Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. Pitt
The long-awaited reboot of the Penn State-Pitt rivalry is finally here. Our staff looked into its crystal ball for some score predictions and half think the Nittany Lions are destined to come out on top, while the other half believes the Panthers will emerge victorious at Heinz Field.
Steve Connelly (season record 1-0): Penn State 27, Pitt 13
I don’t think Penn State is that great of a team, but I do think Pitt is very overrated. It may be a road game for the Nittany Lions, but there will be a huge traveling contingent and Pitt just isn’t that great at Heinz Field. Since 2014, there home record is just 7-7 with losses against five-win Akron in 2014 and three wins against FCS opponents. It’s not a treacherous place to play and if the Penn State offense can settle in early, they’ll be able to put up points against the Panthers. Defensively, the Nittany Lions will need to shut down James Conner. Pitt is solid at quarterback with Nathan Peterman, but he’s lacking options at wide receiver to make the passing game a consistent threat. This is a huge test for the defense, but in a rivalry game, this is the time the Nittany Lions have to step up.
David Abruzzese (season record 0-0): Pitt 34, Penn State 31
James Conner presents a brand new challenge for the Nittany Lions — one the team hasn’t seen since facing Ezekiel Elliot last year at Ohio State. Stopping him will be critical, but it’ll take a village. Kent State was able to move the ball seemingly at will early on in the first half against the Lions. With Conner, that simply cannot happen. I’m normally optimistic, and I truly feel that this game could go both ways, but after last week’s unimpressive unveiling of Joe Moorhead’s up-tempo offense, the margin of error becomes that much smaller against a talented team like Pitt. I think this comes down to the wire, unfortunately not in favor of the Lions. Welp, bye bye recruits.
James Turchick (season record 1-0): Pitt 31, Penn State 28
Penn State’s defensive line helped win last week’s contest but Pitt has a much more effective run game than Kent State and will be troubling for the Lions. The rivalry should be reborn in a tight game with Pitt relying heavily on its defense late to shut down the depth that Penn State has at halfback.
Lexi Shimkonis (season record 1-0): Pitt 30, Penn State 21
I’m legitimately scared for tomorrow’s game after the, er, healthy banter that’s been swirling around Twitter all week. As per usual, I can’t give you any really good football-analysis reason, but I can say that no matter the technical match ups, I don’t have confidence in Penn State to pull out a win that has so much pride riding on it. The game atmosphere is going to be electric and I think that though Pitt and Penn State haven’t played in years, the rivalry is real — otherwise, why would we get so worked up over the game? There will be some exciting plays, especially after Penn State starts slow and Pitt goes up early, but ultimately I don’t think the Nittany Lions have what it takes to bring home the win and everything that goes with it in the game. God I hope I’m wrong.
Ethan Kasales (season record 1-0): Penn State 34, Pitt 27
It’s safe to say that fans on both sides of this estranged rivalry have been looking forward to this Saturday’s noon clash for quite some time now. Penn State’s plan to #WhiteOutHeinz confirms the preexisting notion that Nittany Lion fans will help make the first showdown between these two programs since 2000 feel a little more like home. Penn State’s young but productive defensive line has one of the game’s more intriguing head-to-head matchups against the Panthers’ veteran left side in tackle Adam Bisnowaty and guard Dorian Johnson. I’m most intrigued to see the distribution of touches Joe Moorhead draws up for the Nittany Lions’ deep arsenal of skill players now that he doesn’t have to hold anything back. On the flip side, James Franklin noted that he expects star Pitt safety Jordan Whitehead to play some offense, so that will certainly be a wrinkle to watch.
Tim Reams (season record 1-0): Penn State 21, Pitt 17
Every year there are games that set the tone for the rest of the season for a football team. People from the outside easily say that teams and coaches can bounce back and power through tough losses, but this game is different. This game has the potential to affect the morale of this team for the rest of this season, and a loss this game can haunt this team. That being said, I have a feeling we’ll all be seeing a chippy dog fight in a Penn State fan infested Heinz Field. The game will have a different feel to it, one that feels bigger than just a Kent State, or a regular Big Ten matchup.
This game will be physical, fast, and chippy. I predict personal fouls coming from both sides during this game, but I also see it coming down to the wire. The Penn State offense can put up numbers, but it must get going early and they simply have to execute on the little things as an entire unit across the board. When that happens, this offense can punch the ball in the end zone. That also being said, I think the offense will be slow to get started, but I see Trace having another solid performance, as well as Saquon Barkley. Watch out for Chris Godwin to have a great game as well.
Let’s not forget, Pitt is pretty good. People are holding Villanova against their heads, but Nova is an FCS force to be reckoned with this year with talent all over the field. Pitt only won 28-7, but it doesn’t mean they’re a bad football team. They still have a good running back, a talented O-line with 2-3 NFL picks on it, and a defense scattered with great talent in the secondary, and on the D-line. This game will be a dog fight from the opening kick, and if Penn State doesn’t bring it, they will get punched right in the mouth by the Panthers hard play, but even then, I don’t see this being a high scoring affair. I think this game will either lift our spirits, or crush our hearts, but it will be a great game either way through the four quarters.
What’s your prediction for Saturday’s game? Let us know in the comments below!