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Staff Predictions No. 13 Penn State vs. Pitt

No. 13 Penn State football (2-0) will take on in-state rival Pitt for the 100th time in program history at 12 p.m. this Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

The Nittany Lions have put up 124 points in just two games so far this season while the Panthers own a 1-1 record. Our staff doesn’t have too much worry that James Franklin’s squad will beat Pitt for the third time in a row in what could be the two teams’ final match up for a long time.

Michael Tauriello (0-0): Penn State 48, Pitt 13

I have a feeling that this game will run similarly to the Buffalo game. Penn State proved to be a second-half team last week, and based on Pitt’s first two games of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again.

Pitt has scored 31 points in the first half through two games this season, compared to just three in the second half. They don’t necessarily come out swinging, but it’s clear that they have been more productive in the first half than the second half this season.

Depending on how well the Nittany Lion defense contains the Panthers in the first half should tell fans whether we’re in for a close one or if it’s going to be a breeze. I’ll take the latter.

Matt DiSanto (2-0): Penn State 48, Pitt 20

Even though everybody enjoys some good ol’ fashioned Pitt trash talk, we can’t forget that the Panthers are still a decent team. Pat Narduzzi’s squad will put up a few touchdowns, but I believe Penn State’s defense will generate enough pressure on quarterback Kenny Pickett to keep them from racking up points.

Sean Clifford has been hot lately, and he’s certainly looked more comfortable at the helm of Ricky Rahne’s offense. He should have little trouble using his long ball against Pitt’s shaky defense, which has allowed 20 points per game so far this season. Expect Penn State to head into conference play with a shining 3-0 record.

Rory Pelella (2-0): Penn State 41, Pitt 14

The last matchup between these teams (for now) will be an exciting one, but I don’t think the Panthers will give our beloved Nittany Lions much trouble come Saturday.

James Franklin’s squad is going to be completely fired-up for this game, and I expect them to come out playing with plenty of energy and intensity right from the get-go — proving that yes, we can be a first-half team. Leading the way will be Sean Clifford, launching plenty of deep balls and connecting for several touchdowns.

That said, I think the most important contribution Saturday will be from the crowd. Beaver Stadium is going to rockin’ to close out the end of the Penn State-Pitt series, giving the Nittany Lions a distinct home-field advantage — something Pitt would know nothing about.

Ryen Gailey (1-0): Penn State 38, Pitt 7

I’m not envisioning this being as much of a blowout as last year, but I still think Penn State will win easily over Pitt. I think the Panthers will score early while Penn State will find its groove around the second quarter, and then the offense will begin to electrify the stadium. Last week, both the offensive line and the defense got off to a shaky start and were out-coached in the beginning, but I think Pat Freiermuth and Ricky Slade will really step up in this game.

May I remind everyone, but last year Sean Clifford proved his strength against Pitt on his first career pass attempt with a 34-yard touchdown, so who knows what he will prove to us this year.

Anthony Colucci (2-0): Penn State 30, Pitt 3

Sean Clifford broke out against Pitt last year, and it’ll be more of the same this weekend. He’s going to put together his first complete game of the season and light up Pitt’s defense for a couple of scores. Last week, I said he’d run for a score, but that didn’t happen. But I’ll double down that he’s going to flash his wheels on a scoring play.

All I have to say about the Penn State defense against Pitt’s offense is this: Good luck, Kenny.

Will Pegler (2-0): Penn State 44, Pitt 6

After a tough start against Buffalo in which Penn State’s defense struggled to get off the field early, I see Brent Pry’s unit bouncing back in a big way against Pitt. In fact, I don’t expect the Nittany Lions to allow the Panthers to score a touchdown in Saturday’s contest — two fields goal are all I’m giving to Pitt. While Pat Narduzzi’s squad has experience at quarterback with Kenny Pickett at the helm and playmaking ability in wide receiver Maurice Ffrench, I just don’t see the Panthers hanging with Penn State’s stingy defense.

I expect the wide receivers to lead the way for the Nittany Lion offense. Pitt is known for playing a tough style of run defense, so don’t be surprised to see players like KJ Hamler or Jahan Dotson break off a few massive plays thanks to the Panthers’ defense playing in tight.

Due to this tough style of defending, I expect Penn State’s offense to get off to a bit of a slow start, but a few explosive plays will start to stretch out the score. Once this happens, the Nittany Lion defense should be able to keep Pitt away from any sort of comeback effort.

Mikey Mandarino (2-0): Penn State 34, Pitt 10

As satisfying as a 51-6-esque rout would be, I don’t think Penn State will blow the doors off Pitt on Saturday afternoon. The Nittany Lions’ passing attack will need to square off against a tough, physical Pitt secondary that will undoubtedly be the toughest group of defensive backs that Penn State takes on in non-conference play.

The likes of Paris Ford, Dane Jackson, and Damarri Mathis will give Penn State’s receivers fits with their physicality at the line of scrimmage. KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson, and Justin Shorter will definitely have their hands full with these guys, and that match-up is, on paper, the most compelling of the game.

Ricky Slade is another player who I’m going to keep a close eye on throughout the game. Pitt’s front seven is nowhere near as good as its secondary, so this week provides the former five-star recruit with an opportunity to bounce back from a pair of tough performances to start the year.

The most pivotal match-up of Saturday’s game will be Pitt’s offensive line against Sean Spencer’s Wild Dogs. Penn State’s defensive line has the talent to overwhelm Pitt’s offensive line, and Kenny Pickett’s performance depends on how well his front five plays. If the Panther offensive line can’t protect Pickett, he’ll make some brutal throws that will either end up in the arms of a guy like John Reid or lead to quick three-and-outs.

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