The Penn State Nittany Lions are preparing for their first primetime game of the season. This one happens to be a matchup with a fellow unbeaten team. Head coach Bill O’Brien will meet up with one of his mentors when George O’Leary brings the Central Florida Knights to Beaver Stadium.
Below are some of my thoughts as we approach kickoff in this big game.
› Quarterback Christian Hackenberg enters this game on a roll. He’s undefeated through his first two collegiate starts and has the potential to get even better, throwing for 589 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. The knock on him so far is that he has started slow in both games. Last week, in his Beaver Stadium debut, Hackenberg looked a bit anxious, throwing the ball high and missing open receivers. However, he settled down in a big way and looked fantastic by the end. We’ll have to wait and see if he keeps it going against the Knights.
› Kicker Sam Ficken set a Penn State record last week with his 14th consecutive made field goal. After a terrible start last season and many people calling for his job, Ficken has made a remarkable turnaround. Even when he was missing all of those attempts last year he showed a strong leg. Now, he’s found the accuracy to go with the power. That combination has made him a very reliable and important player. Fans should feel confident this week if Ficken is called upon late in the game.
› In each of the first two games, the Nittany Lions have had some unexpected players step up and play a key role. In Week 1 against Syracuse, it was Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. He played a huge role on the defense, recording eight tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and an important second-half interception. Last week, it was running back Bill Belton who came from under the radar to have a great game. He ran for a career-high 108 yards and scored two touchdowns. Watch to see which Nittany Lion will surprise this week.
› The Penn State defense is going to have to play a big game today. The Knights have scored 38 points in each of their first two games this year. Quarterback Blake Bortles has thrown for 528 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. The Nittany Lions will also have their hands full with Central Florida running back Storm Johnson, who’s already rushed for five touchdowns this season.
This is sure to be an exciting game under the lights. I expect it to be close at halftime, but look for the Nittany Lions to take over in the second half and come out with the victory.
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