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Penn State-Army Game Preview

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Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State goes for its fourth consecutive victory against the Army Black Knights in the final non-conference game of the season.

Penn State (3-1) vs. Army (1-3)

Kickoff: Noon, Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The Betting Line: Penn State -23

TV: ESPNU Anish Shroff (play-by-play), Ahmad Brooks (analyst)

Weather: Chilly and rainy, with temperatures in the mid-50s and the possibility of heavy rainfall throughout the afternoon.

COACHES:

James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 10-7 (2nd Season)

OVERALL RECORD: 34-22 (5th Season)

VS. ARMY: 1-0

Jeff Monken:

ARMY RECORD: 5-11 (2nd Season)

OVERALL RECORD: 43-27 (6 Seasons)

VS. PENN STATE: 0-0

...NOW THE FUN PART

ARMY OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE:
There are two things that never change in regards to Army Football- they will try to run the ball down your thought while also trying to
create some confusion with its triple-option attack. Fortunately, Penn State has an aggressive front seven that is tremendous against the run.

Sophomore quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw is Army's team leader in both passing and rushing. He has been an effective passer in his limited opportunities to use his arm, going 11 of 22 for 194 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. Bradshaw has only thrown eight passes in the last three games after recording 14 attempts in a week one loss to Fordham.

Army loves to lull the secondary to sleep with its run game and then catch them off-guard with an occasional deep pass. Receivers DeAndre Bell and Joe Walker only have three catches apiece on the season, but average 32.7 and 28.3 yards per catch, respectively. Penn State has an aggressive secondary that excels against the run. It will be crucial for them to be mindful of the rarely-used passing game at all times to avoid any big plays on Saturday.

Barber does most of his damage on the ground out of the option, rushing for 341 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Junior Aaron Kemper is the team's top running back and is coming off the best performance of his career with 147 yards against Eastern Michigan in week four. Junior Joe Walker is a change-of-pace back who makes the most of his limited carries, averaging 9.8 yards on 16 rushing attempts this season.

As mentioned, Penn State's stout defensive line and aggressive linebackers should limit the Army ground attack. While the secondary will support the run extensively, they will need to be disciplined for the inevitable downfield pass attempts that often result in big gains for the Black Knights.

Safeties Jordan Lucas and Marcus Allen are expected to be back on the field, but with any Penn State injury news, take it with a grain of salt.

ARMY DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE:
The big question surrounding the Penn State offense is the status of running backs Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley. Both were lost in the first half against San Diego, with Lynch injuring his knee and Barkley being forced out with an ankle injury. Barkley seems more likely to return this week as he was able to run sprints on the sideline but was held out for the remainder of the contest. Depending on the severity of Lynch's injury, he may be forced to miss significant time if an ligament damage occurred. Penn State's offense is not nearly as dynamic with redshirt freshmen Mark Allen and Nick Scott carrying the load as the primary backs.

The logical assumption is that Penn State will test the Army secondary downfield with its speedy set of young receivers to take advantage of a few probably mismatches. However, the Nittany Lions have rarely used the vertical attack thus far in 2015. If they do, sophomore Saeed Blacknall could be in for another big day following the first 100-yard receiving effort of his career. Penn State may use this opportunity to get the tight ends more involved before heading into Big Ten play, something that has been extremely lacking in the first four weeks.

Army runs a 3-4 defense, led by T.J. Atimala who could give Penn State's offensive line some fits on Saturday. The Black Knights have a pair of speedy linebackers in Jeremy Timpf and Andrew King who always find their way to the ball. Army's secondary also excels in supporting the run.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
After an excellent start to the season, the Nittany Lion special teams unit took a huge step back in week four. After an incredible performance in his first start of the season, punter Chris Gulla again struggled and could be in danger of losing his job yet again. De'Andre Thompkins had issues handling punts, including a fumble that was recovered by San Diego State. The kickoff team allowed a 100-yard touchdown return by making the cardinal sin of not staying in their designated lanes. Fortunately, all problems are fixable- but will need to be fixed before Penn State enters the meat of its conference schedule next week.

For Army, Senior Daniel Grochowski is perfect on all 13 extra point attempts, but is just one of two for field goals on the season. His lone successful attempt came from 41 yards. The Black Knights have an effective punter in Alex Tardieu, who could get a workout on Saturday. He is averaging 42 yards per punt with a season-long of 56 yards.

PREDICTION

PENN STATE-31 ARMY-10
The amount of points for Penn State is difficult to predict without knowing the status of Lynch or Barkley, but either way I expect Penn State to come away with a mildly comfortable victory in what will be a very physical game on both sides.

Penn State's front seven does an excellent job of shutting down Army's rushing attack, limiting them to an early field goal and a late touchdown after the game has already been decided. Hackenberg has another big week that includes his second consecutive three touchdown performance, with each going to a different receiver- Blacknall, Hamilton and Godwin. Nick Scott adds a 20-plus yard touchdown run and Austin Johnson dominates the trenches with four negative tackles.