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.

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PENN STATE PREVIEW: CENTRAL MICHIGAN

CB Johnny Dixon (3) lays a hit on an Auburn WR while CB Daequan Hardy (25) wraps him up in Penn State’s 41-12 win over the Tigers. Steve Manuel / The Football Letter

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: No. 14/15 Penn State (3-0) vs Central Michigan (2-1). Noon ET kickoff. Broadcast on BTN

Venue: Beaver Stadium

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): Patchy fog in the morning; otherwise, some sunshine giving way to clouds; a great afternoon for football. High of 65 degrees.

The line: Penn State -27.5

All-time series: Penn State leads 1-0

Against The MAC: The Nittany Lions hold a 10-2 all-time record against current members of the MAC.

Last week: Penn State went into Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium and dominated its SEC opponent. The 41-12 victory over the Tigers was the second-largest margin of victory for a Big Ten team in a road game against an SEC opponent, behind only Purdue’s 35-3 win over Missouri in 2017. Central Michigan got in the win column for the first time this season with a 41-0 shutout effort over Bucknell.

Last meeting (2005): It’s kind of a surprise these two programs have only met just once before given the frequency of Penn State playing MAC opposition since joining the Big Ten. The lone matchup was a blowout win for the Nittany Lions in 2005, a season full of memories for Penn State fans. Michael Robinson finished 14 for 23 for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns were to Deon Butler on strikes of 54 and 24 yards in the second quarter. The eventual 40-3 decision in favor of the Nittany Lions was the third win en route to an eventual 11-1 finish, Big Ten title and Orange Bowl win over Florida State.

The lead: Momentum is churning for Penn State as it returns home after a big win at Auburn. The Nittany Lions will look to keep things on track and avoid the upset against the Chippewas.

Count on: The Penn State secondary to shine. It’s no secret the back end of the defense was viewed as the strength of that side of the ball. Through three wins, we’ve seen nothing to dispel that notion. Auburn couldn’t generate much through the air until the game was well out of reach in the fourth quarter. While Central Michigan enters this game 19th in the FBS in passing offense (311.0), expect the Nittany Lions secondary to continue to play well.

Keep an eye on: Penn State’s tight ends. Brenton Strange has put together a really good start to this season, leading the team in receiving yards (169). He’s also been a critical element in the run game, aiding the offensive line in opening up some holes for Nicholas Singleton and the rest of the rushing attack. Theo Washington has yet to see game action because of injury, but did dress last week against the Tigers for the first time this season. This might be a good week to get him some reps under his belt as Penn State wraps up the non-conference portion of its schedule.

Number To Know: Nicholas Singleton’s 334 rushing yards are Penn State’s most in the first three games in a season since Larry Johnson’s 362 in 2002.

1982: Penn State is set to honor the 1982 National Championship team at halftime of Saturday’s game.

Other Big Ten Games This Week:
– Chattanooga at Illinois (Thursday, 8:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Maryland at No. 4/4 Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET. FOX)
– Minnesota at Michigan State (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Indiana at Cincinnati (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET. ESPN2)
– Iowa at Rutgers (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET. FS1)
– Wisconsin at No. 3 Ohio State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET. ABC)
– Miami (OH) at Northwestern (7:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Florida Atlantic at Purdue (7:30 p.m. ET. BTN)

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Penn State Preview: Auburn

Ji’Ayir Brown (16) and Tariq Castro-Fields (5) disrupted Auburn’s offense during last season’s 28-20 victory. The Nittany Lions visit Jordan-Hare Stadium this weekend for the program’s first-ever trip to Auburn. 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, at Auburn, broadcast on CBS.

Venue: Jordan-Hare Stadium, where Penn State will play for the first time.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 79 degrees with mostly sunshine.

The line: Penn State -3.

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

Last week: Penn State rolled Ohio 46-10 in its home opener while Auburn collected a 24-16 victory over San Joe State, thanks, in part, to 210 rushing yards.

Last meeting (2021): Penn State used a balanced effort (182 rushing yards/185 passing yards) to delivered a 28-20 defeat to Auburn, which had a last-minute drive thwarted as time wound down. ESPN’s College GameDay was in town for the game, the fifth-straight season the popular production has visited Happy Valley.

