Penn State at Pittsburgh Prediction Roundtable

Sep 3, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (5) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O
Sep 3, 2016; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (5) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Kent State Golden Flashes at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O /
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It is time once again for the VBR Penn State game predictions. 

Week 1 is in the books, and Penn State was able to pull out a home victory over Kent State. Up next is the highly anticipated rivalry game at Pittsburgh. Heinz Field will be full of emotions, with fans of both schools amped up and ready to go.

This is a great early season test for both teams, and the winner will have bragging rights in the state for the next year.

Read below to see how the VBR writers think things will go when the Nittany Lions travel to Pittsburgh.

Site Expert Barry Leonard Jr.

Well, Week 1 has come and gone. There were huge expectations for the offense, and the unit didn’t exactly deliver. Although there was improvement as the game went on, the new offense was slower than expected and seemed to have some trouble getting on the right page.

However, I’m still thinking that offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead kept much of the scheme hidden last week and will have some surprises in store for the Panthers. I’m expecting to see a much faster pace come this week. Look for a big game from the likes of Saquon Barkley and Chris Godwin.

The defense had a rough time with running quarterbacks last week, but will face a more traditional pocket passer this week. Running back James Conner and a very good Pittsburgh offensive line will present more of a challenge. However, the young defense will continue to grow and will show up in a big way.

I’m going out on a bit of a limb on this one, but I’m calling Penn State for the double-digit upset.

Penn State 27

Pitt 17

Contributor Shane Lunnen

The game many fans in the state of Pennsylvania have anticipated since 2011 when this series was announced is finally here.  While the Penn State-Pitt game doesn’t carry the same feeling that it once did because of the long hiatus, it should still be a good game between two teams on the rise.

Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi has shut out the media from practices this week and has made players off limits.  James Franklin is treating this week just like any other game week.  The two things to look for at the beginning of the game will be how many Penn State fans are at Heinz Field and which team comes out of the gate more fired up.

After easier tune-up games last Saturday, this will be a test for both teams.  I suspect the Pitt defense will key in on Saquon Barkley and force Trace McSorley to beat them with his arm.  Against Kent State last week, McSorley managed the game well but he will need to be more than that to come out a victor this Saturday.

I expect this game to be a close, back and forth affair and I’ve gone back and forth on my pick.  My gut says Pitt is slightly better than Penn State right now.  My heart says different and I usually wear it on my sleeve.

Penn State 23

Pitt 20

Contributor Marty Leap

Well, the return of the rivalry is finally here! I am very intrigued to see how Saturday goes. Penn State has more talent than Pitt and by the end of the season Penn State will definitely be the better team. However, right now Pitt is probably the better team. That said, I am far from sold on the Panthers being the favorites on Saturday.

Pat Narduzzi’s gag order he has put on this team this week screams of a coach, and probably a team, that is too tight and overthinking things heading into a big game. Anytime a sports team gets off of their usual routine, they’ve already started to lose. I expect Pitt to come out extremely charged up emotionally on Saturday and Penn State must survive the storm early.

In my opinion, this game will resemble the 2014 Rutgers game a lot. Like that game, this is Pitt’s Super Bowl. The team and home fans alike will be emotionally charged early on, but if the Nittany Lions survive the storm early it will be game on.

As I said above, I believe Pitt is the better team right now. However, after what we saw last week, plus Narduzzi’s gag order shenanigans this week, I feel better about this game now than I did a week ago. Pitt is going to load the box to try and stop Saquon Barkley, it will be very important for Trace McSorley and the receivers to make plays. Furthermore, the Nittany Lions will load the box as well to try and stop James Connor and the Pitt rushing game. In my opinion, Nate Peterman is not capable of beating Penn State’s secondary. So if Penn State can stop Connor and the rushing game, Pitt’s offense should struggle.

Ultimately, I believe this is a low scoring defensive battle. Pitt being down a pair of defensive starers in Dewayne Hendrix and Elijah Zeise could be a huge factor in this game. I also feel a lot better about the Penn State DL vs Pitt OL match up than I did before the season after what we saw from the Nittany Lions’ defense last week. Pitt is probably the better team right now, but Penn State has more talent and seems much more relaxed heading into this game. Also, I am far from sold on Pitt’s offense. For those reasons, I’m going with the Nittany Lions on Saturday.

Penn State 21
Pitt 17

Contributor Corey Hunter

I’ve been struggling with this pick all week. My heart says Penn State goes on the road and notches James Franklin’s first signature win – even if he doesn’t regard it as such. My head, however, says Pitt will get their offensive line miscommunications straightened out and James Conner will give the Lions defense headaches all day.

Offensively, Penn State has more to offer then what they showed last week against Kent State. I fully expect to see different formations and a larger number of personnel in different packages. With that said, Pitt also kept things close to the vest against FCS Villanova. I’m sure they will break out new plays and personnel packages, too.

If the Lions can control the pace of the game, they can slowly wear down the Panthers. Pitt would probably like to play a more conservative, ball-control style to limit Penn State’s offensive game-changers like Saquon Barkley.

In the end, I see two teams that are evenly matched. The game likely hinges on special teams, where Penn State, in my opinion, has the advantage with the kicking ability of Tyler Davis (Pitt’s Blewitt missed two field goals last week, and has been inconsistent dating back to last year). I can see Davis splitting the uprights on a last-second game winner as Nittany Lions gain state bragging rights.

Penn State – 23
Pitt – 21