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Staff Predictions: No. 12 Penn State vs. Maryland

No. 12 Penn State football (3-0) will travel to College Park to take on Maryland at 8 p.m. Friday night in its first Big Ten game of the season.

James Franklin’s squad will take on a Maryland team that exploded in its first two games of the season but fell to Temple in week three. Our staff is fairly confident that the Nittany Lions will come out of this game with a win, but also feel that the score may be closer than some Penn State fans want to believe.

Matt DiSanto (3-0): Penn State 31, Maryland 24

Penn State opened Big Ten play against a measly Illinois team last season and took care of the Illini with ease. However, this Friday’s conference opener against Maryland won’t be a cakewalk for the Nittany Lions. Maryland is currently averaging 53 points per game, which makes me believe the Terrapins won’t have much trouble putting points on the board — even against Penn State’s stout defense (and special teams, heh). The Terps are also giving up just 224 passing yards and 74 rushing yards per game, which spells trouble for Ricky Rahne’s offense.

While the Nittany Lions certainly didn’t impress against Pitt, I have faith that they’ll find their groove against Maryland. Even with both teams coming off a bye week, expect Penn State to return home with a 4-0 record.

Sarah Baumann (0-0): Penn State 30, Maryland 9

Thanks to the bye week, I think the Nittany Lion defense will prove to be a problem for Maryland. Expect plenty of sacks from the front seven and a bounce-back performance for the defensive backs, who struggled to hang with Pitt’s receivers in Penn State’s week 3 matchup.

On offense, I look forward to watching Sean Clifford step up and connect with his receivers throughout the day to help Penn State improve to a 4-0 record on the season.

Jared Raggi (0-0): Penn State 31, Maryland 24

I believe this will be the most entertaining game for Penn State up to this point. The game against Pitt was close, but I wouldn’t describe it as “fun.” After scoring their only two points in the first half off of a safety against Temple, I expect the Terrapins to come out firing and taking an early lead thanks to running back Anthony McFarland.

Eventually, Penn State’s defense will step up like it has all season, and the second-half team that this crew seems to be will outscore the Terps by double digits in the final 30 minutes. Expect a three-touchdown performance from Sean Clifford and one heck of a football game.

Jarod Kutz (0-0): Penn State 31, Maryland 23

Penn State’s offense didn’t quite perform the way it hoped it would last Saturday against Pitt. However, this week will be a different story.  The offense is going to move the ball very easily on the Maryland defense if it executes on third downs. I expect Sean Clifford to throw for more than 200 yards and both Pat Freiermuth and KJ Hamler to haul in touchdown catches. 

After outscoring opponents 142-20 in its first two games, Maryland suffered a bad loss at Temple. The Terrapins will want to bounce back Friday night as they plan to host a “black out” in the stands. Regardless of how much black will fill Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium, Penn State fans will be there wearing white and watching the Nittany Lions improve their record to 4-0.

Matt Noah (0-0): Penn State 27, Maryland 17

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford needs to step up in this game. He has many weapons including KJ Hamler, Pat Freiermuth, and the four-headed running back committee. If he can be more accurate with his throws, Penn State will be moving the ball all game and Maryland will not have any answers.

I expect the Terrapins to keep this game close thanks to a strong offensive effort, but the Nittany Lions will come away with a win and improve to 4-0.

Max Tolson (0-0): Penn State 31, Maryland 14

Maryland hasn’t scored a touchdown against Penn State since 2016. While Penn State’s defense has been its strength so far, I expect Maryland’s offense to put up a touchdown or two in this year’s matchup. The Terrapins are averaging 53 points per game, so Penn State’s defense will need to play well early on.

It will be a battle, especially since Maryland will likely come out pumped up in front of a sold-out crowd. In the end, though, Penn State should come out on top with the help of a breakout game from Sean Clifford and strong defensive play.

Another Nittany Lion win will hopefully prove that Penn State and Maryland were never rivals, and never will be.

Michael Tauriello (1-0): Penn State 33, Maryland 20

Maryland’s defense has actually been relatively good so far this year allowing only 40 points over three games. Penn State likely retooled its offense a bit during the break after the nerve-racking win against Pittsburgh that came before it. With that retooling, there could be the potential for hiccups that the Maryland defense could take advantage of.

