Penn State Preview: Michigan State

Penn State v. Michigan State 2020 (Photo by 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. 

Game Details: Penn State at No. 12 Michigan State. 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

Venue: Spartan Stadium. East Lansing, Michigan.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 36 with increasing cloudiness for kick-off. Chance of flurries later in the evening.

The Line: Penn State -1.5 (via SI SportsBook).

All-Time Series: Series tied 17-17-1.

Last Meeting: Penn State won last season’s matchup, 39-24.

Last Week: Penn State blanked Rutgers 28-0. Michigan State was demolished at Ohio State, 56-7.

Penn State v. Rutgers (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– No. 16 Iowa at Nebraska (1:30 p.m. ET on Friday. BTN)
– No. 2 Ohio State at No. 5 Michigan (Noon ET. Fox)
– Maryland at Rutgers (Noon ET. BTN)
– Northwestern at Illinois (3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Indiana at Purdue (3:30 p.m. ET. FS1)
– No. 14 Wisconsin at Minnesota (4 p.m. ET. Fox)

The Lead: Contrasting fortunes last week for these two teams. Penn State battled a team-wide flu bug to shutout Rutgers, 28-0. Michigan State fell flat on its face in its big matchup at Ohio State, barely laying a finger on the Buckeyes in a 56-7 loss. The Scarlet Knights punted on 10 of its first 11 drives with the other drive ending the first half and its final three drives ending in a turnover on downs, an interception and the end of the game. Rutgers crossed the 50-yard line on only one drive. The Nittany Lions also shutout Indiana this season, marking the first time Penn State has shutout two conference opponents since joining the Big Ten in 1993.

Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions can slow down Kenneth Walker III and the Spartans running attack. As Keneth Walker goes, so goes Michigan State. He is the focal point of everything they do. And as we saw last week at Ohio State, if he’s held in check the Spartans are very beatable. The Michigan State football standout junior running back is officially one of three finalists nominated for The Maxwell Award, and one of three finalists for The Doak Walker Award. If Penn State’s defense can shut him down, the blue and white have a great shot at claiming their eighth win of the season.

Michigan State Wins If: Kenneth Walker III gets back on track. Take everything I just said about what happens when you slow Walker down and apply the opposite if he gets going. Not many teams have had success running against this Penn State defense this season. If Walker has a stellar day, the Spartans can get to the 10-win mark.

Penn State v. Rutgers (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Keep An Eye On: Sean Clifford. Head Coach James Franklin announced at his Tuesday press conference that Clifford would start against the Spartans. He left last week’s win over Rutgers early with that previously mentioned flu bug. If he’s good to go, he’s Penn State’s starter. On another note, huge shoutout to freshman QB Christian Veilleux who stepped in for the ill Clifford and performed well to lead the Nittany Lions to a win last week.

Trivia Tidbit: Each school was founded in 1855, Michigan State on Feb. 12 and Penn State on Feb. 22. The schools were the prototypes after which the Land Grant system was patterned. Each institution brought to American education the new dimensions of service and outreach in addition to education and research.

Honoring John Black: Saturday was a special day for John Black, author of The Football Letter for the past 45 seasons. John’s name was officially included on a commemorative plaque that was unveiled in the Beaver Stadium press box during a pregame ceremony, and you can see a video of the recognition on our Facebook page. We’ve also got photos on our Twitter page. Can’t think of anyone more worthy of this kind of recognition than John!

Membership Note: Penn State email personal addresses available to members of the Penn State Alumni Association are hosted by Google’s G Suite for Education. When you activate your alumni email address, you also get full access to all of the tools available in G Suite for Education. G Suite for Education is primarily designed for educators, and features many tools intended to facilitate learning in K-12 and higher education environments. However, tools such as Jamboard, a cloud-based, collaborative smartboard, and Meet, a tool for online video calls and messages, have many applications you may find very useful. Lean more here.

Score Predictions: 
John Patishnock: Penn State 28, Michigan State 16
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 30, Michigan State 17

Penn State Preview: Rutgers

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.

Game Details: Penn State vs. Rutgers. Noon ET. Big Ten Network.

Venue: Beaver Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 44. Some sunshine giving way to clouds.

The Line: Penn State -17 (via SI SportsBook).

