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Staff Predictions: Penn State Vs. San Diego State

Penn State football is coming off of a statement win over Rutgers to improve to 2-1 and open Big Ten play with a win. This week, the program is welcoming San Diego State for the first time ever. The Aztecs blew out San Diego in the season opener before losing badly to Cal and South Alabama.

Our staff collectively has faith in the Nittany Lions to get the job done this week, and win by double digits.

Patrick Koerbler (season record 1-0): Penn State 23, San Diego State 9

Truth be told, heading into the season I thought this was a game Penn State would lose. Coming off a primetime game against not-rival Rutgers, it seemed like it was a good spot for a letdown game. Add in the fact that San Diego State came into the year as one of the favorites in the Mountain West, and it made some sense to have the Aztecs pulling the upset.

Now, that’s not really the case. San Diego State has stumbled out of the gate, losing to South Alabama in overtime last week. While anything is possible, this game doesn’t look nearly as dangerous as it once did.

Although I don’t foresee a dominating victory, I do think Penn State wins this game pretty comfortably. Expect San Diego State to hang around for a bit, maybe capitalize off some turnovers, before Penn State gets its running game (see: Saquon Barkley) going in the second half.

Matt Coleman (season record 1-1): Penn State 35, San Diego State 0

This one should be easy for Penn State. As long as it can find a way to beat the chaotic Aztec defense — which I believe it will — Penn State wins easily.

Last week, I predicted a loss to Rutgers because of Daniel Pasquariello not being able to consistently punt and Rutgers’ return man Janarion Grant being unstoppable in previous games. Well, Pasquariello was replaced by Chris Gulla, who was given the game ball by Coach Franklin, and Janarion Grant was never able to get anything going. Penn State will not face a return man like Janarion Grant again this season, so there’s no reason for them to get beat by anybody now.

The defense has been solid all season. It only emphasized that fact against Rutgers. Penn State will go against an offense who is capable of putting up significant points (37 against San Diego, 27 against South Alabama) against sub-par defenses, but not against good defenses (only seven points against Cal). The defense shuts out San Diego State. It’s really that simple.

For the offense, Saquon Barkley continues to perform at a Heisman-level ability. Look for Hackenberg and the passing game to pick up this week as well. There’s no rain in the forecast for this Saturday, so the weather can no longer be an excuse for the passing game. Look for that to pick up Saturday. The only question that should be coming out of this game is “Is Saquon Barkley actually a  Heisman candidate?” There really shouldn’t be too much made of this if Penn State plays how Penn State is expected to play.

Ethan Kasales (season record 2-0): Penn State 31, San Diego State 13

San Diego State deploys an unorthodox 3-3-5 base scheme on defense, so I would be shocked if Penn State’s primary attack ceased to come by way of the rush. The one-two punch of Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley should provide yet another gaudy stat sheet against the Aztecs, but I’ll be interested to see how Christian Hackenberg and the passing game adapts to the extra man in coverage.
There’s simply too much talent at the skill positions on offense for the Nittany Lions to put up another subpar performance through the air. I predict receivers Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton will find the end zone Saturday, while true freshman John Reid’s second career pick sets up an electric Barkley touchdown scamper.
Improved special teams play will once again be key to Penn State’s momentum this weekend. A Nick Scott kickoff return to the house (the first since Chaz Powell took the opening kick of 2011 back against Indiana State) propels the Nittany Lions to a stress-free win.

Kaitlyn Dividock (season record 2-0): Penn State 35, San Diego State 10

San Diego State will have a tough time beating the Nittany Lions this week, there’s no doubt about that.
Defensively, the Aztecs have allowed 24 points and 394.7 yards of offense per game, but that doesn’t mean they won’t put up a decent fight. Quarterback Maxwell Smith is completing 47 percent of his passes for 394 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. If this doesn’t strike as you as impressive, remember that Hackenberg is putting up relatively the same numbers (49.3 percent, 372 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions). The Aztecs’ ground game is decent, averaging 152.6 yards per contest. Lead by running back Donnel Pumphrey, who has 249 yards and two touchdowns, he’ll be the only offensive “threat” the Nittany Lions face all game. But with Penn State’s defense, led by their tenacious squad of linebackers shutting down the running game of every opponent so far this season, it shouldn’t be a problem.
With Penn State’s talented running core only getting better and better each game, the San Diego State defense will have a lot to deal with. I expect Saquon Barkley to have another exciting game. The Aztecs run a 3-3-5 scheme, which could force Penn State to make early adjustments due to its still weak (though definitely improving) offensive line, but ultimately it won’t be enough. The Nittany Lions will score a lot, and it will mostly be led by the running game.
I have Penn State winning, and winning big.

