Penn State Preview: Villanova

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 this football season.

Game details: No. 6/8 Penn State (3-0) vs. Villanova (3-0). Noon ET kick-off, broadcast on Big Ten Network.

Venue: Beaver Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 70 degrees. Times of clouds and sun; a great afternoon for football.

The Line: Penn State -30.5 (via SI Sportsbook).

All-Time Series: Penn State is 5-3-1 all-time against the Wildcats. 

Last Meeting: The last matchup between the Nittany Lions and Wildcats came all the way back in 1951. The game was played at the Allentown High School Stadium. Villanova emerged victorious, 20-14.

Last Week: Penn State held off Auburn in front of an electric White Out crowd. Villanova took down CAA foes Richmond, 34-27.

Penn State Wins If: It remains focused on going 1-0 this week. It’s easy to get distracted after a huge win against an SEC opponent last week in primetime. But it’s a brand new week. In college football, anything can and has happened. James Franklin will have been preaching to his players all week that this isn’t a time to get comfortable and bask in what they did a week ago. One hundred percent focus on Villanova equals a 4-0 start.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Villanova Wins If: Penn State has a major White Out letdown. If you’re expecting another 79-7 shellacking of an FCS opponent like the one Penn State dished out to Idaho a few years ago, you’re mistaken. Villanova is a legitimate FCS contender, and ranks No. 7 in the FCS Coaches Poll. The Wildcats are second in the FCS in total defense and they’ve forced 11 takeaways on the season. While Penn State should win this one comfortably, I don’t expect Villanova to get beaten by 70-plus points. The Nittany Lions can’t just show up and expect to win.

Count On: The Penn State running game to get plenty of opportunities to figure things out. It was another sluggish day for the rushing attack against Auburn’s front seven last week (84 yards on 33 attempts). If there was ever a week for things to finally click, this is it. All due respect to Villanova — and I mean that because its defense has only allowed 89 yards total on the ground through three games — if the Nittany Lions can’t find a way to move the ball on the ground, I’m not sure they ever will with consistency this season. I expect OC Mike Yurcich to try to feed Noah Cain, Keyvonne Lee and even John Lovett early and often to try and get this area of the offense some momentum. Penn State will need its running game to get significantly better as the meat of its Big Ten slate looms.

Keep An Eye On: Other wide receivers not named Jahan Dotson, Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith to showcase what they can offer. Penn State has as good of a top three wide receiver trio as anyone in the Big Ten. This is a great opportunity for veterans Cam Sullivan-Brown and Daniel George and youngsters like Liam Clifford and Harrison Wallace to demonstrate that if called upon, they can contribute in this offense.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Trivia Tidbit: With wins over then-No. 12/15 Wisconsin and then-No. 22/20 Auburn, Penn State has two wins over ranked teams within the first three games of the season for the first time in program history.

Sweet Caroline Moment: New category here to spice things up a bit. It’s always a running debate of when we’ll hear “Sweet Caroline” blasted over the Beaver Stadium speakers during a game. Put me down for about halfway through the third quarter as Penn State leads by at least 17 points.


John Patishnock: Penn State 55, Villanova 10
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 44, Villanova 13

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2 thoughts on “Penn State Preview: Villanova

  1. Same question I posed to the Live Letter this past week — which, incidentally indicated questions would be answered and none were even posed…
    WHY SEND SO MANY PLAYS UP-THE-MIDDLE, into anticipated piles of bodies, when the results are almost always disappointing — especially in the short red zone. Ends-around when there’s hardly any one to interfere seems to offer more positive outcomes. (The pros seem ‘guilty’ of this, too!)

    • Good morning, Judith. Appreciate the note, and glad to hear you’re watching the show. Hopefully you enjoy it. We don’t typically talk about play-calling during the show. Plenty of other media outlets cover that aspect of the program, and we focus on other areas of game day, what it’s like to be at Beaver Stadium, and how our alumni groups leverage football to unite Penn Staters. Hope you continue to tune in, and thank you.

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