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The Black Shoe Diaries staff gives their predictions for Homecoming weekend.
It's Homecoming weekend in Happy Valley and the Northwestern Wildcats make their way into town this Saturday. At 5-0, can we still consider them "just Northwestern" or do Pat Fitzgerald's boys have the skills to come out of Pennsylvania still unscathed on the season?
Nick: Regardless of what you ever think of Northwestern, they're one of those teams that ends up being sneaky scary when they show up on the schedule. I'm still not sure all this staff can do, because I still haven't seen them get this Penn State team firing on all cylinders yet. This is a game where they might need that kind of effort to pull out the victory and also give me a better idea how they'll approach someone like Braxton Miller down the road.
Penn State 27 - Northwestern 24
Jared: This is a tough game to predict for many reasons. We have witnessed Penn State improve nearly across the board each week, but now they face an opponent that will prove to be much more challenging compared to its past three opponents. On the other hand, Northwestern has played better than expected, but have not won any games that should have their fans making travel arrangements to Pasadena just yet. Northwestern brings in a very talented offense that spreads apart a defense and finds way to get its best athletes the ball in open space, most notably QB/WR Kain Colter. Expect this to give the Penn State defense some fits earlier on before they calm down and make the proper adjustments. I expect the newfound power running game to wear down Northwestern's defense in the second half. Matt McGloin has played brilliantly against the Wildcats the last two seasons, and I have no reason to think this trend won't continue this season based on his performance in the first five weeks.
Penn State 31 - Northwestern 23
Tim: The Penn State-Northwestern series as of late has been a lot like The Itchy & Scratchy cartoon in The Simpsons. No matter how cunning or tricky Itchy tends to be, Scratchy figures out a way in the end to outsmart and kill Itchy. Likewise, no matter how much Northwestern tries to spread PSU out or how much trickeration they try to pull, PSU somehow finds a way to pull out the victory. Yes, things could be a little different this time, especially since we don't know how exactly Ted Roof will try to contain Northwestern's offense. My gut feeling however, is that Roof will channel Tom Bradley this weekend and dial back a bit on the blitzes in favor of trying to keep Northwestern from making the big plays, increasing the likelihood of a penalty or turnover from all the short gains made in between the 20's. Northwestern's D appears to be the same old vulnerable one from years past, the type that Matt McGloin has had little problem shredding the previous two times he went up against it. I see no reason to believe things will be any different for McGloin's third go-around against the Wildcats, not to mention the now-deep stable running backs, led by the emergence of the World's Strongest Ginger (i.e. Zach Zwinak) will be something NW will have to respect, as well.
With that being said, I do expect a good, hard-fought, back-and-forth type of game but PSU manages to come up with a couple more clutch stops which the offense takes advantage of.
Penn State 28 - Northwestern 20
bscaff: Dear Northwestern, Look - I like you. You're the only other school in the B1G that I cheer for. And when I write "cheer", I mean that in a metaphysical sense, since I can't actually stand to watch your games. You're a bunch of smart little kids running around out there, trying your best, doing well in school, mostly staying out of trouble, following the rules. You're like a service academy without the service. No, no, don't be shy about it - that's still quite admirable. Maybe you have a trick play to throw in there? That's so cute. You're so damn cuddly and respectable. Plus, you fairly regularly lose to Penn State, sometimes in heartbreaking fashion. I really dig that about you. So don't you change, Northwestern. Don't you ever change.
Penn State by 17
What? You're offended that I'd pick PSU by 17 because you have a 'Colterback'? I've been dealing absolutely zero football content and "Penn State by 17" in this very spot for the previous three weeks - ALL PSU VICTORIES. So I'm not about to jinx that just so I don't hurt your feelings. Get over yourself. I don't like you that much.
Devon: Northwestern's a good football team that matches up really well offensively against a Penn State defense that's been very jekyll-and-hyde through the season's first month. Not only is Trevor Siemian likely better than any pocket passer Penn State's faced yet, but Kain Colter is a scary good read option runner, and the Lions have been vulnerable to that. Bill O'Brien's O has been good and is getting better, but has left plenty of points on the board. They can't afford to do that on Saturday. No settling for field goals, no sacks to set up 2nd and 29s, no fumbled snaps on fourth downs, no dropped passes that turn into interceptions. The D does a good job forcing turnovers, and the offense has been taking better care of the ball, and that might well be what this game comes down to.
Penn State 31 - Northwestern 27
Dan: Penn State has still only allowed six points in the first half for the season (79-6 margin, 49-0 in the first quarter). They also haven't allowed a second-half point to Northwestern in so many consecutive games (can't find the stat right now). I think that at least one of the streaks will fall by the wayside this week.
Northwestern's offense is one of the best in the Big Ten and Kain Colter will give the Nittany Lions fits. Hopefully Ted Roof takes notice and scales back on some of the blitzes this week or else I could see him with egg on his face at the end of the day Saturday.
With that being said, I've seen nothing of their defense this year. They had a big lead on Indiana last week and allowed them to claw their way back into the game and almost win. Syracuse put up 41 on them in a loss. And now one of their starting safeties are out of an already weak secondary. I think Penn State gets one or two more stops that the 'Cats and the town goes into Homecoming night happy.
Penn State 42 - Northwestern 31
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