Doug Leeson (season record 2-1): Penn State 24, San Diego State 13

All I knew about San Diego State before this week was that they’re the “SDSU” that I always have pulling upsets in my March Madness bracket. Now I know that the Aztecs are good enough to keep things close at first with Penn State, even though the Nittany Lions are a much better team. San Diego State is known for its blitz packages, and adds two new ones every week so opposing teams don’t know what to prepare for. Statistically, Penn State’s offensive line has been good, but I’m still not sold. Penn State’s offense might struggle for most of the game, but has too much talent to be completely shut down. On the other side of the ball… San Diego State just can’t compete with Bob Shoop’s defense.

What I’m most excited for (other than Joey Julius doing anything) is the kickoff time. Man, do I love 3:30 games.

Jacob Abrams (season record 2-1): Penn State 34, San Diego State 10

I don’t expect Penn State to have any trouble beating a mediocre San Diego State team this Saturday.
The Nittany Lions come in to this game riding a lot of momentum from a statement win against Rutgers last Saturday night. The Penn State defense was dominant against a Rutgers offense that was able to score a combined 97 points in the two games prior — even if its star wide-out was absent.
San Diego State is no better than the Scarlet Knights team that came to Penn State last weekend. The Aztecs bring an offense that showcases running back Donnel Pumphrey, who ran for 1,867 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. Pumphrey will have a tough day facing a Penn State defense that has only allowed 87 rushing yards per game so far this season.
As far as the offense goes, expect another run-heavy attack from the Nittany Lions. We are witnessing the birth of a star in Saquon Barkley. The back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week should see a heavy workload against an Aztec defense that’s allowing 161.3 rushing yards per game. Barkley and Akeel Lynch should be the perfect one-two punch to keep the game out of reach for San Diego State.

David Abruzzese (season record 2-1): Penn State 27, San Diego State 13

Squaring off for the first time in history, San Diego State’s trip to Happy Valley will have one dominant theme: Saquon Barkley.
I can’t rave about this kid enough, but with 300+ yards and three touchdowns in only two games, he’s backed up the hype. Barkley runs with a style and conviction that I’ve only seen from the game’s greatest backs. He’s electrifying, determined, and confident. Think of him as Penn State’s version of Leonard Fournette. Expect James Franklin to deploy the two-headed monster that carved up the Scarlet Knights, and expect it to have an even greater effect this week against San Diego State’s 3-3-5 base front.
The Aztecs’ quarterback is struggling, so expect Bob Shoop to blitz early and often. He incorporated safety Marcus Allen in the box against Rutgers, and expect him to resume that role against the Aztecs. My player to watch for this weekend’s contest is linebacker Troy Reeder, who’s recorded 17 total tackles and two TFL so far in 2015. Reeder flies across the field, covering an incredible range as he fills his gaps. He’s seemingly a part of every single play, and don’t expect his high motor to quiet anytime soon.
This weekend should be a fun one indeed.

Ben Rappaport (season record 2-1): Penn State 31, San Diego State 10

Yeah, so I’m not too familiar with San Diego State’s football team other than the fact that Penn State is much better. With Saquon Barkley running like Larry Johnson circa 2002, Penn State is going to continue its ground and pound strategy. The offensive line is coming off its best performance of the season and I can’t see San Diego State slowing down its continued growth. Paris Palmer is finally getting comfortable at left tackle and his incredible athleticism is becoming increasingly prominent as the running attack looks to keep flowing swimmingly.
The defense remains dominant. Bob Shoop continues to prove he knows what he is doing and there will be no surprises this Saturday. The Penn State D will clamp down hard. Look for Shoop to blitz frequently and expect another big game out of the secondary. James Franklin’s boys will get the job done; there is no need to be worried about this one.

Ben Berkman (season record 2-1): Penn State 30, San Diego State 14

I know next to nothing about San Diego State other than the fact that they lost to a team I didn’t even know existed: Southern Alabama. That only suggests Penn State will roll this Saturday.
Some other facts don’t hurt, either. Penn State is at home, and though it’s a canning weekend, should scare the shit out of the undersized Aztecs. The Lions set all sorts of rushing milestones last weekend, including two rushers of over 100 yards, a receiver tallying a rushing touchdown, and Saquon Barkley drawing all sorts of comparisons to Penn State greats.
It shouldn’t really matter that Hack’s only thrown for 372 yards and one touchdown this year (a ho-hum single game under O’Brien), or that Andrew Nelson likely won’t be available for another week.
Onward to 3-1.
What’s your prediction? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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