Throwback classic (1996): In the teams’ first matchup, Penn State battered Auburn 43-14 in the Outback Bowl, which was played on a rain-soaked field. You can see a condensed version of the game on YouTube.  

The lead: Penn State’s first trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium — and the first road trip against an SEC team since 2010 (Alabama) — presents an opportunity for the Nittany Lions to elevate themselves (most likely) into a Top-15 team in the country.

Count on: Penn State to be prepared. Head coach James Franklin said during this week’s press conference that the team practiced with a silent count — with music blaring — during preparation last week leading up to Ohio. Additionally, he said the players will see pictures of the locker room and stadium so the Nittany Lions know what to expect.

Keep an eye on: how many rushing attempts Nick Singleton gets. Franklin has said the team will share carries among the running backs until someone distinguishes themself. Singleton certainly did that Saturday, finishing with 179 yards on 10 carries. Fellow true freshman Kaytron Allen had six carries. Will there be a bigger gap Saturday? Either way, will be interesting to see.

Academic excellence: Per Penn State football’s game notes: A total of 552 Penn State student-athletes have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors since the team began competing in the conference in 1993. Each honoree totaled at grade point average of at least 3.0 while being a letterwinner.

Trivia tidbit: Penn State owns a .714 winning percentage since 2016 (55-22), the ninth-best mark among Power Five programs.

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Penn State Preview: Ohio

Expect a packed crowd at Beaver Stadium on Saturday for Penn State’s home opener. The Nittany Lions (1-0) host Ohio (1-0) for a noon kickoff. 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: Noon kickoff, vs. Ohio (the Bobcats, not the Buckeyes), broadcast on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State will play its 63rd season.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 79 degrees with mostly sunshine.

The line: Penn State -25.

All-time series: Penn State leads 5-1

Last week: Penn State (35-31) and Ohio (41-38) opened their seasons with victories, defeating Purdue and Florida Atlantic, respectively.

Last meeting (2012): Ohio upended Penn State 24-14 in Bill O’Brien’s head coaching debut with the Nittany Lions.

The lead: With a win Saturday, it feels like Penn State should earn a ranking ahead of its first-ever trip to Auburn next weekend. First, the Bobcats, who earned their only win against the Nittany Lions a decade ago.

Throwback classic (1969): Penn State blew past Ohio 42-3 in front of a sold out crowd at Beaver Stadium (49,096) during Joe Paterno’s second straight unbeaten, untied season as head coach. We’ve got the details from the game in this week’s From The Archives feature on the blog.

Count on: packed tailgating crowds, including after the game. Tag the Penn State Alumni Association and The Football Letter in your posts, and we’ll share throughout the weekend. And if you’re watching at home or with one of our alumni chapter, share those photos, too.

Keep an eye on: Penn State’s running back rotation. James Franklin said this week that the team will continue the rotation, so freshmen Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton will continue to gain experience before the meat of the conference schedule begins later this month.

Clear bag policy: Penn State’s released updated its bag policies for Athletics events, and full details are at GoPSUsports.com. Of note: The clear bag policy is more fan friendly and aligns with policies in place for large events around the country, so the size of allowed bags has increased. Clear tote bags, which can be sized 12″ x 6″ x 12″ or smaller, will be permitted beginning this fall. In addition, a 4″ x 6″ x 1″ small clutch or wristlet will continue to be permissible.

New food options: Fans can enjoy loaded pork fries, nachos, and dogs (all separately, though you can always get creative and combine them), and a sausage sandwich, all of which will make their Beaver Stadium debuts Saturday. And don’t worry, the fan-loved chicken baskets are staying. You can get the visuals of all the options on Beaver Stadium’s new Twitter account.  

Trivia tidbit: With the 35-31 victory last week at Purdue, Penn State (910) stayed one win ahead of Nebraska (909) for the seventh-most wins in college football history.

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Penn State Preview: Purdue

Penn State begins its 2022 campaign on Thursday, Sept. 1 at Purdue. Photo Credit: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

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.