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 29-2.

Last Meeting: Penn State won 23-7 last season.

Last Week: Penn State dropped a heart-breaker to Michigan, 21-17. Rutgers crushed Indiana 38-3.

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– No. 7 Michigan State at No. 4 Ohio State (Noon ET. ABC)
– Purdue at Northwestern (Noon ET. BTN)
– Illinois at No. 17 Iowa (2 p.m. ET. FS1)
– No. 6 Michigan at Maryland (3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)
– Nebraska at No. 15 Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. ET. ABC)
– Minnesota at Indiana (3:30 p.m. ET. BTN)

The Lead: After going more than a month without a victory, Penn State finally got back in the win column with last week’s 31-14 win over Maryland. It wasn’t always pretty, but you could tell from the postgame celebrations from players and coaches it meant a lot to get the weight of the losing streak of their shoulders. Michigan, meanwhile, showed no signs of a letdown from a crushing loss to in-state rivals Michigan State two weeks ago, cruising past Indiana 29-7. Both teams started the season with aspirations of a Big Ten title. That goal is still very much in the frame for the Wolverines. Penn State is all but out of the Big Ten East race, but the Nittany Lions can play spoiler to the two Michigan schools down the stretch. That starts with Saturday’s game.

Penn State Wins If: Penn State’s offensive line responds to last week. The offensive line had a torrid game against an impressive Michigan front. If they let those struggles carry over to Saturday, Rutgers can absolutely get to Sean Clifford and throw the offense off its rhythm. The Nittany Lions cannot afford to sleepwalk the way they did against Illinois. Give Clifford time to throw and find his weapons downfield.

Rutgers Wins If: Sean Clifford banged up and the Scarlet Knights get consistent pressure on him. We know the Nittany Lions defense is going to show up, they’ve done so every week of the season. But if the offense struggles again, we could see another Illinois-esque upset in Beaver Stadium. Not in nine overtimes…but a surprising upset nonetheless. The Scarlet Knights will become bowl eligible with a win.

Keep An Eye On: The Senior Day festivities. It’s important to show appreciation for players who will play their final snaps at Beaver Stadium. We can’t thank these seniors enough for representing the blue and white.

Trivia Tidbit: With the strip-sack by Arnold Ebiketie against Michigan, Penn State extended its takeaway streak to 16-straight games, dating back to the Nebraska game in 2020. It is tied for the second-longest among FBS teams with Oklahoma and trails only Baylor (18).

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!

Podcast: John Amaechi OBE is this week’s guest for ‘The People of Penn State’ podcast. John discussed plenty of interesting topics, including his new book, the importance of leaders and leadership, some of his favorite memories from his time at Penn State, his love of Star Wars, and much more. Listen to the full conversation here: https://bit.ly/3FjyF3Y.

Score Predictions:
John Patishnock – Penn State 24, Rutgers 7
Vincent Lungaro – Penn State 23, Rutgers 14

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week 10

This week is all defense in our Penn Staters At The Next Level recap.

We start off with Micah Parsons, of course. The Defensive Rookie of the Year favorite continues a stellar start to his NFL career.

Parsons led the Cowboys with six tackles and also recorded a strip-sack.

Adrian Amos, Safety, Green Bay Packers

Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Aaron Rodgers’ return to the field garnered most of the pre-game headlines, but the play of the Packers defense stole the show in Sunday’s win over the Seahawks.

Adrian Amos and his teammates shutout the Seattle offense in a 17-0 win, with the former Nittany Lion grabbing his second interception of the season. Amos also finished with four tackles and three pass deflections.

The Green Bay defense has quickly developed into one of the league’s best this season under first-year coordinator Joe Barry.

Amani Oruwariye, Cornerback, Detroit Lions

Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

It seemed like nobody wanted to win Sunday’s matchup between the Lions and Steelers, with turnovers, mistakes and penalties the story of the game.

As a result, nobody did win. Pittsburgh and Detroit played to a 16-16 tie after a pretty wild overtime finish.

Amani Oruwariye helped the Lions avoid the loss column for the first time this season, finishing with seven tackles, two pass deflections and a critical fumble recovery in overtime.

Penn State Preview: Michigan

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. Let’s breakdown all the info you need for Penn State’s matchup with Michigan.

