Penn State Preview: Northwestern

The Blue Band performed prior to kickoff last Saturday against Central Michigan. Penn State is home again this weekend, hosting Northwestern for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPN. Photo credit: 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: 3:30 p.m. kickoff, against Northwestern, broadcast on ESPN.

Records: No. 11/12 Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) vs. Northwestern (1-3, 1-0 Big Ten)

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State boasts an all-time record of 306-79.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): It’ll be October, and it’s starting to feel like football season. Temps will be in the mid- to-late 50s with a high of 57, and we’re expected to receive some rain from Tropical Rainstorm Ian. Looks like alumni and fans may want to bring a jacket Saturday.

The line: Penn State -25.5.

All-time series: Penn State leads 14-5 and has won seven of the last nine matchups.

Last week: Penn State stayed unbeaten with a 33-14 triumph over Central Michigan while Northwestern dropped its third straight game with a 17-14 home defeat to Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks kicked a late 36-yard field goal to keep the Wildcats winless since their season-opening victory over Nebraska in Ireland. So, Northwestern is still searching for its win on U.S. soil this season.  

Worth noting: In last Saturday’s win over Central Michigan, senior quarterback Sean Clifford tossed three touchdowns in a game for the 14th time.

Last meeting (2017): Penn State won 31-7 at Ryan Field, with Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley both scoring on the ground to pace the offense. Barkley finished with two scores and McSorley added a scoring toss to DaeSean Hamilton.

Throwback classic (2005): Michael Robinson’s clutch leadership was on display as he led Penn State to a touchdown with less than a minute at Ryan Field en route to the Nittany Lions winning the Big Ten, and then outlasting Florida State in three overtimes in the Orange Bowl.

While Robinson’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Williams rightly receives plenty of attention, his 20-yard strike to tight end Isaac Smolko in the middle of the field on 4th-and-15 — from Penn State’s 15-yard line — kept the drive going. You can see a condensed version of the game on YouTube.

The lead: If Penn State successfully fulfills their weekly mission — going 1-0 — the Nittany Lions will head into their bye 5-0, and with a probable Top-10 ranking. Waiting for them after their brief respite will be a critical three-game stretch against Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State. The Golden Gophers vaunted into the rankings after trouncing Michigan State in East Lansing last weekend.

On Saturday, if Clifford can even come close to the consistency he’s exhibited so far this season — 12 total touchdowns, only one interception — the Nittany Lions should be able to rotate in a bevy of backups and younger players, positioning the team to have plenty of depth when Penn State encounters the teeth of the conference schedule.

Count on: Hearing a huge ovation when senior punter Barney Amor is announced during starting lineups Saturday. The transfer from Colgate has endeared himself to coaches, teammates, and fans with his surgeon-like precision on the field, and his affable demeanor off it. Daily Collegian writer Max Ralph lists some of the reasons that distinguish Barney on this Twitter post.

Keep an eye on: Penn State’s secondary. The Nittany Lions lead the nation, by a wide margin, with 41 pass breakups. That’s the number they had all last season, and they’re outpacing every other team in the country by 16 in that category.

Academic excellence: A total of 552 of Penn State football student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors since 1993 for owning at least a 3.0 grade point average and being a letterwinner.

Trivia tidbit, Part 1: Penn State has one of the best turnover margins in the country at plus-eight. Helping that metric: the Nittany Lions have caused four turnovers in each of the last two games.

Trivia tidbit, Part 2: James Franklin can reach 100 career victories this season. He’s currently 95-49, including a 71-34 mark with Penn State.

For more on The Football Letter, (requires Alumni Association member log-in), click here.

Not yet an Alumni Association member? Click here.

Follow the Football Letter on Twitter for more videos, photos, and features.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s