Penn State returns home for some #MACtion as they look to remain undefeated.
(13)Penn State (2-0) vs. Kent State (1-1)
Kickoff: Noon, Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
The Betting Line: Penn State -35
TV: FS1- Tim Brando (play-by-play), Spencer Tillman (analyst), Holly Sanders (sideline)
Weather: Currently it looks like a pleasant afternoon with temps in the mid-70s, but it could become soggy depending on the direction of Florence late in the week.
PENN STATE RECORD: 38-17, 5th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 62-32, 7th Year
VS. KENT STATE: 1-0
KENT RECORD: 1-1, 1st Year
OVERALL RECORD: Same
VS. PENN STATE: First Meeting
NOW THE FUN PART....
KENT STATE OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE
You haven’t been able to say this in some time, but the Flashes have some firepower on offense. Kent State is led by Woody Barrett, an Auburn transfer who looks to be the program’s best quarterback since Josh Cribbs. While he needs to improve on protecting the ball, Barrett has outstanding athleticism and playmaking abilities. Through his first two games, Barrett has connected on 41 of 68 passes for 426 yards and three touchdowns and three interceptions. He can also hurt a defense with his legs, and ran for 117 yards and a touchdown in the season opener at Illinois. At 6-2 and 236 lbs., he’s tough to bring down thanks to his pocket presence and quickness.
Possession receiver Mike Carrigan is Barrett’s most frequent target, although it’s typically on short passes with Carrigan averaging just 5.9 yards per catch. He also looks to running back-receiver hybrid Raekwon Jones. Barrett does a nice job of spreading the ball around, connecting with 11 different receivers for the Flashes through the first two weeks.
Justin Rankin is the primary ballcarrier for the Flashes, and has a broad skillset and is coming off a monster game against Howard where he rushed for 147 yards on just 12 carries. He can also be used out of the backfield, and is averaging 9.3 yards per reception on his three catches of the season. Jo-El Shaw, a big-bodied running back and high school teammate of Miles Sanders, is also coming off a 100-plus yard effort.
Brent Pry continues to make tweaks to a Penn State defense tasked with replacing nine starters from 2017, and this will be another opportunity to put them into the best position possible heading into conference play. The defensive line looked completely different with Kevin Givens back in the lineup, and the deep rotation completely wore down Pitt’s offensive line in the second half.
Penn State’s linebacker situation is certainly worth watching this week. While Jan Johnson and Koa Farmer remain starters at linebacker, true freshmen Jesse Luketa and Micah Parsons have been seeing plenty of action, and could ultimately work their way on to the first time at some point this season.
In the secondary, keep an eye out for John Reid and Tariq Castro-Fields. Reid sat out last week’s game at Pitt as he attempts to return to form following a knee injury that forced him out of action a year ago. Castro-Fields, a true sophomore, is continuing to improve and looks to develop into a special player.
PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. KENT STATE DEFENSE
After years of speculation and hoping, Penn State’s offensive line finally looked like....wait for it....a STRENGTH against Pitt. We will see if this trend continues on Saturday as the O-Line looks to jell and find its way before facing off with some of the best defensive lines in the nation later in the season. Will Fries is now listed as the full-time starter at right tackle, where he bookends Ryan Bates, one of the best tackles in the nation.
One major surprise so far this season is the emergence of KJ Hamler, while Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins have struggled with drops and have not played a large part of the passing attack as expected. Hamler is proving to be an absolute star-in-the-making, leading the team in receiving yards, touchdown catches and yards per reception. He’s a flat-out playmaker, and look for Ricky Rahne to continue to find ways to get the ball in the hands of the lightning-fast redshirt freshman.
McSorley has been looking to get the new faces at tight end more involved, with Danny Dalton, Jonathan Holland and true freshman Pat Freiermuth all proving to be reliable targets thus far.
This could be the second consecutive week of playing in sloppy conditions, so the aerial attack may not be as crisp as we’ve come to expect from an offense led by Heisman candidate Trace McSorley. Either way, it should be another big day for Miles Sanders, who is coming off his first 100-yard plus rushing effort, with many more likely on the way.
Kent State has an experienced defense that will look to slow down the Nittany Lions. Senior linebacker Matt Bahr, who is a Wuerffel Trophy nominee along with McSorley, leads the team in tackles with 18, along with 1.5 TFLs and a forced fumble. Senior Theo Eboigbe is dangerous off the edge, and has two sacks with a forced fumble. Junior Jamal Parker is a physical corner who has no problem stepping up in run support, playing much larger than his 5-8, 177 lb. frame.
Kent State has a freshman kicker in Matthew Trickett who has connected on his first two field goal attempts, from 27 and 34 yards. He’s also 10 of 10 on extra points. Punter Grant Urenovitch is averaging just 34.1 yards per punt, but had a 58-yard punt in week one.
Penn State’s own freshman kicker Jake Pinegar is seven-of-seven on extra points, and one of two on field goals- although the miss came in sloppy conditions during the Pitt game.
After two games, Kent State has little to offer in the return game. On the other hand, Penn State may have the most dangerous return game in the nation. Both KJ Hamler and DeAndre Thompkins are a threat to score with each return, as Thompkins proved again with a 39-yard touchdown to seal the game against Pitt on Saturday.
Penn State-56, Kent State-10
Kent State has the youngest coach in the nation, led by 31-year old Sean Lewis. It’s only been two games, but he seems to have the Flashes on the right track, which is not easy considering just how historically awful the Kent State program has been — the Flashes have never won a bowl game, and just have two appearances in its long history. Kent State nearly pulled off an upset of Illinois in week one, and then followed it up with a 54-14 beatdown of Howard. While it’s easy to say “it’s only Howard,” Kent State is a program that regularly fails to measure up against the bottom of the MAC, as well as the likes of Youngstown State and other FCS foes.
With that being said, if this game remains close into the half, something has gone terribly wrong for the Nittany Lions. This is the only nonconference game where they should easily outclass the team on the other side of the field.
KJ Hamler continues his streak by catching a touchdown for the third consecutive week, while Pat Freiermuth gets his first career touchdown catch. Miles Sanders racks up 130 rushing yards and a touchdown of his own, while Mark Allen finds the end zone twice- once on the ground and once through the air.
On defense, Shaka Toney continues his rise with a two-sack performance, Cam Brown contributes a ten-tackle performance and Tariq Castro Fields picks off a pass to help set up an early score.