Game Details: No. 6 Michigan at Penn State. Noon ET kick-off. Broadcast is on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Clouds and breaks of sun; cooler with a brief shower or two; cold enough during and after the game for wet snowflakes. High of 43.

The Line: Michigan -1.5 (via SI SportsBook)

All-Time Series: Michigan leads 14-10.  

Last Meeting: Penn State won 27-17 last season at Michigan Stadium.

Last Week: Penn State snapped a three-game losing with a 31-14 win over Maryland. Michigan rebounded from a tough loss at Michigan State by thumping Indiana, 29-7.

Penn State v. Maryland (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– Northwestern at No. 18 Wisconsin (Noon ET, ESPN2)
– Rutgers at Indiana (Noon ET, BTN)
– No. 19 Purdue at No. 4 Ohio State (3:30 PM ET, ABC)
– Minnesota at No. 20 Iowa (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
– Maryland at No. 7 Michigan State (4 PM ET, FOX)

Throwback Classic: 2008. Penn State 46, Michigan 17.

The week leading up to the showdown against the Wolverines was typically jovial at University Park.

Fans camped outside Beaver Stadium starting on Monday, and hundreds of alumni helped dedicate the Alumni Walk at the Hintz Family Alumni Center on Friday. In between, all the usual wonderment enveloped Happy Valley during Homecoming of the 2008 season. Then, the game started, and the good vibes changed.

Read more in our From The Archives story from 2019.

Penn State v. Michigan 2008 (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

The Lead: After going more than a month without a victory, Penn State finally got back in the win column with last week’s 31-14 win over Maryland. It wasn’t always pretty, but you could tell from the postgame celebrations from players and coaches it meant a lot to get the weight of the losing streak of their shoulders. Michigan, meanwhile, showed no signs of a letdown from a crushing loss to in-state rivals Michigan State two weeks ago, cruising past Indiana 29-7. Both teams started the season with aspirations of a Big Ten title. That goal is still very much in the frame for the Wolverines. Penn State is all but out of the Big Ten East race, but the Nittany Lions can play spoiler to the two Michigan schools down the stretch. That starts with Saturday’s game.

Penn State Wins If: The Penn State offense plays to its potential. It feels like that hasn’t happened very much this season. Last week, the Nittany Lions were able to overcome a sluggish offensive performance thanks to Jahan Dotson going nuclear and the defense playing another great game. To beat an opponent at the level of Michigan, the offense is going to have to play a lot crisper. Mike Yurcich is going to need to be at his best calling plays. Who knows, though, maybe Jahan will make me look silly for saying that by following up his 242-yard effort with a 300-yard effort to propel Penn State to another win.

Michigan Wins If: The Wolverines don’t settle for field goals. I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but every opponent Penn State has faced this season has struggled to finish off drives with touchdowns. At times, particularly in the loss to Michigan State, the Michigan offense has put together good drives and only ended up with three points once they reached the end zone. The Wolverines can’t afford to settle for field goals again or the narrow defeat to the Spartans is going to be repeated.

Penn State v. Maryland (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Keep An Eye On: Penn State’s offensive tackles. The offensive line has been pretty disappointing for the Nittany Lions this season. Michigan has two outstanding defensive ends in Aidan Hutchinson and David Ojabo, both of whom will be playing on Sundays. The Nittany Lions OTs are going to have to have a great game to give Sean Clifford time to find Dotson, Parker Washington and other skill players.

Trivia Tidbit: Despite being two of the most successful programs in college football history, Penn State and Michigan had never played each other until 1993. The Wolverines won that inaugural meeting 21-13.

Number To Know: 829. Running back Hassan Haskins leads Michigan with 829 yards rushing this season. That’s good for fourth-best in the Big Ten.
12. Penn State has held opponents without a score in 12 of 34 red zone possessions this season, including three stops at Maryland.

Membership Note: If you aren’t using the Alumni Library, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable benefits of membership in the Alumni Association. Find out how logging in can give you access to a treasure trove of knowledge, including tools that can enlighten, inform, enrich, and entertain you—or even provide information you can use to astound your coworkers and delight your boss! Click here for more info.

Listen to ‘The People of Penn State’ podcast at alumni.psu.edu/podcasts. 

