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Staff Predictions: No. 15 Penn State vs. Idaho

The wait is (almost) over.

Beaver Stadium will host college football once again Saturday as No. 15 Penn State takes on Idaho to open the 2019 season. Expectations are high for James Franklin’s squad, which boasts a young offense filled with blue-chip recruits and a talented defense that has the potential to be one of college football’s best.

Our staff is fairly confident that Idaho, which has never played against Penn State, won’t give the Nittany Lions an Appalachian State-esque scare this weekend.

Matt Ogden: Penn State 41, Idaho 13

After a disappointing 2018 season, the boys in blue and white are going to hash it out against Idaho with a few chips on their shoulders. With a defense that’s shaping up to be one of the best in the Power 5 (you heard me), a shiny new gunslinger, and a dangerous group of running backs, Penn State is going to fry the competition and turn the Vandals into potato salad. I predict a lopsided game that will make Idaho this season’s Akron.

Anthony Fiset: Penn State 69, Idaho 3

Penn State finished one touchdown short of the nicest score possible on two separate occasions at the beginning of last year, but I think this is the game it finally happens. This young group has a lot to prove after suffering two losses in Beaver Stadium one year ago, so expect the offense to explode out of the gates against what should be a defense that is in way over its head. Seriously, someone is gonna have to call the campus police after Sean Clifford and company finish vandalizing the Vandals — at halftime.

The burden will rest on the second and third stringers to reach the magic number, but I’m confident in their abilities to outplay Idaho’s starters. However, I don’t think this will be a shutout. The Vandals will finally manage to get into field goal range in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, and due to his elite sportsmanship, James Franklin will absolutely NOT ice the kicker.

Matt DiSanto: Penn State 41, Idaho 17

On paper, this match-up seems like a glorified scrimmage. Even with a new starting quarterback and loads of young talent, Penn State should have little trouble defeating Idaho to kick off its 2019 season.

The Vandals averaged just 24.4 points per game in 2018, which makes me believe they’ll have a tough time moving the football against the Nittany Lions’ stacked defense. Although there may be a few ugly passes or embarrassing turnovers along the way, I’m confident Penn State will come out on top when all is said and done.

Ryen Gailey: Penn State 46, Idaho 7

Hopefully, Penn State’s first game of the season doesn’t lead to a rather nerve-wracking one like last year against Appalachian State. A blowout is certainly on the cards this weekend — especially considering how much the Vandals struggled to put points on the board last season. I’m especially excited to see how Sean Clifford will fare in his first collegiate start.

Rory Pelella: Penn State 38, Idaho 3

There’s no doubt in my mind that Penn State’s defense is going to live up to the hype and play lights-out football this weekend. Behind the special talent and athleticism of players like Yetur-Gross Matos and Micah Parsons, opposing offenses are going to feel the pressure every time the ball is snapped, and unranked Idaho is no exception. 

On the offensive side of the ball, I think Sean Clifford and the rest of the unit will have the opportunity to try out plenty of new touchdown celebrations on their home turf — although we’ll have to see if any come close to Trace McSorley’s home run swing or Saquon Barkley’s signature airplane sprint across the end zone.

Will Pegler: Penn State 48, Idaho 7

Every piece of this Penn State squad is going to come out firing on Saturday afternoon. I expect the talented Penn State defense to shut down the Vandals from the start, which should give Sean Clifford and the rest of his offense tons of time to put up points. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the young gun throw a touchdown pass on his first drive to set the tone for his time under behind center at Penn State.

I’ll give Idaho one touchdown in garbage time, though. The Vandals finished with a 4-7 record last year, and I don’t see them showing any signs of improvement at Beaver Stadium this weekend.

Mikey Mandarino: Penn State 42, Idaho 3

Penn State has never played against Idaho before, but I don’t expect the FCS outfit to give James Franklin’s team many problems this weekend.

The Vandals return a few nice players to their squad — including starting quarterback Mason Petrino and linebacker Christian Elliss. However, the Nittany Lions should overpower their opposition in every facet of Saturday’s game — particularly on defense. I haven’t seen too many national “experts” predict Penn State to be a defensive juggernaut this season, but the unit is truly elite and has the star power to back that up.

Sean Clifford and co. shouldn’t have too many issues against Idaho’s defense, which features a significant amount of new starters who arrived via transfer this offseason. I’m personally excited to see what sophomore Jahan Dotson does in a starting role at wide receiver after he showed flashes of his talent last year.

Idaho will get a consolation field goal at some point during the game thanks to kicker/punter Cade Coffey, who’s the consummate special teams weapon and apparently capable of punting a ball 80 — yes, eighty — yards.

Anthony Colucci: Penn State 37, Idaho 7

The Sean Clifford era is here, baby. Although I won’t be surprised when Clifford goes 5-for-his-first-7 for 195 yards and two touchdowns, I think the game will get off to a slow start — this is still a James Franklin-coached, second-half team, after all — while Clifford gets his bearings.

Maybe the Vandals will hang around for a quarter and give fans violent App State flashbacks. But once the jitters subside and the second quarter rolls around, Clifford will start making his throws, and Penn State will begin pouring it on. This defense is rock-solid and will suffocate the Vandals all game to support Clifford, who will be launching his Heisman campaign with a four-touchdown kickoff performance. The reserves will be on the field before you can say “Grown In Idaho, Certified 100% Idaho Potatoes.”

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