Penn State-Northwestern Preview
Penn State (6-1, 3-0 Big Ten) faces an interesting test when it takes on Northwestern (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten) on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Wildcats have not performed well this season, but they do seem to always give the Nittany Lions trouble. Last year, Northwestern jumped out to a big lead before Penn State came back to win 35-21 for Joe Paterno’s 400th victory. If Penn State’s previous two road games are any indicators, this will be a close, error-filled affair in Evanston, Ill.
Team: Northwestern Wildcats
Conference: Big Ten
Head Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (36-33 record in six seasons)
Series History: Penn State leads 11-3
Players to look for: QB Dan Persa, RB Kain Colter, WR Jeremy Ebert
Prediction: Penn State wins 24-16
It seems that every game since Week 2 against Alabama has been nearly the same matchup for Penn State. The Nittany Lions’ great defense and bumbling offense will yet again be facing off against a team that is strong on offense and poor on defense. This week, the opponent will be Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.
Dan Persa is a scary quarterback to go up against. Despite being injured to start the season, Persa has still thrown for 700 yards and five touchdowns in three games. He is completing 74.5 percent of his passes, and while he is not being asked to run very much this year, he will always remain a threat on the ground. Jeremy Ebert has been his favorite target in the red zone, scoring six touchdowns.
After winning their first two games, the Wildcats find themselves on a four-game losing streak. In Big Ten play, Northwestern has given up point totals of 38, 42, and 41 to Illinois, Michigan and Iowa, respectively. The Wildcats are giving up nearly 430 yards per game and 30 points per game, only good enough for 88th in the nation.
Conversely, Penn State features the sixth-ranked defense, giving up only 11.6 points per game. Last week, Purdue found some success getting big plays, but Penn State held the Boilermakers to field goals. This bend-but-don’t-break philosophy should limit Northwestern to three points on drives instead of seven.
If Penn State can score over 20 points, they should win comfortably over Northwestern. The Wildcats are good enough offensively to move the ball, but the Nittany Lions have been able to limit teams to field goals all season. Holding Northwestern to field goals will be even more important because the Wildcats do not turn the ball over very often.
Derek Moye being out due to a broken foot could potentially cause some problems for Penn State, but Silas Redd should be able to pick up the slack for the Penn State offense against a poor Northwestern run-defense that is giving up about 172 yards per game. Once again this season, the Penn State offense will do just enough, and the defense will play well, leading to a 24-16 victory over Northwestern.