Podcast: Our guest for this week’s episode of ‘The People of Penn State,’ is Daniel Berlin ’92. Dan has never let his vision loss affect the life he wanted to live. He is co-founder and former CEO of Rodelle, a world-leading vanilla extract company, and the co-founder and president of Team See Possibilities, a non-profit organization which empowers young people with vision loss to thrive. Dan has also traveled the world as an endurance athlete and advocate for the blind. Dan joined us and discussed coming to terms at a young age with his vision loss, the founding of Rodelle, the impact of Team See Possibilities, and his experiences as an endurance athlete. Listen to the show today or check out the video version on YouTube.

Score Predictions:
John Patishnock: Penn State 21, Michigan 17
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 24, Michigan 20



Penn State Preview: Maryland

Penn State v. Maryland 2019 (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. Let’s dive into this week’s preview or Penn State and Maryland, with the blue and white looking to get back on track and snap a three-game skid.

Game Details: Penn State at Maryland. 3:30 PM ET kick-off, broadcast on FS1.

Venue: Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, College Park, MD.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Mostly sunny with kick-off temps around 55 degrees.

The Line: Penn State -10 (via SI SportsBook)

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 40-3-1.

Last Meeting: Maryland topped Penn State, 35-19.

Last Week: Penn State fell on the road to Ohio State, 33-24. Maryland defeated Indiana 38-35.

Penn State v. OSU 2021 (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– No. 5 Ohio State at Nebraska (Noon ET, FOX)
– Illinois at Minnesota (Noon ET, ESPN2)
– No. 3 Michigan State at Purdue (3:30 PM ET, ABC)
– No. 21 Wisconsin at Rutgers (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
– No. 22 Iowa at Northwestern (7 PM ET, BTN)
– Indiana at No. 7 Michigan (7:30 PM ET, Fox)

Throwback Classic: 2017. Looking to secure a New Year’s Six berth, Penn State left nothing to chance in the 2017 regular season finale in College Park. The Nittany Lions used three total touchdowns from Trace McSorley and three more from backup QB Tommy Stevens to rout the Terrapins, 66-3. Penn State led 31-0 at halftime, finished with 534 yards and didn’t give up a touchdown. The Nittany Lions went on to win the Fiesta Bowl over Washington, 35-28.

Penn State v. Maryland 2017 (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

The Lead: A pair of 5-3 teams will face one another in College Park this weekend, looking to set themselves up for a strong finish to the regular season. Penn State battled Ohio State closely last week but ultimately suffered its third-straight loss. Maryland got back on track after three-consecutive losses of its own with a win over Indiana. If Penn State has any real hopes of landing in a warm-weather bowl game at the end of the season, it has to win this game. Maryland, meanwhile, has matchups with No. 3 Michigan State and No. 7 Michigan looming in the next two weeks, so this presents an opportunity to secure bowl eligibility ahead of the regular season finale at Rutgers in a few weeks time.

Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions show the kind of effort and energy they did at Ohio State. Eighteen-point underdogs in Columbus, Penn State showed a ton of fight at The Horseshoe last week, which makes the lethargic display against Illinois a week prior all the more frustrating. Sean Clifford looks almost all the way back to his normal self and that’s huge as Penn State gears up for the home stretch of the regular season. It’s a given at this point that the Penn State defense is going to hold an opponent in check enough to give its offense a chance to win. If Penn State can move the ball effectively the way it did for most of the game against the Buckeyes, the Nittany Lions should win this game.

Maryland Wins If: Taulia Tagovailoa takes care of the football and the Terrapins finish off drives. When Tagovailoa has been good this year, he’s been really good. Last week against Indiana he was terrific, completing 26-of-40 attempts for 419 yards and two touchdowns. The problem in losses for the quarterback has been turnovers. He threw seven interceptions in Maryland’s three-game losing streak to Iowa, Ohio State and Minnesota. If he avoids turnovers and the Maryland offense can finish off drives with touchdowns — something just about every opponent has struggled to do against the Penn State defense this season — the Terrapins can hang with the Nittany Lions and pull off an upset.

