Penn State-Kent State Game Preview

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The classic Nittany Lion-Golden Flashes rivalry is renewed on Saturday.

Penn State takes on one of the most long-suffering programs in major college football. The Golden Flashes missed out on an Orange Bowl appearance in a double-overtime loss to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game last year, but Kent State seems to have returned to its status quo of being a MAC cellar-dweller.

Penn State (2-1) vs. Kent State (1-2)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The Line: PSU -21

TV: Big Ten Network Kevin Kugler (p-by-p), Chuck Long (analyst)

Weather: Highs in the upper-60s with a low of 53. Scattered thunderstorms are predicted for the evening, hopefully after 7 p.m.

COACHES:

Bill O'Brien:

PENN STATE RECORD: 10-5, 2nd year

OVERALL RECORD: 10-5

VS. KENT STATE: First Meeting

Paul Haynes:

KENT STATE RECORD: 1-2, 1st Year

OVERALL RECORD: 1-2, 1st Year

VS. PENN STATE: 0-0

...NOW THE FUN PART

KENT STATE OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE

Dri Archer is the man who makes the Flashes offense go. Unfortunately for Kent State, Archer suffered an ankle injury early in week one against Liberty and it's highly unlikely he will suit up on Saturday. Archer is one of the most explosive players in the entire nation, and his production has been sorely missed by Kent State. Archer's backfield mate, Trayion Durham, had a monster season in 2012, racking up 1,316 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. His production has plummeted so far this season without Archer, earning a measly 152 yards on 50 carries in the first three weeks. Redshirt freshman quarterback Colin Reardon has been impressive in his first season as a starter, connecting on 56 of 85 attempts (good for 65.9% completion percentage), four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Last week he went 20 of 29 against the vaunted LSU defense. Reardon is also the Flashes second-leading rusher, so look for him to tuck it and run if he finds a lane.

Kent State will likely try move the ball with a dink-and-dunk offense on Saturday, especially after the way the Penn State defense was exposed against Central Florida. Defensive Coordinator John Butler will experiment with different blitz packages to try to pressure the relatively inexperienced Reardon, and to work out any kinks that allowed Blake Bortles all day to find an open receiver against the Nittany Lions.

KENT STATE DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE

Kent State ranks 93rd nationally in scoring defense after getting light up by Bowling Green (the same BG offense who were limited to 3 points by Indiana on Saturday) and LSU. Safety Luke Wollet is Kent State's leading tackler, which is never a good sign. The one bright spot for the Flashes defense is defensive tackle Roosevelt Nix, a legitimate All-American candidate. However, Nix has been limited to 4 TFLs in the first three weeks as offenses can key on him thanks to a lack of other effective pass rushers.

Simply put, Kent State's defense has dropped off after being the strength of the team the past several years. They have not been good at stopping the run, and even worse at defending against the passing game. This game should help Christian Hackenberg continue with his development and allow all three running backs a chance to prove their mettle heading into Big Ten play.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Sophomore Anthony Melchiori is 3 of 4 in his first year at kicker for the Golden Flashes. He missed his only attempt at a field goal of 40-plus yards. Kent State has a female kicker in sophomore April Goss, who has yet to see any live game action. Take a moment to read her journal documenting the 2013 trip to the GoDaddy.com Bowl if you have a chance. Melchiori also handles the punting duties, and was impressive enough in 2012 to earn a spot as a preseason finalist for the Ray Guy Award. He will play a major role in helping the Flashes win the field position battle.

Kent State has struggled in the return game in 2013. This trend will continue as long as Archer is on the sideline.

PREDICTION

PENN STATE- 41 KENT STATE- 10

Penn State will come in angry, and the 3:30 kickoff will make sure the team and fans (however many decide to show up) avoid sleepwalking through the first quarter. We learned that Penn State's defense can struggle against an NFL-ready quarterback and a well-executed offense that comes with having consistency in the coaching staff for several years. Kent State has neither at this time. I wanted to predict that Hackenberg breaks his own freshman single-game passing record, but I think the strong running attack prevents that. I'll go with 275 yards for Hack, 140 for Zwinak, 100 for Lynch and 80 for Belton on the ground. Robinson will have another on of his 125-yard, two-touchdown performances we've become accustomed to in a game that helps the Nittany Lions get back on track before a bye week that leads to the B10 schedule.


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