Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week Seven

After a quiet couple of weeks, Chris Godwin produced one of his best performances of the season on Sunday.

Tampa Bay rolled to a 38-3 win over the Bears and Godwin led the way for the Bucs with eight catches for 111 yards and a touchdown.

The Buccaneers now head into a big Week Eight matchup with the divisional rival Saints.

Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins

Mike Gesicki celebrated National Tight Ends Day in style, accumulating seven catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.

The Dolphins dropped a close one to the Falcons, but Gesicki continues his fine form of play with Tua Tagovailoa back under center.

Nick Scott, Safety, Los Angeles Rams

Nick Scott recorded his second interception of the season on Sunday and it proved to be a big one.

The former Nittany Lion closed out a tougher-than-expected win for the Rams over the winless Detroit Lions with a game-sealing INT.

Blake Gillikin, Punter, New Orleans Saints

Blake Gillikin appears on our rundown for a second straight week.

Gillikin booted six punts in New Orleans’ Monday Night win in Seattle, dropping four of them inside the 20-yard line.

A couple other notes to mention from this past weekend’s action.

We’re sending out best wishes to former Penn Stater Miles Sanders, who left the Eagles’ loss to Las Vegas with an ankle injury and did not return. Miles had to be carted to the locker room late in the first quarter.

Former Penn State lacrosse star Chris Hogan, who played 11 seasons in the NFL and won a pair of Super Bowls, announced his retirement from football this past weekend. Heck of a career, Chris!

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 Six

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

It’s been a tough year for the Detroit Lions but former Penn State cornerback Amani Oruwariye has been one of the bright spots.

Oruwariye snagged another interception on Sunday in the Lions’ loss to the Bengals. He picked off Joe Burrow toward the end of the first quarter and returned the ball 18 yards.

That now gives him three interceptions on the season, which is a career-high and also ties him for second-most in the NFL this season.

Pat Freiermuth, Tight End, Pittsburgh Steelers

It was a season-best showing for Pat Freiermuth as the Steelers picked up a narrow overtime win against Seattle on Sunday Night Football.

Freiermuth caught seven catches for 58 yards.

Hopefully this means he starts to get more and more involved in the Steelers offense moving forward.

Mike Gesicki, Tight End, Miami Dolphins

Speaking of former Penn State tight ends with a season-best showing on Sunday, Mike Gesicki balled out for Miami in an otherwise pretty poor afternoon for the Dolphins.

Despite the team’s loss to the previously winless Jaguars, Gesicki caught eight passes for 115 yards.

With Tua Tagovailoa back at quarterback we should see more performances like this from Gesicki in the games ahead.

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: Iowa

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 another huge matchup between Penn State and the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Game details: No. 4/4 Penn State (5-0, 1-0) at No. 3/3 Iowa (5-0, 1-0). 4 p.m. ET kick-off, broadcast on FOX.

Venue: Kinnick Stadium

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Very warm with clouds and sunshine; breezy in the afternoon; an unseasonably warm afternoon for football. High of 82.

The Line: Iowa -1.5 (SI Sportsbook) 

All-Time Series: Penn State leads 17-13

Last Meeting: Iowa won last year’s meeting quite comfortably, 41-21.

Last Week: Penn State blanked Indiana 24-0. Iowa trounced Maryland 51-14.

Other Big Ten Games This Weekend: 
– Maryland at No. 7/7 Ohio State (Saturday, Noon ET, FOX)
– No. 11/11 Michigan State at Rutgers (Saturday, Noon ET, Big Ten Network)
– Wisconsin at Illinois (Saturday, 3:30. p.m. ET, Big Ten. Network)
– No. 9/8 Michigan at Nebraska (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC)

Penn State @ Iowa 2017 (Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Throwback Classic: 2017. Saquon Barkley dazzled under the Kinnick lights and Juwan Johnson caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Trace McSorley to silence the Iowa crowd and notch a win for the No. 4-ranked Nittany Lions. Barkley had 28 carries for a career-high 211 yards and a touchdown. He also had a team-high 12 catches for 94 yards. Check out Saquon’s highlight real performance and the clutch final drive that propelled Penn State to a win below.

The Lead: Boy, it seems like there have been a lot of big games between these two programs over the years. They might not be “rivals” in any official capacity, but when the Nittany Lions and Hawkeyes clash there’s usually a lot at stake for one or both of these teams. This year, there are legitimate playoff aspirations for Penn State and Iowa. Don’t expect a plethora of points in a shootout. These two teams field some elite defenses.

Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions don’t turn the ball over. Iowa thrives off of its defense forcing turnovers and setting up its offense with advantageous field position. The Hawkeyes aren’t an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination. They are opportunistic and efficient when they need to be. Penn State cannot cough up the ball and expect to walk out of Kinnick with the win. Sean Clifford has been much better at making smarter decisions with the ball this year and he’ll need to be at his best in that department on Saturday. Penn State’s defense is playing at an elite level right now and if the Nittany Lions’ offense avoids turnovers, the blue and white have a great chance to go 1-0 this weekend.