Welcome to this week’s game preview for the 2022 season opener against Purdue.

Game Details: Penn State vs. Purdue. Thursday, Sept. 1. 8 p.m. ET. FOX

Venue: Ross-Ade Stadium

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Evening temperatures around 64 degrees with clear skies.

The Line: Penn State -3.5 (via Action Network)

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 15-3-3.

Last Meeting: Penn State won during the 2019 season, 35-7.

Last Week: This is the season opener for both teams.

Other Big Ten Games This Week:
– New Mexico State at Minnesota (Thursday, 9 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Western Michigan at No. 15 Michigan State (Friday, 7 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Illinois at Indiana (Friday, 8 p.m. ET. FS1)
– Colorado State at No. 8 Michigan (Saturday, Noon ET. ABC)
– South Dakota State at Iowa (Saturday, Noon ET. FS1)
– Buffalo at Maryland (Saturday, Noon ET. BTN)
– Rutgers at Boston College (Saturday, Noon ET. ACC Network)
– North Dakota at Nebraska (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Illinois State at No. 18 Wisconsin (Saturday, 7 p.m. ET. FS1)
– No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET. ABC)

Photo Credit: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

The Lead: It’s hard to believe another season of Penn State Football is here. The Nittany Lions get their 2022 campaign started under the lights for a midweek matchup at Purdue. This will be the 12th time in the last 13 seasons Penn State begins Big Ten play on the road. This Boilermakers squad coming off a nine-win season that saw them beat Tennessee in their own backyard in a bowl game will represent another significant season-opening test for James Franklin and his team.

Penn State Wins If: The offensive line protects Sean Clifford and opens up running lanes for Penn State’s halfbacks. This will be a significant theme for the season as a whole. Last season, this unit struggled mightily keeping its quarterback upright and creating holes for running backs. Purdue loses First Team-All Big Ten and Third-Team All American selection George Karlaftis, but do bring back three other starters from last year’s defensive line. The Nittany Lions offensive line must give Clifford time to find Penn State’s plethora of playmakers. If they can, the blue and white can walk out of West Lafayette with a big Week 1 win.

Purdue Wins If: An experienced defense harasses Sean Clifford consistently. As a whole, Purdue’s defense returns nine starters from last year. We saw Penn State’s offense struggle last year in the second half of the season as Clifford got hit way more than any quarterback should. The Nittany Lions cannot afford for their sixth-year quarterback to be under a lot of pressure and the offense to get bogged down.

Key Penn State Returnees:
– Sean Clifford, Sr., QB
– Parker Washington, So., WR
– Juice Scruggs, Sr., C
– PJ Mustipher, Sr., DT
– Curtis Jacobs, So., OLB
– Joey Porter Jr., Jr., CB
– Ji’Ayir Brown, Sr., S

Photo Credit: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Keep An Eye On: Parker Washington. With Jahan Dotson off to the NFL after a historic 2021 season, Parker Washington enters the spotlight at WR No. 1. He finished second on the team behind Dotson in catches each of the past two seasons and will now look to take over as Sean Clifford’s top target.

Freshman To Watch: Nick Singleton. The true freshman running back was consensus five-star recruit out of Governor Mifflin High School in Pennsylvania, choosing Penn State over other offers from the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Texas A&M and Tennessee. He’s been earning praise since arriving to campus in January as an early enrollee. At 6’0, 219 pounds, he’s already got the necessary physique to be an impact player in the Big Ten. With some changes in the running back room for the Nittany Lions, he can provide an immediate spark for the offense.

Trivia Tidbit: Penn State has started off seasons on the right foot more often than not in recent memory. The Nittany Lions have won 17 of their last 20 season-opening contests and five of the last six. The Lions are 111-22-2 all-time in season openers.

Membership Note: There are Nittany Lions all over the world, and the Alumni Association can help you connect with them through interest groups and geographically-based chapters. Whether you live in Philadelphia or Miami, Boston or San Diego, or somewhere in between, there’s likely an Alumni Association chapter or affiliate group nearby. Joining a chapter is a great way to connect with new people that you’ve already got something in common with—your love for Penn State!