Penn State v. OSU (Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Trivia Tidbit: Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington are the first Penn State receiver duo with multiple 100-yard games since 2014 when DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis did it. Dotson caught a career-high 11 passes for 127 yards against the Buckeyes, while Washington snagged a joint career-high nine catches for 108 yards. That follows up their 100-yard performances against Villanova earlier this season.

Numbers To Know: 11.5: Arnold Ebiketie’s 11.5 tackles for loss this season leads all Power Five defensive linemen.
1. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa has only thrown one total interception across Terrapin wins this season. He threw seven in the three losses.

Membership Note: The Penn Stater magazine is now available in its entirety online at pennstatermag.com, and if you’re a member of the Penn State Alumni Association you have full access to the site’s content. To access the full contents of the site, visit pennstatermag.com and log in with your email address and Alumni Association ID number. You can find your ID number at the bottom of emails you receive from the Alumni Association.

Listen to ‘The People of Penn State’ podcast at alumni.psu.edu/podcasts.

Podcast: ICYMI: The Alumni Association recently launched a new podcast, ‘The People of Penn State.’ Episode One featured Tokyo 2020 Paralympian and alumni volunteer leader Jake Schrom ’11, while Episode Two saw us joined by US Air Force First Lieutenant, San Francisco 49ers Cheerleader, and Entrepreneur Haley McClain Hill. Access the show at alumni.psu.edu/podcasts!

Score Predictions:
John Patishnock: 31-21
Vincent Lungaro: 28-17

Penn State Preview: Ohio State

Penn State v. Ohio State 2020 (Photo by 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 this football season. Let’s dive into this week’s preview for Penn State’s primetime matchup with Ohio State.

Game Details: No. 20/17 Penn State at No. 5/5 Ohio State. 7:30 PM ET kick-off, broadcast on ABC.

Venue: Ohio Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Cloudy in the evening with a shower in spots early, then partly cloudy late. Periods of rain or drizzle earlier in the day. High of 58.

The Line: Ohio State -18.5 (via SI Sportsbook).

All-Time Series: Ohio State leads 22-14.

Last Meeting: Ohio State won 38-25 last season.

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– No. 6 Michigan at No. 8 Michigan State (Noon ET, Fox)
– No. 9 Iowa at Wisconsin (Noon ET, ESPN)
– Rutgers at Illinois (Noon ET, BTN)
– Indiana at Maryland (Noon ET, BTN)
– Minnesota at Northwestern (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
– Purdue at Nebraska (3:30 PM ET, ESPN2)

Throwback Classic: 1963. “When you win an important game from Ohio State in Columbus … the inclination is to be polite about the victory and magnanimous with the vanquished. But honestly we have heard so much gaff in the last 25 years about the power and the invincibility of Big Ten Football (especially when compared to the effete East) that you’ll have to pardon a chuckle or two from these quarters.”

So wrote Ridge Riley ’32 in The Football Letter the week after Penn State’s 1963 visit to Ohio Stadium, a 10-7 Nittany Lion victory over the Woody Hayes-coached Buckeyes. It was just the third meeting between the big state schools—all of them in Columbus—since the sporadically played series began in 1912. And for whatever low expectations folks in central Ohio—”the Football Capital,” as Ridge Riley wrote with what we imagine was tongue firmly in cheek—had for the visiting Lions in the fall of ’63, Penn State had won on each of its previous visits to the Horseshoe.

They won that time, too.

Read more on this classic Penn State win over the Buckeyes in this From The Archives article from 2013.

Penn State v. Illinois (Photo by Steve Manuel)

The Lead: There’s not much to say about last week’s 9OT Homecoming loss to Illinois that hasn’t been written about already. In short: it was a disaster of a loss. Now Penn State has to limp into Columbus against an Ohio State team that has rolled everyone in its path since a Week Two loss to Oregon. Can the Nittany Lions pull off a shocking upset of their own?

Penn State Wins If: Sean Clifford plays the game of his life, inspiring the Nittany Lions to the huge upset. Clifford was clearly less than 100 percent against Illinois. He said earlier this week he’ll be at or close to full-go this weekend. Penn State will need him to play without restriction if it has a chance to win this game.

