This game should be fun, but difficult to glean anything from it. The weather may not be ideal and it’s an opener, so you’ll likely see a limited playbook. Given their druthers, I imagine the staff would like to hold back as much as they can until the end of September. That being said, with the new redshirt rules, you’ll have the opportunity to see some faces take the field earlier than you would have in the past.
Penn State 40, Appalachian State 17
IT’S GAME TIME Y’ALL.
I really like App State as the week one game. It’s a G5 team, but one that closely resembles a good number of teams Penn State plays later in the year - run-first offense and a stout defense. I consider them Wisconsin Lite, though Pitt, Iowa, and Michigan all fit the same bill. Overall, I think the game is a bit uncomfortable well into the third quarter. The good guys will be leading, but midway through the third it’ll be something like 21-14. Sooner or later, though, the talent gap allows Penn State to pull away, and get the backups some time in the fourth.
Penn State 42, Appalachian State 21
I’ve been on a crusade this offseason saying that while App State is experiencing quite a bit of turnover, that Scott Satterfield and the Mountaineers are going to test Penn State on September 1. Of course, I still have the Nittany Lions winning, but I think a youthful Penn State defense has a so-so day against a tough App State rushing attack.
Penn State 34, Appalachian State 20
The Mountaineers are a talented team and are among the best G5 programs. Penn State is obviously talented themselves but are experiencing a ton of turnover on the defensive side of the ball. That being said one of the biggest losses I think is for App State who will be without defensive coordinator Nate Woody, who moved onto Georgia Tech this past offseason.
In terms of the game, I think Trace McSorley and Penn State’s youth shine. App State will put up points but Penn State just has too much for the Mountaineers to stop themselves.
Penn State 45, Appalachian State 21
Here’s the thing.
All of my cohorts are (partly) correct. Appalachian State is a strong G5 program with good leadership and solid talent.
In addition, the Nittany Lions come into week one with a lot of turnover and a ton of players being asked to step into more formidable roles.
That being said, it won’t matter.
This game may be close for a quarter or two because many week one games are, but it won’t be close for much longer than that. This is an opportunity for Penn State to show fans what great recruiting does for a program. Under James Franklin, Penn State no longer rebuilds, it merely reloads.
Miles Sanders could well end the year a candidate for the Doak Walker Award. KJ Hamler is the quickest wideout Penn State has had since Moo Moo Smith (except he can catch and Ricky Rahne knows how to use him). Micah Parsons is the best true freshman Penn State has had on the defensive side of the ball in nearly two decades, and the Nittany Lions still have a glut of talent in the secondary.
Trace McSorley is gonna do his thing. John Reid is gonna snag a pick, and Penn State is going to cover late thanks to Tommy Stevens.
Penn State 45, Appalachian State 17
Normally I would be at least a little concerned about the Mountaineers, no matter their history or current talent, simply because Penn State has taken a while to get started in each season opener. However, this year’s team is too talented on offense to have App State be competitive longer than 15 minutes. The Mountaineer offense may even score first, but Miles Sanders, Trace McSorley, and the rest of the offense pours it on, especially in quarters two through four.
Penn State 42, Appalachian State 17
I’m not so worried about this game since learning about how much Appalachian State has to replace on offense, including at quarterback. However, the Mountaineers appear solid on defense and won’t let Trace McSorley and company to have their way all the time.
Penn State 31, Appalachian State 14
App State’s an interesting early season opponent, if only because of the “giant killer” reputation it has managed to create since 2007. The FCS-to-FBS transition was virtually seamless, which is certainly impressive. They are well coached and have high standards. There’s a lot to like about them.
The talent differential here is overwhelming. I think Trace and crew get things off to a quick start and then settle into a bit of a lull. I think the Mountaineers will be able to take advantage of PSU’s inexperience at defensive tackle and linebacker early, with Jalin Moore getting loose for an impressive touchdown run. This feels like a game where the score is 20-10 State at the half, meaning that everyone’s nervous because they’re within striking distance.
The second half is where the talent and depth start to show. App State tacks on one more, but McSorley gives way to Tommy Stevens and perhaps even Sean Clifford by the fourth quarter.
Penn State 41, Appalachian State 17
Ladies and gentlemen, our long national nightmare is over. Penn State football is back!