On the other side of the ball, Maryland held the title of highest-scoring offense over the first two weeks of the season, only to have that come crashing down against Temple of all teams. I think the Terrapins will be able to put a few scoring drives together, but I don’t think they’ll be able to match their production levels of the first two weeks, especially against a Penn State defense that has allowed just 30 points through three games.

Penn State’s offense may still need some fine-tuning after this one. However, I think they’ll put a lot of promising drives together, even if some end with a Jordan Stout field goal.

Otis Lyons (0-0): Penn State 35, Maryland 17

By game time on Friday night, it will have been nearly three weeks since the Nittany Lions put together a truly commanding performance against a weaker side. I don’t believe that this game will be Idaho-esque. However, with all of the hype that Maryland has self-inflicted on the game and the sub-par Pitt scoreline, the Nittany Lions should feel some urgency in College Park. 

I predict the first half to be much like the Buffalo and Pitt games. The crowd — dressed in all black — will be into it. An early mistake or two may cost Penn State in the first quarter, but Maryland will eventually fall victim to the war of attrition similar to Buffalo during week two.  

After the crowd begins to lose their voice, the Nittany Lions should make the trip back to State College with hopes of a top-10 ranking by Sunday.

Andy Mollenauer (0-0): Penn State 23, Maryland 10

These Terps aren’t the same embarrassing team that Penn State has wiped the floor with over the last few years. They have a balanced offensive approach with a good mix of ground and air game. The Nittany Lions — who have been very run-happy thus far — will need to match Maryland’s approach, utilizing guys like Pat Freiermuth, whose size and production can create problems for Maryland’s defense.

I expect Penn State to have the edge defensively, largely in part due to Maryland’s ailing offensive live. Three of their starters graduated last year, and right guard Terrance Davis has been battling a knee injury, so the Nittany Lions have a huge opportunity to pressure the quarterback and dominate the backfield, limiting the Terps’ offensive production in both teams’ first conference matchup of the year.

Anthony Colucci (3-0) Penn State 30 Maryland 28

Throw whatever has happened during the first three weeks of the season out the window. This is Maryland’s game of the decade, and the Terrapins are pulling out all the stops to try to swing a program-shifting upset. They’re going to be taking shots to the end zone, going for it on fourth, and playing with a sense of intensity that Penn State has lacked for quite some time.

That said, I do think Penn State will pull this one out for two words only: Heisman moment. This is the type of game where kings are made. Let’s ride, Sean.

Will Pegler (3-0): Penn State 41, Maryland 20

The Nittany Lion offense never really got comfortable against Pitt in week three. Despite escaping with the win, Sean Clifford and Co. scored just two touchdowns on the day and were clearly missing that explosive play factor they had relied upon through the first two games. Thanks to a bye week of rest and adjustments, I expect Ricky Rahne’s unit to get back on track on Friday night. KJ Hamler should have himself a big game against inconsistent Maryland defensive backs, and don’t be surprised if Pat Freiermuth is a consistent option for the Nittany Lions in the red zone.

Defensively, the Terrapins offer the biggest challenge the Nittany Lions have faced yet. Quarterback Josh Jackson has plenty of speed and agility in the pocket while running back Anthony McFarland has plenty of talent coming out of the backfield. I see Maryland hanging around early in this one thanks to a score or two in the first half, but its weak offensive line will eventually tire and allow guys like Yetur Gross-Matos and Cam Brown to get in the pocket often.

Overall, I expect the Nittany Lions to get a reassuring win under the Friday night lights, bouncing back after a rather scary game against Pitt in week three.

Mikey Mandarino (3-0): Penn State 31, Maryland 17

Penn State’s last few matchups with Maryland have been cakewalks, but Friday’s Big Ten opener between the sides will be anything but an easy win for the Nittany Lions.

The Terrapins struggled mightily against Temple in a shock week 3 loss in Philadelphia, but their offense was on fire in the first two weeks of the season — particularly against No. 21 Syracuse on home turf. The Orange were completely overmatched and out-classed by Maryland, and transfer quarterback Josh Jackson’s standout performance was a huge reason for that. Jackson routinely picked Syracuse’s defense apart with his excellent use of the run-pass option, and he also got tons of help from star running back Anthony McFarland.

Maryland’s defense has forced a turnover in 15 consecutive games, but I expect that streak to end on Friday night. Sean Clifford has done an excellent job in taking care of the ball so far this season, and I think the committee of Penn State running backs will take care of the ball throughout the contest. Those factors will combine to help Penn State win by a pair of scores in front of a hostile Maryland crowd.

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