Staff Predictions: No. 6 Penn State vs. Akron
It’s finally football season in Happy Valley!
Following a year in which the Nittany Lions took home the Big Ten title and earned a Rose Bowl bid, Penn State returns to Beaver Stadium with much-deserved hype. and a No. 6 ranking in the AP Top 25 Poll.
James Franklin and Co. will open the season with some MACtion — hosting an Akron team that finished last season 5-7. Our sports staff is pretty confident Penn State will be able to handle its home opener.
Steve Connelly: Penn State 56, Akron 7
I can’t imagine an upset happening here. Akron lost some key pieces from last season, has a quarterback that is just getting back into game form after an offseason shoulder surgery, and has a defense that gave up about 35 points per game last season.There’s no signs of issues yet from the Penn State side, with mostly everyone healthy and James Franklin claiming that this was one of the best preseasons he’s had with a team. The Nittany Lions should be able to cruise into Pitt week with an easy win against the Zips.
Mikey Mandarino: Penn State 49, Akron 14
Akron, Akron, Akron is here folks. It’s officially time to kick off the college football season, and Penn State should have no problem with their week one matchup with Akron. I don’t expect the Lions to take this game lightly in any way; they will surely be excited to get back in front of the Beaver Stadium faithful and perform well for the fans. The Zips may pick up a couple scores after Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley run wild at the start of the game, but all in all, this should be an easy win for Penn State.
Anthony Colucci: Penn State 40, Akron 9
Given Penn State’s strength and experience on both sides of the ball, the Nittany Lions shouldn’t have any issue beating (handily) this mediocre MAC squad. That being said, I don’t see James Franklin’s group running full steam out of the gate, because, why would it? Akron seems to have a decent run defense and an experienced quarterback in Thomas Woodson so the score will likely be relatively close through the first quarter until Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley rattle off some long gains to open up the game and put it away. From there, it will be Penn State, Penn State, Penn State (similar to Akron, Akron, Akron, but different and cooler). My bold prediction for Saturday is that Miles Sanders will start the second half off with a kick returned for a touchdown.
Mitch Stewart: Penn State 45, Akron 10
Looking into their opening matchup with Akron, the Nittany Lions own massive talent and size advantages over the Zips. There isn’t much to say about this one, other than that I’m looking to see how much playing time the core group of players (Barkley, Allen, McSorley, Cabinda) receive in the opener. Akron is coming off of a 5-7 season with no star players that really jump off the board prior to this game. An interesting development to watch this weekend is to see whether or not any of the backup running backs can stand out and separate themselves from the other two. Oh, and expect to hear “Fight On, State” a lot this Saturday.
Elissa Hill: Penn State 42, Akron 0
Nothing to see here folks. Penn State hopefully can roll through this one without any injuries or issues. With just about everyone returning from Joe Moorhead’s high-powered offense, the Nittany Lions should be able to roll over a team that conceded at least five touchdowns in seven games last season. Defensively, we’ll see how well the replacements for both starting defensive ends, Malik Golden at safety, and John Reid at cornerback hold up in their first test.
Ethan Kasales: Penn State 41, Akron 6
I’m most excited to see the second-team units and which combinations start to take shape in the second half when the game will already be out of hand. The starting linebacker trio of Jason Cabinda, Koa Farmer, and Manny Bowen should cement themselves as the fastest group in the Big Ten against the Zips.
While his name doesn’t come up all that often due to Penn State’s gargantuan amount of talent on offense, sophomore receiver Brandon Polk had a great offseason. His request for a medical redshirt was approved over the summer and he was named the team’s “Touchdown King” of training camp. Polk is also Miles Sanders’ backup at kickoff returner. He’s due for a trip to the end zone Saturday.