While this game is interesting simply from the standpoint that this is the kickoff to a highly anticipated season, it probably won't offer much pop beyond that. The weather may be blah and the gameplan will likely be pretty vanilla. This team had a hard time starting games off, so we'll see if they come out with a concerted effort to end things early and hand it off to the backups for some extended play or if they instead opt to go ultra conservative and hold things close to the vest.
Penn State 48, Akron 16
Penn State comes out of the gate with massive expectations in front of a raucous home crowd, and proceeds to lay a first quarter egg. The offensive line isn't in sync, the defense is out of sorts, and our special teams have a miscue or two. Late in the second quarter things start to turn around with a couple late scores, but the team heads to half time up just 14-3. Then the second half happens, and the offense goes off, while the defense shuts down the Zips, and Penn State roars to a 56-10 win, allowing a garbage time TD. Starters take most of the fourth quarter off, and the backups add another couple scores.
Penn State 56, Akron 10
Penn State, good. Akron, bad. James Franklin, good. Terry Bowden, bad. Saquon Barkley, good. Akron running back whose name I refuse to take the time to look up, prooobably bad. You see the point here. Penn State is gonna roll in this one and hopefully Tommy Stevens and Miles Sanders see a lot of playing time.
Penn State 69, Akron 0
A slow start (at least offensively) wouldn't be surprising. It is, after all, the first game of the year. Look for the Penn State defense to come up with the game's first clutch play, setting up a turnover in Akron territory that leads to a touchdown on the ensuing drive, opening up the flood gates. Ideally, PSU should be up by 2-3 TD's at halftime, setting up the potential for the game to be put away for certain by late 3rd quarter, thus getting the backups plenty of meaningful snaps. When it's all said and done, Barkley should have another 100+ yard game with a pair of TD's and Trace will have tossed for a few TD's of his own. Shareef Miller will come up with a couple of sacks as he begins the process of making himself a household name to college football fans come November.
Penn State 45, Akron 10
On paper, with a 5-7 season last year, Akron looks like they'd be a walk in the park. Guys, Akron has talent and they're better than you think, which is why Penn State can't sleep in the first quarter. Zips quarterback Thomas Woodson is a true talented threat and with former Ohio State running back Warren Ball, you're looking at a solid offensive combination.
Penn State will start slow, as they usually do, in the first game of the season, make some mistakes on both sides of the ball, and struggle with first-day jitters and new schemes. I'm expecting the game to be scoreless the first quarter, and for Akron to score first, launching all of us into expletive-laced tirades at our tv screens.
By the half, the Nittany Lions' nerves will cool and we will see a pair of touchdowns that bring a sigh of relief and allow us to sit back in our seats, prop up our feet, and just enjoy the ride the rest of the game.
Trace will do his magic, Saquon will run all over the field until Penn State brings out out the second string in the third or fourth quarter. The game will end with a Penn State win.
Penn State 42, Akron 10
Dena warns that Penn State can't sleep in the first quarter. She says this because, as we know, Penn State was a sleep walking zombie for large portions of games last year.
"We're a second half team!" just isn't going to cut it this year, with National Championship hopes and fan expectations at a fever pitch. I think they know, though, that they need to put on a bit of a show for the public. The game plan will remain vanilla, as expected in the first game of the year. Still, Barkley will get it going early after a strong kick return from Miles Sanders puts the Lions in great position. I'd expect to see DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki have solid games, and also look to see a big play from Juwan Johnson to make us dream of bigger things the rest of the year.
20-7 at the end of the first half, 37-10 to finish. Most important - everyone stays upright.
Penn State 37, Akron 10
Usually, I would expect Penn State to start slow. Not this season. With the talent and experience that returns on offense, I'm expecting the Nittany Lions to start fast, scoring quickly and often. I believe the defense will look pretty good too, though, there might be more growing pains there as some of the younger guys are broken in. Regardless, I believe we'll see a dominant Penn State performance that will only add more hype to the machine.
Penn State 52, Akron 14
Even though Penn State is much much better than in past years on all sides of the ball, they sometimes are slow starters in the first game. I think this pattern continues for the first quarter, but Barkley, McSorley, and the rest of the crew pick it up in the remaining three quarters and wear down the Zips. Look for at least four running backs to get touches, and Tommy Stevens gets to play much of the second half. A good first win for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State 45, Akron 7
Penn State scores on their first possession, setting the tone for the rest of the game. The offense and special teams impress, while something about the defense raises concerns going forward. We get an idea about who will replace Chris Godwin as the lead receiver in the offense. In the second half, we get a chance to see a few of the reserves and freshmen. The hyphenated defenders show flashes, and Tommy Stevens scores a TD.
Penn State 52, Akron 17
Penn State is going to be expected to score a lot of points in this game, and rightfully so. The Lions return two of the most explosive players in the country from last year's Rose Bowl squad, and the offensive line should be better with experience. Managing expectations will be tough against an Akron defense that is poor even by MAC standards. I'm more worried about how the defense fares against an experienced quarterback in Thomas Woodson. Even if Akron scores a little, though, this one shouldn't be in doubt for long.
Penn State 52, Akron 17
Clay stole my thunder. Typical
Penn State 69, Akron 0
If 2016 hadn’t happened, I’d have had more legitimate concerns about this game. Akron hasn’t been all that bad under Terry Bowden, so I’d have believed this would not be a game the team would just stroll onto the field and roll. But 2016 happened, and the one thing that has been lacking for Penn State for the better part of two decades is now the strong point. Nittany Lions take a few series to get things figured out (no, it won’t take a full quarter, let alone a half). Akron scores because the defense also has some things to work out, but everyone is happy by the end of the game.
Penn State 56, Akron 17
(originally appearing on PennLive)
Last year, Akron was better than its sub-.500 record suggested, and the Zips entered the season coming off one of their best ever. This year, they get to start with Penn State, fresh off a surprising Rose Bowl appearance and performance in a 52-49 loss to USC. It's not an enviable position for the visiting team, as PSU also had one of the best offseasons in years.
PLAYERS ON THE SPOT: Identified as a weakness all throughout preseason coverage, the defensive end unit needs to show it won't miss starters Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels down the stretch in conference games.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF … the Zips are within one score at halftime. I doubt the Lions will have conquered their 2016 first-half woes so quickly.
PREDICTION: They may start slow, but the defending Big Ten champs will pile it on late. Saquon Barkley (pictured) will be sitting by the fourth quarter, with Trace McSorley on the bench beside him shortly after. And a Tommy Stevens-led offense will still put up double digits.
Penn State 49, Akron 17
(originally appearing in the Game Preview)
Akron isn’t a terrible team by any stretch. Head coach Terry Bowden has done a marvelous job of picking up the pieces after taking over a program in horrendous shape and has built them into a respectable MAC squad. If not for the injury bug, the Zips would have gone bowling and perhaps competed for a division title a year ago. If Penn State was fielding a team that was still strapped by sanctions, I’d even be somewhat nervous about an upset.
But this Penn State team is a different beast. There is too much talent throughout the depth chart to allow the Zips to hang in very long. As long as the defense doesn’t allow big plays early in the game, Penn State should be able to jump out to an early lead and not look back. If all goes well, the starters can get some rest and the younger guys will get some much-needed experience.
Saquon Barkley rushes for 150 yards and two touchdowns before exiting the game, allowing for a second running back to also reach the century mark. Mark Allen also gets in on the action with a long touchdown run that leaves many Zips defenders in the dust. On defense, Torrence Brown gets two sacks on the day while Koa Farmer forces a fumble that is returned for a touchdown.
Penn State 49, Akron 13