the game. Nebraska then scored three late touchdowns, including one as time expired.

Throwback classic (2002): Penn State bulldozed a Top-10 Nebraska squad 40-7 at Beaver Stadium, with Larry Johnson collecting his first 100-yard game and Rich Gardner electrifying the crowd with a pick-6 midway through the third quarter. Fans can look back on that game and hear from Gardner by visiting The Football Letter blog.

The lead: Off-field issues, which have largely been out of Penn State’s control, have dominated the early part of the conference schedule. Earlier this week, standout running back Journey Brown announced that he’s retiring from football because of a medical condition called hyperthropic cardiomypathy. Brown’s widely recognized among coaches and teammates as a team leader who’s always upbeat, positive, and inspiring. James Franklin called the news heartbreaking earlier this week, though he and many other Nittany Lions are confident that Brown will be successful in the future, whatever he chooses to do.

Additionally, Franklin said this week that he hasn’t handled not being around his family well, as his wife, Fumi, and their two daughters are not staying in State College for the foreseeable future, as a precaution to the COVID-19 pandemic. Franklin’s younger daughter, Addison, has sickle cell anemia and is immunocompromised.

All of this puts Penn State’s struggles on the field into perspective. In a season when there are challenges that nobody could have envisioned a year ago, there are plenty of reasons to support the team and everything they’re going through, on behalf of the University.

Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions can get the ground game going with the running backs. Devyn Ford leads that group through three games, gaining 141 yards on 37 carries. Getting a big game from Ford, or collectively from that group, will be key for the Nittany Lions.

Nebraska wins if: the Cornhuskers get out to an early lead. That’s what Ohio State and Maryland did the last two weeks, forcing the Nittany Lions to play from behind.

Keep an eye on: Parker Washington. The Penn State freshman wide receiver has caught three touchdowns in the season’s first three games, giving Sean Clifford another reliable option in addition to Jahan Dotson.

Trivia tidbit: Nebraska and Penn State 1,800 combined wins. Nebraska (902) has four more than Penn State (898).

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