Appalachian State may be a Sun Belt Conference team, but do not take them lightly. They’re coming off a 9-4 season that included a bowl victory and are 36-9 in their last 45 games. Also, the Mountaineers will not be intimidated walking into Beaver Stadium as the past three seasons have included trips to Clemson, Tennessee, and Georgia.
Penn State’s biggest question mark entering the season is the interior of their defense and stopping the run. App State will test this early and often on Saturday afternoon as the Mountaineers love to run the football. PSU’s inexperience at DT and LB will allow App State to hang around in this one, but, ultimately, the Nittany Lions have far too much offensive firepower and win it going away.
Penn State 42, Appalachian State 21
App State will be a good opener for Penn State in the sense that they won’t be able to win this one just going through the motions (although, I’m pretty damned sure this coaching staff won’t allow that to happen). I can see their defense making things difficult at times for the offense, but they ultimately won’t be able to slow down the well-oiled machine led by its world-renowned conductor Trace McSorley. From what I understand, Jalin Moore, their running back is a stud, which could pose some problems for a shaky defensive tackle and linebacking corps. Thankfully, App State’s longtime starter at QB has graduated, so they will probably rely more heavily on pounding it with Moore to get things going offensively. I can see App State keeping within striking distance for quite a while, but PSU eventually puts this out of reach in the late 3rd/early 4th quarter.
Penn State 34, Appalachian State 17
The Lions are a massive favorite in their season opener against App State, but as any Michigan fan of over a decade will tell you, it’s never good to underestimate the Mountaineers when they come to your home turf. The defending Sun Belt champs aren’t intimidated by a big venue against a top-10 opponent. Even last year, they played Georgia to kick off the season. They’re well-coached, and they’ve (so far) successfully navigated a tough transition from FCS to the big leagues.
PLAYER(S) ON THE SPOT: The entire linebacking corps. The Mountaineers are breaking in a new quarterback, so they’ll likely rely on returning running back Jalin Moore to carry a large load of the offense in a hostile location. With the last minute re-departure of Manny Bowen, Penn State’s defense is going to have even less depth in the middle for a defense looking to replace two of three starters. True freshmen Micah Parsons and Jesse Luketa will look to make an impact right away. Junior Cam Brown, alongside Koa Farmer, will be shouldering much of the leadership role void left by the departing Jason Cabinda. Which player plays at which position of this group will be interesting to see.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF … The game is closer than folks expect, with App State within two scores to start the fourth. The final score may not reflect how close the game feels, either, with Trace McSorley playing into the fourth quarter.
PREDICTION: There’s nothing in the history of James Franklin at PSU that indicates his teams have an issue with looking forward, but that doesn’t mean fans won’t. I expect many Pitt fans (er, Appalachian State 2.0 fans?) will see a close score in the Lions’ first outing and think this means next week will be a breeze for the home team. They’d be wrong.
Penn State 38, Appalachian State 24
Let me start by saying that if this game were being played between 2013-2015, I would be awfully nervous. Appalachian State is a better program than most realize, and isn’t an automatic victory like a home opener against a Kent State or Georgia State. The Mountaineers are replacing plenty of talent from last season, but don’t be shocked if they are able to hang with the Nittany Lions for some time.
That’s basically what I’m expecting from this game. Appalachian State makes some plays and keeps it close for the first half, before Penn State breaks things open and creates some breathing room in the third quarter. This could be a beneficial outcome for the Nittany Lions should things work out this way, as it allows for the opportunity to make the inevitable adjustments that will be necessary with so many new faces getting acclimated to their new roles.
Miles Sanders runs angry after answering 43,852 questions about replacing Saquon Barkley, hitting the 100-yard mark on the ground with two touchdowns. McSorley looks like his usual self, spreading the ball out and getting new receivers Mac Hippenhamer, KJ Hamler and Jahan Dotson involved with the offense. Hippenhamer surprises by leading the team in receptions for the afternoon, and Hamler shows off that speed on a 70-yard touchdown strike.
On defense, Yetur Gross-Matos gets off to a hot start with a two-sack performance, while Amani Oruwariye picks off a pass and Koa Farmer gets a key strip-sack to help the Nittany Lions pull away for good.
Penn State 45, Appalachian State 21