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Iowa Wins If: Penn State turns the ball over. Seems kind of redundant doesn’t it? But that’s for good reason. As I said above, Iowa’s season has been defined by forcing opponent’s into turnovers. Iowa is ranked No. 2 in FBS in scoring defense (Penn State is No. 3), No. 1 in interceptions forced, No. 1 in turnover margin and No. 7 in total defense.

Keep An Eye On: The Iowa Wave. One of the most inspiring traditions in college football, the Iowa Wave was started in 2017 and occurs at the end of the first quarter of each Iowa football home game. Iowa fans and players turn to face away from the field, and begin waving in the direction of the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

Trivia Tidbit: This is Penn State’s first Top 5 matchup since 1999 when the Nittany Lions hosted Arizona for the Pigskin Classic. Take a closer look back at this game in this From The Archives story from 2019.

Number To Know: Seven. The Iowa defense forced Maryland into seven turnovers last Friday night, including six interceptions.

Membership Note: The online Alumni Library is one of the most valuable benefits of membership in the Penn State Alumni Association, and a new how-to video on our Alumni Library benefits page shows you how to get started accessing this treasure trove of knowledge. Check it out here.

Score Predictions: 
John Patishnock: Penn State 20, Iowa 13
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 23, Iowa 14

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.

Penn Staters At The Next Level: Week Two

As a die-hard Chiefs fan it pained me a little bit to write this week’s Penn Staters At The Next Level story, as former Nittany Lion Odafe Oweh made the game-changing play for the Baltimore Ravens in their thrilling win over Kansas City on Sunday Night Football.

With the Chiefs driving into Ravens territory late in the game and looking to take the lead, Oweh came up huge for his defense.

The rookie edge rusher fought off a block and knocked the ball loose from the arms of the usually fumble-proof Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Oweh proceeded to pounce on the ball and secure a win for Baltimore.

Micah Parsons, Linebacker, Dallas Cowboys

In his first game at defensive end since high school, all Micah Parsons did was earn Pro Football Focus’ Rookie of The Week honors. Playing on the edge of the line because of several injuries for Dallas, Micah made his presence felt in the team’s 20-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

He recorded eight quarterback pressures and his first career sack after forcing LA quarterback Justin Herbert into an intentional grounding penalty in the fourth quarter. The penalty put LA in a hole and forced them to kick a field-goal instead of punching in a touchdown.

Allen Robinson II, Wide Receiver, Chicago Bears

Photo By Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

For the first time this season, Allen Robinson found the end zone. Robinson beat his defender on an inside move and snagged the pass from Andy Dalton to put the Bears ahead early 7-0.

A-Rob finished the day with just two catches for 24 yards and that score, but it proved to be a key play in Chicago’s narrow 20-17 win.

DaQuan Jones, Defensive Tackle, Carolina Panthers

Another productive day for a former Nittany Lions defensive star. DaQuan Jones registered his first sack of the season by bringing down Saints quarterback Jameis Winston on fourth down.

Jones and the rest of the Panthers defense stifled the same high-powered Saints attack that ran roughshod over the Packers just a week ago.

To view each of the Penn State players on NFL rosters, click here.

PENN STATE PREVIEW: AUBURN

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. 10/12 Penn State (2-0) vs No. 22/20 Auburn (2-0). 7:30 p.m. ET kick-off, broadcast on ABC.

Venue: Beaver Stadium

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): Humid with some sun; fog in the morning, then a stray t-shower in the afternoon. High of 80.

The Line: Penn State -6.5

All-Time Series: This is the third matchup between the two schools, with each splitting wins in the previous two meetings.

Last Meeting: Penn State fell 13-9 against the Tigers in the 2002 Capital One Bowl. Robbie Gould hit three field goals for the Nittany Lions.

Throwback Classic (1995): In the 1995 Outback Bowl, Penn State crushed Auburn, 43-14 behind quarterback Wally Richardson. Wally threw for four touchdown passes while Bobby Engram recorded four catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns.

Last Week: Penn State topped Ball State in the Lions’ home opener, 44-13. Auburn, meanwhile, crushed FCS foe Alabama State, 62-0.

Photos by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

The Lead: What an atmosphere we’ve got brewing in Happy Valley. White Out. Game Day. SEC opponent. Primetime. If you love college football, it doesn’t get much better than this. Both teams come into this game with a lot of momentum, having started each of their seasons at 2-0. The Nittany Lions have certainly faced the tougher opposition compared to the Tigers, picking up wins over then-No. 12 Wisconsin on the road before a convincing home win over defending MAC Champs Ball State last week. Auburn dispatched Akron and Alabama State with ease in the first two weeks but Penn State will obviously be a much bigger test for first-year head coach Bryan Harsin.

Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions can win the big play and turnover battle. There’s not much that gets a home crowd going more than big plays on offensive and forced turnovers on defense. James Franklin always preaches about the need to win the explosive play battle and finish on the plus side in the turnover margin. Penn State has done just that in the opening two weeks and it’s set them up for success. Much like Sean Clifford, Tigers signal caller Bo Nix is an experienced quarterback with plenty of big game experience. He won’t be easily rattled by the electric atmosphere inside Beaver Stadium. Though, if Arnold Ebiketie and the rest of the Penn State defensive line can get pressure and force him to make decisions quicker than he’d like to, that bodes well for the Nittany Lions with the terrific secondary that they employ.

Auburn Wins If: Bo Nix balls out. As mentioned above, Bo Nix is not a stranger to playing on the road in hostile environments. Heck, he’s had to do it just about every week in the SEC the past two years as Auburn’s starting quarterback. He’s going to need to be at his best if Auburn is going to pull off the road upset. If the blocking holds up well up front for Auburn and Nix is afforded the time and space to able to create with his arm and his legs, the Tigers can move the ball against this stingy Nittany Lions defense. Then, if Nix and Auburn can capitalize on those drives by getting into the end zone, the Tigers certainly have what it takes to win this game. Much was expected of Nix upon his arrival as a freshman, it hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations. But there’s no bigger and better showcase for you to re-announce yourself to the college football world than this Saturday’s showdown.

Count On: A few false start penalties for Auburn. Yes, yes, Auburn players have certainly played in environments that were loud before. Still, it really doesn’t matter your experience level, noise makes a difference for communication on offense. I’m not saying the crowd will be why the Tigers lose the game, but a few early-game jitters where the blue and white fans hollering at full volume will result in a few penalties for the Tigers offense.

Keep An Eye On: Noah Cain. The Penn State running game hasn’t fully clicked into gear yet, but it looks to be building each week. Cain had a productive day last week against Ball State (69 yards rushing and a touchdown). Look for him to carry that over to this week’s game. The Nittany Lions will need him against this SEC front seven.

Trivia Tidbit: This is Auburn’s first Big Ten road game since 1931. That’s before the SEC was even formed.

Predictions:

John Patishnock: Penn State 42, Auburn 13

Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 38, Auburn 24

PENN STATERS AT THE NEXT LEVEL 2021: WEEK 1

The NFL season is up and running, which means we bring back our Penn Staters At The Next Level series. Similar to last season, we’ll bring you a quick overview of some of the best performances from Nittany Lions in the NFL each week.

Fourty-One Penn Staters appear on NFL rosters to start the season, and you can see the full list by clicking here.

Let’s get started with a recap from Week 1!

Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

The Buccaneers started off their Super Bowl defense with a thrilling 31-29 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night.

Chris Godwin got the first points of the new season with a five-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. Despite an untimely fumble late in the game, he got his season off to a strong start with 121 yards and that score. He also caught the game-clinching first down reception that secured the victory for Tampa Bay.

Juwan Johnson, Tight End, New Orleans Saints

Outside of the Raiders’ win over the Ravens on Monday Night Football, there might not have been a more stunning result in Week 1 than the Saints win over the Packers. Not because the Saints aren’t a good team, but because of how they just completely dismantled Green Bay from start to finish.

One of the many standout performers for New Orleans was former Nittany Lion, Juwan Johnson. A wide receiver in his college days, Juwan has made the switch to tight end for the Saints and it’s paid off massively for his career.

Juwan caught two touchdown passes from a terrific Jameis Winston to help propel the Saints to the 38-3 win.

Check out the first of two of his touchdown receptions below, which also marked the first TD catch of Johnson’s career.

Carl Nassib, Defensive End, Las Vegas Raiders

Speaking of that upset win for the Raiders that I mentioned earlier, it was Carl Nassib who came up with perhaps the play of the night.

It was his sack/forced-fumble that gave Las Vegas the ball inside Ravens territory. That set up the eventual game-winning touchdown for the Raiders.

Miles Sanders, Running Back, Philadelphia Eagles

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

Part of a revamped Philadelphia offense, Miles Sanders shined to the tune of 113 scrimmage yards and a two-point conversion as the Eagles walloped the Falcons, 32-6.

While quarterback Jalen Hurts and first round pick DeVonta Smith will generate much of the headlines (and probably rightfully so), Sanders demonstrated why he can definitely be Philadelphia’s lead back this season.

Odafe Oweh, Defensive End, Baltimore Ravens

Steve Manuel/The Football Letter

While the Ravens ultimately came up short to Nassib and the Raiders, it was a solid debut for former Nittany Lion Odafe Oweh in Baltimore.

Much was talked about Oweh’s lack of sacks in college, but he showed why Baltimore selected him in the first round of this spring’s draft with this burst and pursuit of David Carr for a sack late in the second quarter.

The sack resulted in Las Vegas settling for a field goal.