Ohio State Wins If: The Buckeyes offense can finish drives. Ohio State has steamrolled everyone in its path this season minus Oregon. Ohio State paces the conference and holds sixth in the nation with a 96.6 conversion rate including 23 touchdowns in 29 trips. Penn State leads the Big Ten and ranks seventh in the country allowing a 65.2 conversion rate in the red zone and holding opponents scoreless eight times, tied for the nation’s best. Whoever wins that specific matchup will come out on top.

Numbers To Know: 13: Penn State has forced a turnover in 13 consecutive games.
14: The Buckeyes recorded 14 tackles for loss as they held Indiana to 128 total yards last week.

Score Prediction: 
John Patishnock: Penn State 24, Ohio State 21
Vincent Lungaro: Ohio State 24, Penn State 17


PENN STATE PREVIEW: ILLINOIS

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. Let’s dive into this week’s preview for Penn State’s homecoming matchup with Illinois.

Game Details: No. 7/8 Penn State (5-1, 2-1) vs Illinois (2-5, 1-3). Noon ET kick-off, broadcast on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium.

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 54. Cloudy with a shower in spots; a chilly autumn afternoon for Homecoming.

The Line: Penn State -24 (via SI SportsBook).

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 20-5.

Last Meeting: Penn State won 56-21 in the 2020 season finale at Beaver Stadium.

Keyvone Lee. Penn State vs Illinois (2020). Photo By Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Last Week: Both teams were on a bye.

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend:
– Northwestern at No. 6/6 Michigan (Noon ET, FOX)
– Wisconsin at No. 25/N/A Purdue (3:30 PM ET, BTN)
– Maryland at Minnesota (3:30 PM ET, ESPN2)
– No. 5/5 Ohio State at Indiana (7:30 PM ET, ABC)

Throwback Classic: 2008. Entering the game, Ron Zook’s Illini were coming off a Rose Bowl appearance and returned star players Isiah “Juice” Williams and Arrelious Benn. Up to that point, it was also the highest-scoring White Out game with a combined 52 points. After the Illini opened the scoring, Derrick Williams did a Derrick Williams thing and returned the ensuing kickoff to the end zone to even things up at 7-7. Williams finished the game with a kick return for a touchdown, a rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown to lead the Lions to a 38-24 win.

Derrick Williams. Penn State vs Illinois (2008). Photo By Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

The Lead: Saturday’s homecoming matchup will feature Penn State’s Generations of Greatness uniforms, which are being worn for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Penn State has previously worn the uniforms in matchups against Indiana in 2017, Purdue in 2019 and Iowa in 2020. The uniforms feature numbers on the helmets, block uniform numbers, a white stripe on the sleeves, a blue stripe on the pants, a gray facemask and white cleats.

Penn State Wins If: The offense can get enough production from whoever starts at quarterback. Whether it’s Taquan Roberson or Christian Veilleux, the Nittany Lions just need their quarterback to be average and that should be plenty to blow out Illinois. Sean Clifford has been practicing this week, but it’d be a surprise if Penn State risks him in this game ahead of next week’s clash at Ohio State. I expect offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to keep things simple for his quarterback, relying on his skill players with short routes and lean on the running game. Penn State’s defense is a juggernaut and Illinois has struggled mightily on offense. The Nittany Lions should win this easily.

Illinois Wins If: Penn State’s offense is catastrophically bad. It would take a turnover-plagued, penalty-heavy Penn State showing worse than what was displayed against Iowa (after Sean Clifford left the game, of course) for Illinois to win this game.

Keep An Eye On: Mike Yurcich using Taquan Roberson’s mobility. Roberson struggled mightily in the loss at Iowa, but one of the things that stood out to me as a positive was his ability to make plays with his legs. He picked up a couple of decent gains on designed runs or scrambles against the Hawkeyes, and it wouldn’t shock me if Yurcich uses that to settle Roberson into the game a bit early on.

Trivia Tidbit: This is the fourth time Penn State will square off against Illinois in a Homecoming game. The Nittany Lions are 2-1 with wins in 2000 (39-25) and 2006 (26-12).

Photo By Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Number To Know: 101. This is Penn State’s 101st Homecoming game.

New Podcast: Check out the Alumni Association’s new podcast, “The People of Penn State.” On each episode of the podcast you can expect to hear the voices of Penn Staters talking about what they are passionate about, and you can expect to feel the pride and the power of the Penn State network. In the inaugural episode of the show, we talked to Tokyo 2020 Paralympian and alumni volunteer, Jake Schrom ’11. Click here to listen or check out the video version on the Alumni Association’s YouTube page.

