Sep 7, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions players sing the alma mater following the completion of the game against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Eastern Michigan 45-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O

Penn State Nittany Lions vs. UCF Knights Prediction Roundtable

Penn State hosts their first night game of the season against the visiting…Knights from UCF on Saturday night.  After starting out the 2013 season at 2-0, both teams are looking for their first big win of the season.  Here are the thoughts of the VBR staff:

Lead Editor Matt de Bear (@PSUMatt2005)

Ever since I took it upon myself to preview UCF this summer, this game has been circled on my schedule.  The Knights have one of the better offenses Penn State will face this season with a very talented quarterback at the helm, and tons of skill outside.  John Butler’s defense is going to be tested big time Saturday night.  I think that Hackenberg and Co. can move the ball on the Knights defense, but they cannot afford a slow start.

If the UCF offense has a weakness, it’s up front, and PSU is well suited to take advantage with DaQuan Jones, Deion Butler and the rest of Larry Johnson’s crew.  The front 4 does enough to slow down Bortles, and Hackenberg continues to impress in a 31-28 PSU victory.

Co-Editor Barry Leonard Jr. (@barryleonardjr)

This game will be interesting, as both teams enter undefeated. However, they will both be facing their toughest competition yet. The main storyline in this one is Bill O’Brien going up against his former teacher, George O’Leary.

As for the action on the field, both offenses have shown the ability to put up points, with the Nittany Lions scoring 45 last week and the Knights putting up 38 in both of their first two games. However, I think the Penn State defense, which has gotten stronger each week, will be able to put the clamps on Central Florida’s rushing attack. The key to the game for Penn State on defense will be controlling quarterback Blake Bortles, who’s put up 528 yards and four touchdowns so far this year.

For Penn State on offense, I expect a little faster start in this one that in the previous two weeks. Christian Hackenberg now has two games under his belt and should be over the shock of playing at Beaver Stadium. Look for another solid day from him and leading receiver Allen Robinson. On the ground, the Nittany Lions now have a three-headed monster in the backfield. Zach Zwinak, Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch all have different styles and will keep the defense guessing.

I really don’t expect this one to ever be in doubt. Sure the Knights could present some problems, but look for a big day from Hackenberg and the offense. Penn State wins this one 31- 20.

Staff Writer Eric Sion (@ericbsion)

I think that this will be Penn State’s toughest non-conference game. The win against Syracuse was a grind-it-out type of win that started slow offensively, and I think this game will start slow defensively. UCF has a potent offense and with Hackenberg gradually becoming more comfortable running O’Brien’s offense, I think we’ll see a relatively high-scoring game. The student whiteout and the Beaver Stadium night atmosphere will help fuel the Nittany Lions and the Penn State defense will get a key turnover in the fourth quarter to seal the game.

Score: Penn State 31 UCF 28

Staff Writer Corey Hunter (@realhuntdog23)

The atmosphere and fans Saturday night should make Beaver Stadium electric.  Penn State is going to need the extra lift as they play arguably their toughest non-conference opponent in UCF.  Not only will the Nittany Lion defense be facing their most accomplished offense, led by QB Blake Bortles and RB Storm Johnson, but they will also face a defense that has allowed a microscopic 7 TOTAL points in two games.

Coach O’Brien and the Lions will certainly have their work cut out for them this week.  The team showed small, but steady improvement from Week 1 to week 2.  I see the Lions contiunuing the trend this week, but in a nail biter.  In a reversal of fortune from last year, Sam Ficken makes the game-winning field goal to send the Lions past the Knights 23-21 in what will be a tighly-contested battle throughout.

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