The Nittany Lions face their biggest test of the young season this weekend when they host undefeated Northwestern for Homecoming. The VBR staff is not as confident as they’ve been in the past…
Matt de Bear:
It’s not a stretch at all to say this is Penn State’s toughest game to date. Not only is Northwestern the most talented team, but this will be the 6th straight week the Lions are asked to get up for a big game. Between the lines, Northwestern’s spread offense poses many of the same problems for PSU that Ohio exploited. But this is their 6th game in Ted Roof’s scheme, and they have looked stronger by the week. On offense, Penn State should find opportunities to move the ball and put up points against a Northwestern defense that has many questions. Mike Mauti and Co. will do enough on their side of the ball to slow down Kain Kolter, and give the Lions offense enough chances to pull away for a late win.
NU : 28
Northwestern has averaged just about 34 points per game this season. They have also given up nearly 21 points per game this season. Expect both averages to go in the wrong direction for Northwestern this week. While, the Wildcats have been prolific on offense this season, they have not faced a defense anywhere near as stout as PSU’s defense. Northwestern will put up point for sure, but it will be at least 10 points below their average. Also, the offenses they have played are anemic. Yet, these offenses have still found ways to score against Northwestern’s mediocre defense. Penn State will continue the trend of aggressive play-calling and high scoring to out gun the wildcats.
NU : 24
For Penn State to win, they are going to have to continue where the left off last week in terms of running the ball. In order to neutralize the run-pass ability of Kain Colter, the legs of Venric Mark, and the passing prowess of Trevor Siemian, they have to keep them on the sidelines. A track meet will not end well for the boys in blue and white I’m afraid.
Believe it or not, the Wildcats have been doing most of their damage on the ground and not through the air. Penn State has to be able to slow down the running game and force Northwestern to beat them through the air.
The contest’s turning point could come down to the kicking game. Northwestern’s Steve Budzien may be the best in the Big Ten this year. He is 11-11 on FG attempts and has 19 extra points. We know all about the problems in the kicking game at Penn State. If it comes down to a pressure kick to win the game, Budzien is the guy I’m taking!
This is such a tough game to predict! On one hand, Penn State has really played well of late and they are starting to come together. On the other hand they are playing perhaps the best offense they have seen this season. The last time they played a prolific read-option offense (Ohio University), they lost. Last week doesn’t count since Illinois was terrible. In the end, I think Northwestern has the ability to convert more opportunities on the plus side of the field than Penn State. The Nittany Lions will fight valiantly in this game, but their inability to get at least 3 points when the opportunity presents itself will be their undoing. Northwestern keeps the train rolling with a hard-fought win.
With the way Penn State’s defense has been playing, I just struggle to see Northwestern putting up the points that they’ve been putting up the last couple weeks. I’ll go out on a ledge and predict that Stephen Obeng-Agyapong has a huge game. He has been really strong in run support recently. If I’m roof, I’m moving him in the box when Kain Colter is in at quarterback. Northwestern doesn’t want Colter to throw deep and adding a sure-tackling extra “linebacker” could be a real neutralizer.
Offensively, Penn State has been able to score on Northwestern in the past and I expect that to continue. The Northwestern secondary is soft and Penn State should be able push them around a bit in the run game. Expect them to give NW a heavy dose of Zwinak to wear them down and pull away late.
NW : 20
It’s Homecoming in Happy Valley and the 5-0 and ranked Northwestern Wildcats visit Beaver Stadium. Although impressive, all of Northwestern’s wins have come against mediocre teams. I’m expecting a shootout in this game with lots of big plays in the passing game from both teams. On offense, Northwestern is led by the versatile Kain Colter who shredded Indiana last Saturday for 161 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. It will definitely be a challenge for the Penn State defense to limit Colter and Northwestern’s offense. Penn State is looking to build off of their beat down of Illinois and remain undefeated in conference play. Northwestern has come close to knocking off the Nittany Lions the past couple meetings and this time they may finally break through. It won’t be easy, but I think Northwestern will take advantage of a Penn State team that might’ve peaked too soon and a team that spent a lot of emotion in their last game.
NW : 34
I expect the closest thing to a shoot out that we will see all season. In the past PSU has been successful against Northwestern except when the Wildcats were one of the best teams in the country (1995) or PSU was one of the worst teams in the Big Ten (2003-04). I don’t think either situation applies this season.
PSU will not stop the Northwestern passing game but will be able to slow it down better than any of the Wildcats’ previous 5 opponents. I think PSU can and will move the ball on the ground and through the air, gaining around 500 yards of total offense. A late PSU drive (with O’Brien passing up a long field goal attempt to tie the game during it) will end in the game winning touchdown.
NW : 31