Preview: Penn State at Northwestern

Dan Persa isn't what he was in 2010. But he's still dangerous. (Photo by Mike Pettigano. View more photos.)

Penn State (6-1 Overall, 3-0 Big Ten, 2-0 Pig Division) at Northwestern (2-4 Overall, 0-3 Big Ten, 0-2 Corn Division)

Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. Eastern, Ryan Field, Evanston, IL

Line: Northwestern +4.5 (VegasInsider.com)

TV: Same as last week. BTN. Tom Hart (p-by-p), Derek Rackley (analyst), Lisa Byington (sideline).

Weather: Clear, nominal breeze, 52 degrees.

Enemy DispatchesLake The Posts and SBN's Sippin' On Purple.  Sad to report that the Daniel Day Lewis of Northwestern blogs, Bring Your Champions They're Our Meat, hasn't posted a Penn State story as of this writing (if and when he does, I'll link it OH IT'S HERE IT'S HERE YOU GUYS).  Lake The Posts has an interview with the BYCTOM author, which should give Patrick Vint a raging clue.

Intensive Care.  Injury report is light.  Brandon Beachum is available.  In fact, the only player listed in PSU's game notes who isn't already expected to be out for the full season is Derek Moye.  His timetable for return is, shall we say, fluid.

From The Outset.  Some facts about Northwestern, defensively.  They played (and lost to) Army, which completed one pass for seven yards against the Wildcats.  Despite that, Northwestern ranks 99th out of 120 FBS teams in allowing 257.17 passing yards per game.  In defensive pass efficiency, they are 108th.  Rushing defense?  76th.  Third down conversion defense? 51.25%, good for 114th nationally.  They are 96th in tackles for loss.  Do not confuse this with good, average, or even below-average defense.

So Whatcha Sayin'?  Glad you asked.

 

EPMD - So Whatcha Sayin' (via VintageHipHopSeattle)

I'm saying there's no reason that Penn State, a team that has moved the ball with middling competence, should score less than 24 points in Evanston.  Even that might be low-balling Penn State, who put up five consecutive touchdown drives on a gassed Northwestern defense last year in Beaver Stadium.  Northwestern will score points, probably in the 20-ish range.  Can Penn State reach a point of safety at, say, 27?  30?

NO, I ASSURE YOU, THEY ARE TERRIBLE.  Still don't believe me?  Take a look at Sippin' On Purple's breakdowns of the touchdown passes thrown against Northwestern.  Click through for full effect, but this is representative:

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PERSASTRONG.  Yes, Dan Persa is completing over 70% of his passes, but as we mentioned on this week's podcast, his rushing totals over three games is minus-28 yards.  This is not the annoying dual threat Northwestern likes to deploy.  Kain Colter is NW's leading rusher, and was the quarterback while Persa sat out the first three games of the season.  Colter's contributions since Persa's return?  He recorded minimal stats against Illinois and Michigan, but ran for 76 carries and a touchdown on 16 carries, and completed two of four passes with one touchdown against Iowa.  He likely will line up at QB, RB, and WR.  He will also be annoying, because Northwestern will have to get cute on offense against PSU.

Penn State Quarterback Situation.  Deferred.  The lack of continuity seems to be gelling into some form of near-continuity.  There is a PCP-ingesting madman at the wheel, the doors are welded shut, and we're all riding shotgun until the ride comes to a complete stop.  Northwestern will score points, but as long as the Penn State offense can keep from collectively stepping on their dongs too many times, this weird championship dream continues.

Plan Of Attack.  Control the ball for 35 minutes.  Do not step on own dongs.

Alternative Theory Of The Case.  David Jones mentioned in a chat yesterday that he was picking Northwestern because their offense neutralizes Penn State's main strength on defense -- namely, Devon Still and Jordan Hill.  I would counter that by suggesting that Northwestern's offense forces Penn State to rely on a different strength -- the pass coverage ability of its back seven.  Northwestern will fire a variety of short, quick passes.  It'll be up to the PSU linebackers and defensive backs to make sure tackles, deflect passes, and make the Wildcats' receivers pay the price for making a catch.  Tom Bradley has always shown an ability to stop Northwestern's offense, usually after a slow start.  I'm not losing faith in him this week.

Prediction In GIF Form?

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Hey, this might not be the most modern or exciting football team Penn State has ever fielded, but it's vaguely effective and getting more charming in its primitiveness with each passing week.

Penn State 27, Northwestern 20.

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