Pat Narduzzi has spent several years writing checks with his mouth that are about to come due. He's built a reputation of incessant negative recruiting and then crying like a petulant child after every loss. Now, he's trying to build some imaginary narrative that the Panthers were somehow underdogs last year and he's about to get dragged up and down the field on Saturday, all while softening Pitt up for yet another disemboweling next week against Oklahoma State.
Penn State 74, Pitt 17
I'm not sure there's enough points in the world that would be satisfying here. Penn State is really, really good this year. Pitt is really, really "meh." Penn State scores a lot of points, Pitt gives up a lot of points. Penn State has Saquon Barkley, Pitt does not have Jordan Whitehead. This is gonna be dope, Penn State is gonna roll, let's all have some fun.
Penn State 69, Pitt 0
Two words: Wheel Routes.
Okay, fine, I'll elaborate further: Pitt's defense got burned repeatedly by the wheel route last weekend against Youngstown State. Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley are one of, if not the best wheel route tandem in America right now, which spells trouble for the Panthers. Really though, it's the entire Pitt defense that has Joe Moorhead licking his chops, especially a secondary decimated by graduation and suspensions (think Pat Narduzzi wouldn't love to have Jordan Whitehead available?). While they have a few good skill players on offense (Qadree Ollison at tailback and Jester Weah and Quadree Henderson at receiver), their quarterback, Max Browne has been rather pedestrian (especially in comparison to his predecessor, Nate Peterman). If I'm Brent Pry, I'm looking to shut down the run and force Browne to beat my team with his arm while facing pressure from a front four led by Shareef Miller and his 90% healthy ankle. I don't think Browne is up to the task, and thus I think PSU rolls in this one.
Penn State 48, Pitt 14
I am going to be drinking gallons of Pitt tears on Saturday. I hope they are as sweet and delicious as I've dreamed about.
Penn State 55, Pitt 17
Oh boy. This is gonna be fun. Pitt is not incompetent on offense, though certainly not as good as last year. I'd wager that our defense is better than the 2016 unit, which means Penn State gains the advantage over last year's game. Our offense was much better late in 2016 than it was in week 2, and it looks like the 2017 edition of the offense is better still. Pitt's defense has gotten worse from last year as well, especially with a handful of players suspended or injured.
Remember last year, when Pitt came out riding a wave of emotion and energy and raced to 14-0, and then 28-7 leads? Yeah, I'm fully expecting the reverse of that, only I don't think Pitt has the ability to attempt a comeback like PSU did.
In sum: we're better on both sides of the ball than we were last year, while Pitt is worse. Penn State gets out to a fast, emotional start, but doesn't let Pitt get back into the game, pummeling the Panthers for 60 minutes.
Penn State 49, Pitt 14
Youngstown State was able to complete some deep passes against Pitt, and Penn State is one of the best deep-throwing teams in the country. That should spell bad news for Pitt in a game that Nittany Lions fans have been waiting almost a year for. Something tells me this one won't be as easy as we're all hoping, but maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.
Penn State 38, Pitt 14
Pitt will be desperate not to get shut out in this one. Penn State should be able to scheme to avoid the threat of a Quadree Henderson return for a TD, but he breaks a long one on an end-around in the first half. At that point Brent Pry has someone (Lamont Wade?) shadow Henderson to shut down that play for the remainder of the game. On the other side of the ball, Moorhead showcases all of the bells and whistles of his offense. McSorley picks apart Pitt's defense through the air and on the ground, and by the end of the game no one wants to tackle Saquon because he's running mad. Adding insult to injury, the second-string offense gets more playing time this week than they did against Akron.
Penn State 62, Pitt 7
Pitt won't drop an egg, as we want, but it's a blowout and payback for last year. We will start slow in the first quarter then be up by several scores at the half. By the end, Saquon will have run for 3 TDs and over 100 yards.
Penn State 35, Pitt 10
I think this is closer than it should be simply because of the rivalry. Penn State doesn't score on their first two possessions, but eventually finds their rhythm, and pours it on. Meanwhile, Pitt gives a valiant effort, but falls sharply away in the second half.
Penn State 42, Pitt 14
Remember the first scene of season seven of Game of Thrones? Well quick reminder. Arya Stark pretends to be Walder Frey, the man that engineered the red wedding which killed her mother and brother. Arya then poisons the entire house Frey, rips off her Walder face, and tells the little girl that's living a line that will live in the lore of television history:
"When people ask what happened here, Tell them the North Remembers."
Bad news Narduzzi, the North remembers.
