Penn State Preview: Maryland

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Each week throughout the 2019 season, 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. 

Game details: No. 12/11 Penn State @ Maryland, 8:00 p.m., broadcast on Fox Sports 1. 

Venue: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium

Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): Kick-off temperature of 73 degrees, mostly clear skies. 

The line: Penn State – 6.5 

Last week: Both teams enter this Week 5 matchup coming off a bye. 

All-time series: Penn State leads 39-2-1.  

Last meeting (2018): Penn State dominated Maryland, 38-3, on Senior Day a season ago. Trace McSorley opened the scoring on Penn State’s first possession of the game, running into the end zone from three yards out. McSorley capped off his home career for the Nittany Lions with 230 yards and a touchdown through the air, plus an additional 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. 

Throwback classic (1993): Since Penn State scored 79 points in its Week 1 win over Idaho, take a look back at another 70-point showing for the Nittany Lions in their 70-7 thrashing of Maryland in 1993. 

Overview: The Terrapins have come down to earth a bit after a scorching start to the season. Maryland opened with blowout wins over Howard and then-No. 21 Syracuse, which earned the Terrapins a spot in the Top-25. They then put up a dud in Week 3 at Temple, falling 20-17. Penn State, meanwhile, crushed Idaho in Week 1 and produced an excellent second half to down Buffalo 45-13. Week 3 saw the Nittany Lions hold off Pitt 17-10. Add all that up, and it’s really difficult to predict how Friday night’s matchup is going to unfold. Which version of each team will we see? 

Penn State wins if: The offensive line gives Sean Clifford time to throw downfield. Clifford was under duress a lot against Pitt, and turned in an uneven performance because of it (14-of-30 for 222 yards and zero touchdowns). He’s going to have to have a much better day connecting with the likes of KJ Hamler and Pat Freiermuth, who was held to just one catch against Pitt, if Penn State is going to get the road dub. 

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

Maryland wins if: The Maryland rushing attack has a big day. The Terrapins want to run the football and run it often. Like Penn State, they have a rotation of running backs they like to use throughout the game. Anthony McFarland remains their bell cow and most explosive weapon out of the backfield despite the rotation. If he and the rest of the running backs get going, it will open up the passing game for Josh Jackson, and make life really difficult on the Penn State defense. 

Count On: A sea of white amidst the Maryland “blackout” in the stands. Penn State fans have been encouraged to wear white. With only about a four-hour drive separating the two campuses, and with plenty of Penn State alumni and fans in the Washington, D.C. area, there should be a heavy Nittany Lion presence throughout the stadium. 

Keep an eye on: Yetur Gross-Matos. Gross-Matos blew up the Maryland rushing attack in the 2018 matchup between the two teams, doing a great job of setting the edge on multiple occasions and getting into the backfield with 3.5 tackles-for-loss. Penn State is going to need him at his best in this year’s game, both in disrupting the ground game and getting after Josh Jackson. After being held without a sack or a tackle against Pitt, I expect Gross-Matos to bounce back and shine in Week 5. 

Trivia tidbit: Penn State hasn’t given up a touchdown to Maryland in the last two meetings, crushing the Terrapins 66-3 in 2017 and winning 38-3 a season ago. As good as the Nittany Lion defense is, I expect that to change Friday night. 

Predictions

John Patishnock: Penn State 38, Maryland 30 

Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 27, Maryland 23

Penn State Preview: Buffalo

Penn State v. Idaho 79-7 (Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

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.

 

Predictions

John Patishnock: Penn State 48, Buffalo 13 

 

Vince Lungaro: Penn State 50, Buffalo 13

Penn State preview: Idaho

Penn State v. PITT (Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Football Letter/Steve Manuel

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. Idaho, 3:30 p.m., broadcast on BTN.

 

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State boasts an all-time record of 290-74. 

 

Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 75 degrees, with sun and some clouds. 

 

The line: Penn State –36.5.

 

All-time series: First meeting. 

 

Overview: Penn State football returns to Happy Valley. Although there are many compelling storylines for this year’s Nittany Lions, the real story is that football is back. How will Sean Clifford fare in his first career start? What will the running back rotation look like? On the other side of the ball, just how dominant can the defense be this year? We’ll get a first look at a clearly overmatched opponent that shouldn’t push Penn State too much. Make the necessary plays and stay healthy. That’s this weekend’s game plan for the Nittany Lions. 

 

Penn State wins if: the Blue Buses find their way to the stadium.

 

Idaho wins if: We could try to concoct a maze of “this, then that,” scenarios, though we’ll give our readers the benefit of knowing better. Idaho, an FCS opponent, isn’t winning Saturday.

 

Count on: a feel-good vibe all day long. With a mid-afternoon kick and a gorgeous forecast, fans have plenty to look forward to: tailgating, watching (what should be) a comfortable win, and enjoying a wonderful weekend in Happy Valley. 

 

Keep an eye on: Will Levis. Even though Sean Clifford was named the starter (as expected), Saturday’s contest shouldn’t be close in the second half. Maybe James Franklin keeps Clifford in the majority of the game so he can build up game reps, though it wouldn’t be surprising if Levis leads at least a couple of drives. So, both quarterbacks might have a chance to show off their arm in the season opener.

 

Trivia tidbit: Penn State is one of only two teams in the country who have recorded at least 14 consecutive winning seasons, and also been ranked in the AP poll for the last 40-plus weeks. The other team? Oklahoma.

 

Predictions

John Patishnock: Penn State 45, Idaho 7 

 

Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 59, Idaho 10