Football Letter Live: Football Letter Live returned for its third season this past Thursday, with hosts Paul Clifford and John Patishnock joined by Penn State Vice President For Intercollegiate Athletics Pat Kraft and Penn State Football letterman Shelly Hammonds. Football Letter Live shows how all Penn Staters can cheer on the Nitttany Lions, at home and on the road, with alumni and fans having the opportunity to attend chapter watch parties, register for Roar Tour events on the road (our pregame pep rally), and much more.

Catch the full episode here: https://youtu.be/adLMExUafoc.

Penn State Preview: Blue-White Game

This year’s Blue-White game is set for 2 p.m., Saturday, April 23, at Beaver Stadium. Penn State’s annual spring scrimmage will air on Big Ten Network. Photo credit: Penn State/Pat Mansell

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: Blue-White game, 2 p.m. kickoff, broadcast on Big Ten Network.

Venue: Beaver Stadium, the second-largest stadium in the country (third-largest in the world), and where the Nittany Lions boast an all-time record of 304-79. Beaver Stadium opened in 1960 and features a capacity of 106,572.

Weather forecast (via Accuweather): High of 67 degrees and partly sunny. In other words, ideal weather for tailgating. Let’s hope that forecast holds up.

The lead: For the first time in three years, the Blue-White game will be open to fans. And with it, comes everything else that transforms game day in Happy Valley into something other-worldly. As long as I can remember, there’s been chatter — perhaps from people with too much time on their hands — about what can be done to make the Blue-White game more interesting for fans. The most recent example I saw posited was that maybe the Nittany Lions could play an FCS opponent in the spring, an option that’s been thrown out for other FBS program, too.

For what it’s worth, here’s what I believe should change with the Blue-White game: nothing.  

Yes, it’s a practice. What’s wrong with that? An open practice with tailgating lots open all day, giving alumni and fans a reason to celebrate the exiting winter weather while seeing new faces and returning starters for the first time. Previous years have seen unexpected excitement in the form of a walk-on player receiving a scholarship mid-game (Dan Chisena), and local Special Olympic athletes scoring a touchdown in front of a roaring crowd.

Is seeing a certain offensive scheme or defensive formation really going to be more memorable than either of those examples? Is playing an FCS opponent going to make the day better? I don’t think so.

Other programs may have to resort to gimmicks to generate interest for their spring game. Penn State, however, isn’t in that category.

All-time series: Similar to other universities, Penn State’s annual spring scrimmage was a result of post-World War II life in the U.S. We recently came across this 2010 article from Penn State football historian Lou Prato, which details the history of the game and how it’s evolved over the years. One interesting nugget is the Daily Collegian dubbed the game “The Bucket Bowl” for a few years in the early 1950s, since an old fashioned water bucket was presented to the winning team as a trophy.

Count on: plenty of Penn State lettermen returning for the game. Breakout NFL star tight end Pat Freiermuth shared a video saying he’s returning to Happy Valley, and if history is a good indicator, expect a few dozen former players to join him.

Keep an eye on: all the new Nittany Lions. It’ll be harder than you think. True freshmen Drew Allar (#15, quarterback), Beau Pribula (#9, quarterback), and Nick Singleton (#10, running back) will appear in front of fans for the first time, as will senior transfer Mitchell Tinsley (#5, receiver). You also have fan favorites Jonathan Sutherland (switching to a new position at linebacker from safety) and defensive tackle PJ Mustipher back from an injury that forced him to miss most of last season.

It’s also worth adding redshirt freshman quarterback Christian Veilleux to the mix. He starred in last season’s win over Rutgers as a starter. And how many snaps will Sean Clifford see Saturday?

We could go on for a while. Point being: there’s a lot that should have fans intrigued this weekend.

Trivia tidbit: Per Penn State football: In 2019, an estimated 61,000 fans were in attendance for the Blue-White game. That’s typical, as the Blue-White game has drawn more than 60,000 fans in seven of the last eight years, which included crowds of 70,000 or more in four of the last six years.

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

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