Penn State is headed to Lincoln this weekend and will attempt to extend their Big Ten road winning streak to four. We’ll see what the VBR staff thinks of the matchup, starting with our newest staff member, Mary Clarke!
This week Penn State is coming off a relatively easy – albeit boring – win over the Purdue Boilermakers while last weekend Nebraska had to rally back from 10 down in the fourth quarter to Michigan State. The Cornhuskers lead the Big Ten in total offense and are currently ranked 18th in the AP poll but the Nittany Lions have been consistently starting games off well, outscoring opponents 76-3 in the first quarter.
This weekend look for Penn State to come out with a strong first quarter, hitting early with the running game. With Nebraska’s running back Rex Burkhead’s status for Saturday still uncertain, expect them to try to air the ball out more. The game will be close to the end but the determining factor will be Sam Ficken (yes, Sam Ficken) – whose confidence has grown exponentially since the Virginia game – who will kick a perfect 3 for 3 field goals, giving Penn State the late win.
There is no question that Nebraska’s strength is on the offensive side of the ball, especially at quarterback, with dual threat Taylor Martinez. Penn State’s unquestioned strength on defense is the front 7, lead by the best linebacking corps in the Big 10. That’s the match up to watch in this one. Can Penn State’s athletic linebackers do enough to slow down Taylor Martinez, and the Huskers running attack, and make Martinez have to throw the ball. On the other side, Nebraska’s defense has struggled mightily all year, and Penn State’s offense seems to improve on a weekly basis. If PSU gets out to the fast start’s they have had most of this season, that spells trouble for Nebraska.
I expect the Lions’ D to hold the Huskers in check early, while the PSU offense puts a couple of scores on the board, forcing Nebraska to eventually open up the offense, and put Martinez is passing situations. He’ll make plays, but an early PSU lead will be too much to overcome.
Penn State will be playing their last road game of the 2012 campaign. Penn State has been remarkably good on the road this year going 3-1 and if not for some special teams gaffes at Virginia, they could be 4-0. This week will definitely be their toughest road challenge as they travel to Lincoln, Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are looking to maintain their lead in the Legend’s Division and will have a lot to play for in this game.
Believe it or not, Nebraska has the 5th rated pass defense in the entire country (156.o ypg)! Yea, I had to do a double check on that one too. However, the Cornhuskers have the 89th ranked rushing defense (183.1 ypg). Look for the Nittany Lions to try to continue the tend from last week and pound the ball. Look for Belton to bounce back and work in tandem with Zwinak. Penn State should be able to gain a total of 150 yards on the ground. The passing game may be another issue.
It looks like Ohio State found the blueprint to rattle Matt McGloin. The Buckeyes were able to generate a pass rush with their down linemen and then were able to activate their linebackers to make the immobile McGloin uncomfortable. The Cornhuskers have recorded a Big Ten-leading 24.0 sacks and will likely try to copy what worked for Ohio State.
In the end, a more balanced Nebraska offense will frustrate Penn State’s defense, and the Cornhusker defense will be able to stymie the Penn State offense enough to pull out the win. The dual threat capabilities of QB Taylor Martinez, the running game of Ameer Abdullah, and the WR skills of Kenn Bell, I think, are just too much for the Nittany Lions to overcome, not to mention the hostile environment in Lincoln. I look for McGloin to have one of his worst passing games this year, and the Nittany Lions will have trouble establishing a solid running game.