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Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. UMass

After last week’s thrilling defeat of Rutgers, the undefeated Penn State football team will play host to UMass this Saturday. This will be the first home game for the Nittany Lions since the NCAA sanctions were lifted last week. The Minutemen come into Beaver Stadium with an 0-3 record after falling to Boston College, Colorado, and Vanderbilt to start the year.

Here’s what our staff thinks will happen this weekend:

Ben Berkman (season record: 2-1): Penn State 35, UMass 10

UMass is 2-25 in its last three seasons. This game won’t even be close.

After collapsing in the fourth quarter against 1-2 Vanderbilt – James Franklin’s former team – last weekend, expect the Minutemen to collapse before the end of the first quarter on Saturday.

Christian Hackenberg has thrown the ball over 35 times in each game this season. I would love to see this number stay south of 30 on Saturday, allowing Franklin to work the run game. If needed, however, Hackenberg will have a duo of Big Ten leading receivers that, despite struggles last weekend, still put up solid numbers against Rutgers.

On the other side of the ball, the Big Ten’s best defense, allowing just less than 13 points a game, will have no trouble stumping the Minutemen.

Austin Whipple and Alex Kenney – both of whom transferred from Penn State to UMass – will be wishing they never left State College. Onward to 4-0.

Tim Gilbert (season record: 2-1): Penn State 31, UMass 3

Penn State covers -27, barely. It focuses on getting the run game going at the expense of another touchdown. Tailgaters rejoice over a 4 p.m. start.

It’s UMass. I don’t have much else to say.

Mike Reisman (season record: 2-1): Penn State 34, UMass 10

UMass lost to a Vanderbilt team that was reduced basically to Temple level mediocrity after Franklin left. Except it’s worse, because Vanderbilt lost to Temple at home to start the season. So, transitively, UMass lost to Temple, the team that hasn’t beaten Penn State since more than two decades before Joe Paterno started coaching. Excluding a freak situation that includes the entire offense and defense getting brainwashed and standing completely still the entire game, Penn State wins this one easily.

Stephane Hardinger (season record: 1-0): Penn State 30, UMass 6

Penn State’s defense will make the existence of UMass’ offense seem like nothing more than a rumor, while the offense will look to establish the running game successfully for the first time all season. The Bill Belton-Zach Zwinak-Akeel Lynch trio has combined for only 207 rushing yards through 3 games, and I’m sure Franklin and offensive coordinator John Donovan want to see the rushing attacking firing on all cylinders going into the rest of the Big Ten schedule. Hackenberg and the offense will have good field position all afternoon, and the points will come along with it.

Doug Leeson (season record: 1-0): Penn State 30, UMass 6 

I have nothing but love for the Minutemen, but it ain’t hockey season. This should be the week the Lions play two complete halves (yeah, I know I said that last week), and DaeSean Hamilton should finally find the end zone. One of the main reasons Rutgers gave us trouble was because its defensive line totally outplayed our offensive line, but that shouldn’t be a problem this week, on account of UMass being UMass. Hackenberg had to throw the ball 44 times in New Jersey, compared to 33 rushess from the offense (12 of those being from Hackenberg). A win should be all but guaranteed Saturday, and this week is all about letting the Nittany Lions get out there and play ball before Homecoming Week.

Zack Rickens (season record: 0-0): Penn State 34, UMass 6

The Nittany Lion defense will put unprecedented pressure an 0-3 UMass team whose quarterback is throwing under 50% on the year thus far — against opponents with a combined record of 4-5.

If the Penn State rushing game doesn’t gain traction against the Minutemen — a team that has given up 218 rushing ypg this season — the Lions will have a tough time getting through the bulk of their Big Ten schedule.

Watch for the Lions to welcome back *wink wink* transfers Alex Kenney and Austin Whipple.

David Abruzzese (season record: 3-0): Penn State 37, UMass 6

I’m going to keep this short because there’s not too much to say aside from the fact that UMass had Vanderbilt on the ropes yet couldn’t put them away.

This should serve as the offensive line’s tune up for Northwestern. If they can’t get it together this weekend, then us fans should be very concerned. Hackenberg should break a few records as he completely and utterly dismantles the poor UMass defensive unit. The legend of “BaeSean” will continue to grow against an overmatched Minutemen secondary, and maybe we’ll even see some life from the rushing attack!

If you thought five interceptions was a lot, expect to see that number doubled this weekend. Obviously, I’m kidding, but this is going to be an absolute bloodbath. The defense should pummel any UMass attempts to move the ball forward. The team’s ride home to Massachusetts will be quiet and unpleasant.

Austin Whipple and Alex Kenney are going to regret transferring after this one.

CJ Doon (season record: 1-0): Penn State 38, UMass 10

I could go on and on about how Christian Hackenberg is going to throw for a ton of yards, Hamilton and Geno Lewis are going to catch a ton of passes, and the defense, led by Anthony Zettel, is going to be in the backfield so often they might as well start leaving a toothbrush in the Minutemen’s bathroom cabinet. But I’m not going to.

Sorry, UMass. This weekend is going to be a rough one. Here’s hoping there will be plenty more hugs to go around.

Zach Berger (season record: 1-0): Penn State 31, UMass 6

UMass is terrible. Penn State is less terrible. Hackenberg will do unmentionable things to their defense. The Minutemen will look as bad as they are. The end.

Noel Purcell (season record: 2-0): Penn State 49, UMass 6

If at first you don’t succeed…

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