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