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Staff Predictions: No. 4 Penn State vs. Pitt

Penn State throttled the Akron Zips last weekend 52-0, but the Nittany Lions will face a much different challenge on Saturday in the form of Pitt. The Panthers have won the last two games against Penn State, including last year’s heartbreaker at Heinz Field. In the first clash between the two teams in Beaver Stadium this century, however, our sports staff is pretty convinced the Nittany Lions will grab their first win in the series since 1999:

Ethan Kasales: Penn State 45, Pitt 14 (season record: 1-0)

The atmosphere should be electric Saturday in what might turn into an all-stadium White Out. The Nittany Lions won’t have much issue picking apart Pitt’s depleted secondary due to star junior safety Jordan Whitehead’s suspension. It should be over by the third quarter, but James Franklin will want to run the score up on Pat Narduzzi’s Panthers (whether he’ll admit it or not).

David Abruzzese: Penn State 42, Pitt 24 (season record: 0-0)

A year can make quite the difference. Last year’s Pitt-Penn State contest was entertaining, but things have changed around Happy Valley since then. For starters, the Nittany Lions are healthy on defense — unlike last season when Jason Cabinda was relegated to the sideline. That alone makes an immediate impact on the game’s outcome, but the list doesn’t end there.

Penn State will play in front of what could be the rowdiest crowd Beaver Stadium’s seen in some time — and that’s saying something — in the most anticipated game of the young season. Nathan Peterman and James Conner, Pitt’s top two offensive weapons, are off to the NFL, leaving receiver Quadree Henderson as the team’s biggest offensive weapon. He’ll make his presence felt on Saturday, but Pitt will surely miss Conner’s eye-popping production.

Penn State has its eyes on the prize this year, and that notion was reflected in last week’s 52-0 romping of Akron. The Nittany Lions didn’t skip a beat, and don’t expect them to against the Panthers. Pitt is good, but Penn State is better. Just ask Pitt defensive coordinator Josh Conklin — who will play without star safety Jordan Whitehead — how his nerves are.

Derek Bannister: Penn State a lot, Pitt a little (season record: 0-0)

Penn State will run up the score — I’m just not sure what the score will be. I’m not sure how many yards Saquon Barkley will run for. I’m not sure what the weather will be like. I do know, however, that Beaver Stadium will be packed full of really anxious and excited fans. I can only assume there will also be a contingent of Pitt fans up in the corner of the stadium wearing “Joe Knew” shirts or something along those lines.

I believe these two teams hate each other — and the fanbases certainly do — which will be enough to make sure both sides are locked in from the beginning. Penn State has every advantage heading into this one, though, and last year’s debacle in Pittsburgh will be the driving force behind an impressive performance from the Nittany Lions. And I think Franklin will gladly run up the score and give the fans what they so crave.

Mikey Mandarino: Penn State 37, Pitt 16 (season record: 1-0)

Although the Nittany Lions earned a top-five ranking heading into their rivalry matchup with Pitt, I don’t think they will destroy Pitt like most folks say they will. Yes, the Panthers’ lineup has been decimated by suspensions and graduations last season, but they will still play hard and not want to get smashed by their biggest rival. This is their Super Bowl, after all. A 150-yard effort from Saquon Barkley will be just enough for the Lions to cover the spread (Penn State is a 20.5 point favorite), but this will not be a repeat of the Akron performance.

Matt Sniegowski: Penn State 42, Pitt 17 (season record: 0-0)

Given Penn State’s remarkable 2016-2017 season and their devastating shutout against Akron, the Lions should be able to take on the Panthers handily. McSorley, Gesicki, and Barkley will all quickly find their grooves in the possible White Out conditions. Pitt will keep pace with the wild Penn State offense in the first half, but quickly find themselves losing traction in the second half.

Anthony Colucci: Penn State 200, Pitt 14 (season record: 1-0)

I did some research, consulted with a few experts, and found Jordan Hill’s prediction to be the most plausible. Penn State easily covers the three-touchdown spread and rolls into next week’s night game against Georgia State 2-0.

Elissa Hill: Penn State 38, Pitt 21 (season record: 1-0)

A matchup destined for annual bragging rights, Pitt Hate Week is in full swing here in Happy Valley. The Panthers aren’t quite the Zips, so I don’t see another shut out in Penn State’s future, but the Nittany Lions should be able to handily pull out a win this weekend on their home turf. There’s no tougher environment than a Beaver Stadium White Out — especially as Pitt battles on without Jordan Whitehead.

Steve Connelly: Penn State 49, Pitt 0 (season record: 1-0)

Penn State’s at home and it’s going to roll on offense. There’s nothing Pitt presents defensively that can stop a team that put up 569 yards of total offense, even if it was against Akron. On the other side of the ball, the Panthers lost both its major threats from last season, Nathan Peterman and James Conner. And last but not least…

Pitt is #NotMyRival.

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