Penn State 69
I'm interested to see how this game goes for us defensively. I thought our linebackers were not so hot vs. Akron. Cabinda missed a bunch of tackles, neither Bowen nor Farmer nor Miller are physical, point-of-attack guys. Cam Brown looked really good. Brandon Smith is a traditional LB, and very serviceable. But the other 4, plus Jake Cooper - not good. And we get a big boy pads squad this week.
Akron's O-line was so horrible they gave me flashbacks to 2014 and 2015. Just bottom of the barrel suckage. LG and OC shouldn't have been allowed to fly home. So our DL whipped them badly all game - Akron couldn't handle stunts or slants - and covered up some iffy LB play. Doubtful that happens this week, which adds to the suspense.
Not that it really matters a ton, as it doesn't appear Pitt can stop a nose bleed, and our offense is...whew. They're good. But, like you, I'm hoping for a 2,000 - 0 type of humiliating ass kicking, rather than a 41-30 shoot out.
All that is off the record. Officially licensed prognostication below, in a slightly different format, because change is good:
Stock Up: Joe Moorhead, Trace McSorley running, Beaver Stadium attendance, mocking Pat Narduzzi, contrived gamesmanship, offensive huddles, big boy pants
Stock Down: sportsmanship, opinions about what constitutes an according to Hoyle rivalry, no huddle spread, spacebackers, loving neighbor as self
Prediction: PSU by 17
As much as no one here will really like to admit it, Pitt is a better team than Akron. It is not, however, a better team than it was last year. Penn State, on the other hand, definitively is.
Quadree Henderson is a nightmare that will have to be contained, and I'm still not convinced that the defense is capable of simply shutting down tall, strong-armed quarterbacks, particularly those from Southern California. Figure a touchdown each for Henderson and Browne. Maybe they'll even get them both in the first ten minutes of the game. Henderson probably gets his on an end-around that would enrage me if it were called by our offense.
But Trace McSorley is still the Wizard from Camelot (TM Gus Johnson), and Saquon Barkley will do Heisman-esque things. He certainly has enough motivation to break into the open field regularly after last year's loss masked a 5 touchdown performance. Maybe the two combine for something like 6 touchdowns, with Tyler Davis adding two field goals?
Penn State 48, Pitt 14
You’re always told to throw away the record books when rivals play, and, for as much trash as we the fans have talked over the past six years (when the series was first announced), the team itself is one behind right now. That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that the Vegas line as of today is Pitt +22. If we recall to a week ago, Akron’s line was +30. So yes, Adam, Pitt is better than Akron. But not that much better, according to the folks making billions of dollars off our foolishness.
Penn State 56, Pitt 17
(originally appearing on PennLive)
This is supposed to be a rivalry game, but it's circled on many a calendar for one reason: it's the game that ostensibly kept Penn State out of the College Football Playoff last year. That's not going to happen again as the Nittany Lions have another year of Joe Moorhead's offense under their belts, are brimming with confidence and playing the game in Happy Valley. Pitt may look out to stop Saquon Barkley, but that'll open up Trace McSorley and the RPO like it did last week - and the Panthers don't have James Conner to keep them in the game. Max Browne may have been a five-star recruit, but this is another level. He's not Sam Darnold, and PSU is better this season.
PLAYERS ON THE SPOT: Marcus Allen and Nick Scott. Last year's biggest threat in the Pitt game was Quadree Henderson, and this year should be the same. Look for Allen to take care of him when he can down the field, and Scott will be a force on returns. Neutralizing Henderson will be the key to keeping the Panthers' score low.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF … The Lions show that last week's defense was no fluke. Last season they had to outscore teams down the stretch, which is where loss No. 3 came in. This year, the defense is much improved and deeper. The rotation will continue this week.
PREDICTION: James Franklin believes in revenge, even if he doesn't say so, as evidenced by last year's Michigan State game. This is one of two he's had circled on his calendar since December, and it will show. Penn State 48, Pitt 14 (see what I did there).
Penn State 48, Pitt 14
(originally appearing in the Game Preview)
There is no doubt Pitt will be coming off a great week of practice, ready to give the Nittany Lions their best shot and notch another victory in the second installment of this revitalized rivalry. They will come out playing tough, and keep Penn State at bay for most of the first half. However, the floodgates will open in the second half as the Nittany Lions high-powered offense really gets things going.
Saquon Barkley keeps his Heisman campaign going strong by rushing for 185 yards, and adding another 60 through the air, with three touchdowns on the afternoon. Juwan Johnson grabs his first career touchdown reception, with Mike Gesicki adding another. Jason Cabinda leads the way on defense with a 15-tackle performance, while Curtis Cothran notches 3.5 tackles for loss, with Christian Campbell contributing a second half interception that proves to be the beginning of the end for the Panthers.
Penn State 42, Pitt 17