Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. Northwestern
Another week of staff predictions is upon us as writers share their thoughts on tomorrow’s homecoming game at Beaver Stadium between the Penn State Nittany Lions (3-2) and the 24th ranked Northwestern Wildcats (5-0). Enjoy this installment as the Nittany Lions have a bye next Saturday.
Penn State 28 Northwestern 27
For the first time since the opening loss to Ohio, Ted Roof’s defense may really struggle in this contest. Northwestern has scored at least 22 points in every game this season and is fresh off 704 total yards against the Indiana Hoosiers. Despite the electric offense, the Wildcats defense is surrendering 20.6 points per game, and Matt McGloin had played great football against them in the past.
Expect few turnovers and a lot of lead changes as the game will come down to whichever team can make a big play in the fourth quarter. Pete Massaro returning from injury will be a big boost for Penn State. Although he won’t start, the Nittany Lions’ depth will be tested, and they will need fresh bodies to counteract the fast-paced Wildcats offense. The Wildcats have a huge advantage in the kicking game as placekicker Jeff Budzien has not missed all season, but their five game winning streak will come to an end tomorrow. McGloin works some fourth quarter magic with a game winning touchdown pass to Kyle Carter, sending an anxious homecoming crowd home happy.
Penn State 31 Northwestern 28
This game could easily go either way. Penn State will have to find a way to stop dual-threat quarterback Kain Colter. He has passed for 369 yards and 2 touchdowns while rushing for 367 yards and 6 touchdowns. Northwestern is typically as a pass happy team: however, the strength of its offense this year is actually the run game. Penn State’s strength is stopping the run, so this should match up well. The secondary will be the issue since this is the first time since Ohio that we face a decent quarterback.
Matt McGloin has had a lot of success against the Northwestern defense the past two years. With his improved play, do not expect that to change. Penn State will probably look to run the ball more and keep a Wildcats offense, which totaled 704 yards last week against Indiana, off the field. After another solid performance last week, expect running back Zack Zwinak to see more touches.
Northwestern 35 Penn State 28
There is no doubt that this will be an offensive game. Unfortunately, I tend to pick against Ted Roof defenses in offensive games. I know, Michael Mauti is a beast and the defense has shown significant improvement, including Stephen Obeng-Agyapong. I just don’t have confidence that Penn State will be able to shutdown the Northwestern receiving corps, which includes 6 versatile options.
I know the offense will put points on the board, too, but it seems like every game so far, Penn State has left points on the board. They can’t afford to do that against good teams like Northwestern. In any case, this is the first game all season going into where I think Penn State has a good chance of losing.
Penn State 28 Northwestern 27
I’ve been back and forth all week on this game. I think Penn State will jump out to a quick lead and Northwestern will gradually battle back during the second half. A Sam Ficken miss almost dooms the Nittany Lions, but they prevail behind two Matt McGloin touchdowns and another stellar performance by Michael Mauti. However, if the defense becomes fatigued late, the score could easily be flipped.
Penn State 35 Northwestern 31
I’m more excited to see us play Northwestern than ever. They’re doing well this season, and a win against them won’t be ignored.
Although they had over 700 yards against Indiana, they also didn’t protect the ball well, leading to three turnovers. Against the Lions defense, which has consistently shown a propensity for forcing turnovers, losing a couple fumbles will bring their winning streak to a halt.
Their pass rush isn’t much to be afraid of and with our offensive line at full strength, I expect to see Matt McGloin to have plenty of time to make good decisions. That being said, I’m not predicting much from us on the ground. Their run defense is solid and we probably won’t crack into that too much, although a couple key third down conversions from the backfield would not be unreasonable to expect.
Northwestern 35 Penn State 21
This will be Penn State’s toughest test by far this year. Northwestern is nationally ranked at 5-0, and based on past experiences, they will be excited to rip our heads off at home. This team is 9th in the nation in passing and consistently scoring every week.
However, they also let up 29 points to an Indiana team that only beat Indiana State by 7 points and lost to Ball State. The Nittany Lions have to want this a helluva lot more and will need a huge game from the linbackers and secondary in order to secure a homecoming victory.
Penn State 31 Northwestern 27
Northwestern is a really good team– there’s no denying that. They are undefeated, but have yet to play a team with talent on both sides of the ball like Penn State. Their defense allowed almost 500 yards of offense against Indiana last weekend, while racking up over 700 yards of their own. Northwestern ran over 90 plays on offense last week. If that happens again, Penn State is in trouble.
This game will be a back and forth affair with a lot of offense. The Nittany Lions have had had great success moving the ball but haven’t always come away with the points that they should. This will change this week. They’ll need to sustain drives to keep their defense fresh against Northwestern’s fast-moving spread offense. The Wildcats will put up some points, but I think the Penn State defense will be up to the task as long as they don’t wear down.
Penn State 28 Northwestern 24
The same could be said about Penn State’s first five opponents, but the Wildcats have not played a good schedule to open up. Kain Colter will cause more problems then Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton did, but ultimately an early arriving student section and a late Stephen Obeng-Agyapong pick seals the deal.
One team will win, one team will lose. The ball will be thrown, or sometimes kicked. People will fall down, get up again, and keep fighting. The crowd will cheer, the game will end, and everyone will go home either elated at their team winning, or saddened by a loss.
Penn State finally runs a statue of liberty like I’ve been screaming for at games for 4 years.