Score Prediction:
John Patishnock: Penn State 28, Illinois 7
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 30, Illinois 6


Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week Five

I’m going to start this week’s Penn Staters At The Next Level post with a punter. Blake Gillikin continues his terrific start to the 2021 season.

The former Nittany Lion was dominant — yes, punters can dominate — in the Saints win over the Washington Football Team.

Gillikin booted five punts for 268 yards, including three that were downed inside the five. On the season, he’s averaging 49.8 yards per punt, which is tied for fourth-best in the NFL.

Nick Scott, Safety, Los Angeles Rams

Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Nothing like a game-winning interception to defeat your NFC West rivals in primetime.

Nick Scott sealed a win for the Rams on Thursday Night Football this past week with his first career INT.

He’s made his name on special teams the past two seasons, but Scott has also now found a nice role within the Rams defense in 2021.

Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Another week, another appearance for Micah Parsons in this blog.

Parsons led the Cowboys with eight tackles in Sunday’s win over the Giants and he’s already one of — if not the best — players on the Dallas defense.

He’s the Defensive Rookie of The Year favorite through five weeks of play.

Austin Johnson, Defensive Tackle, New York Giants

Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

This week’s blog has been defense/special teams heavy and that isn’t changing with our next Nittany Lion on the list.

The Giants struggled at Dallas on Sunday, thanks in large part to injuries to Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones. Penn State alum Austin Johnson was a bright spot for the G-Men.

Johnson recorded another sack (giving him three on the season), four tackles and two tackles-for-loss.

To check out the full list of Penn Staters currently on NFL rosters, click here.

Penn State Preview: Indiana

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. 4/6 Penn State (4-0) vs Indiana (2-2). 7:30 p.m. ET kick-off, broadcast on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 75. Patchy fog in the morning; otherwise, sunny much of the day; mostly clear skies for kick-off.

The Line: Penn State -12.5 (SI Sportsbook).

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 22-2.

Last Meeting: Week One, 2020 season. Indiana 36, Penn State 35 (OT).

Last Week: Penn State topped Villanova, 38-17. Indiana held off Western Kentucky, 33-31.

Other Key Big Ten Games This Weekend:
– No. 5/5 Iowa at Maryland (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, FS1)
– No. 14/14 Michigan at Wisconsin (Saturday, Noon ET, Fox)
– No. 11/10 Ohio State at Rutgers (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network)

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Players To Watch – Penn State: QB Sean Clifford, WR Jahan Dotson, RB John Lovett, DE Arnold Ebiketie, S Jaquan Brisker.

Players To Watch – Indiana: QB Michael Penix Jr, WR Ty Fryfogle, DE Ryder Anderson.

The Lead: It’s another primetime clash for Penn State inside Beaver Stadium this week. Indiana won last year’s meeting thanks to Michael Penix Jr.’s outstretched dive for the pylon in overtime (OK, he was actually down short of the goal line and Penn State should have won that game, but I’m not going to harp on last year). It’s a new season and the Nittany Lions are a much better team than they were a year ago and Indiana has really struggled through four weeks of the season. Maybe it stems from the preseason expectations weighing a little too heavy on a program that’s almost always been a cellar dweller in the Big Ten. Whatever the reason, the Hoosiers aren’t sneaking up on anybody this year. Penn State has plenty of motivation and what should be another energetic home crowd behind them.

Penn State Wins If: The defense continues to play at its current level. Penix Jr. has struggled a lot throwing the ball down the field this season (55 percent completion rate, 6 INTs to 4 TDs). Penn State has a good pass rush and one of the better secondaries in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have talent on the outside in reigning Big Ten Receiver of The Year Ty Fryfogle and 3rd-Team All-Big Ten pick Peyton Hendershot, but the Nittany Lions are playing some terrific ball on the back on of their defense right now. I don’t expect this to be the week Indiana gets going through the air. Quick note also on Penn State’s offense. Sean Clifford has greatly improved since Penn State’s loss to the Hoosiers last year. He’s throwing the ball with confidence and getting it out to his variety of playmakers. I expect him to have another good day.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Indiana Wins If: The Nittany Lions’ inability to run the ball finally catches up with them. Indiana’s front seven is pretty good and the Hoosiers’ defense has had a knack for forcing turnovers. If the Penn State passing game has an off day, the ground game will have to be a lot better than it has been through four weeks. If both aspects of the offense struggle and we get another offensive showing similar to what we saw for large periods of the game against Wisconsin, Indiana can hang around and be in the game late with a chance for another upset.

Keep An Eye On: The S-Zone. Great work from our student organization, the Penn State Lion Ambassadors last week in setting up a terrific S-Zone in the south end zone. Last week’s S-Zone showcased a THON theme for the annual THON Game at Beaver Stadium. This week should be another great display under the primetime lights, with t-shirts organized to create a blue background engulfing the large white S. Learn more about the history of the S-Zone here.

Stripe Out 2021: If you’re coming to town for this weekend’s game, don’t forget that it’s a Stripe Out. Be sure to check out http://PennStateStripeOut.com to find out what to wear for your section.

Trivia Tidbit: Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson connected on a 52-yard touchdown on Penn State’s first offensive play against Villanova. It marked the 16th passing touchdown between the duo. They trail only Todd Blackledge-Kenny Jackson (17) as the top QB-WR touchdown pair in Penn State history. Blackledge, who of course started at quarterback for the Nittany Lions from 1981-1983, will be on the call this weekend for ABC with Sean McDonough and Molly McGrath.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Number To Know: Since 2016, Penn State holds a .758 winning percentage, with a record of 50-16, the sixth-best winning percentage among Power Five programs.

Membership Tidbit: Penn State Alumni Association are the key to everything we do at the Alumni Association. Members make it possible to keep Penn Staters connected with the University and each other through The Football Letter, events and publications, and so much more. If you’re a member, thank you for your support of the Penn State alumni community! If you’re not a member, you can join today at alumni.psu.edu/membership.

Score Predictions:
John Patishnock: Penn State 37, Indiana 14
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 31, Indiana 17

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

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week Three

The juggernaut Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in what could be an early-season preview of the NFC Championship Game.

Former Nittany Lion Chris Godwin continued his strong start to the season.

CG14 tallied six catches for 74 yards and a rushing touchdown in the first quarter.

Pat Freiermuth, Tight End, Pittsburgh Steelers

Boy, the Steelers offense sure is struggling at the moment. Pittsburgh certainly has the skill players to be a good offense. It’s just looking like Ben Roethlisberger is over the hill and the offensive line isn’t at the level of recent Steelers seasons.

Still, Pat Freiermuth provided a nice highlight for both fans of the black and gold and fans of the blue and white.

The former Penn State tight end notched his first NFL touchdown on this neat play design late in the first quarter to get Pittsburgh on the board. Pat finished with three catches for 22 yards and that score.

Saquon Barkley, Running Back, New York Giants

The Giants are a bit of a mess, and Saquon is still able to produce highlights.

He had some eye-catching leaps during his time in Happy Valley and showed that prowess off again on Sunday against the Falcons.

Blake Gillikin, Punter, New Orleans Saints

Photos: Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

I’m always eager to show punters a little love, especially when they’re a Penn Stater!

Blake Gillikin had the best day of his NFL career to date, tallying five punts for a 48.9-yard average. His long came on a 56 yard boot.

The Saints remain somewhat of a hot and cold team. In Week One, they hammered the Green Bay Packers, who have gone on to win two straight since. In Week Two, New Orleans was dominated by the Panthers. This week, they handled the Patriots in Foxborough with relative ease.

Amani Oruwariye, Cornerback, Detroit Lions

Overshadowed by Justin Tucker’s mammoth 66-yard game-winning kick for Baltimore (seriously, that was incredible), Amani made a huge play when Detroit needed it late in the fourth quarter.

On third-and-10, Oruwariye intercepted Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson to give the ball back to the Lions offense. Detroit nailed a field goal of its own to go up 17-16. Unfortunately for the Lions and their fans, Justin Tucker might be the greatest kicker of all time. Tough break, but Amani still made a huge play and hats off to him for that.

To view each of the Nittany Lions currently on NFL rosters, click here.