What makes this game difficult to truly get a read on is that Auburn has played two of the weakest squads in football to start the season. What kind of team do they have? That answer won’t come until Saturday night. The fact that Penn State’s secondary is playing better than they have in years and Bo Nix has historically been a significantly worse player on the road, prone to turn the ball over, would really seem to portend a Nittany Lions victory, but Auburn hasn’t had to break a sweat this year and we have no grasp of their true capabilities.
Penn State 30, Auburn 20
There has been a lot of talk this week (from both fanbases). From the SEC faithful: Auburn is used to this kind of environment, their offensive line is better than Wisconsin, and Bo Nix will carve up the Nittany Lion secondary. On the other side, people say Penn State is a step up in competition for the Tigers (SOS is 18 compared to Auburn’s 231), the Whiteout crowd will create some early havoc, and Sean Clifford should out-perform his QB counterpart.
Whom should I listen to, you might ask? I’m always nervous for big games, and this week has been no different. I think this one is nail-bitingly close, but the #LawnBoyz, Jahan Dotson, and the front seven of the Nittany Lions get it done.
Penn State 28, Auburn 24
For the life of me I just can’t nail this prediction down. Penn State has played a rather difficult schedule thus far, whereas Auburn has . . . not. Auburn won convincingly against it’s laughably easy schedule, which is what they were supposed to do, but against such meager competition, Bo Nix has appeared rather pedestrian. Is that due to the Tigers keeping as much secret as possible to fool the Lions? Or are the Tigers exactly what their ranking suggests? A good-not-great team, and one that Penn State should handle?
It FEELS like Penn State should win fairly convincingly, but the Penn State Pessimist™ in me thinks it ends up being a dog fight. Both defenses appear quite good, while both offenses have some question marks. Ultimately I like Penn State’s offense better, and I’ll predict the good guys in a fairly close game.
Penn State 31, Auburn 21
If we’re being honest, this is the type of matchup you want when you schedule a home-and-home with another Power Five opponent. Yes, it was cool playing Alabama back in 2010 and 2011, but at the same time, those were some juggernaut Alabama teams. Auburn — on the other hand — is a good, respected team, but one that’s flawed. That’s the sweet spot when it comes to home-and-home: respected but beatable.
I obviously have Penn State winning. Everyone likes to point out how Penn State is basically a .500 team in White Out games, but the vast majority of those were when Penn State was an underdog. It’s possible that Auburn stuns 110,000, but the scenario where Penn State loses as a nearly touchdown favorite — I just can’t predict that.
Penn State 26, Auburn 20
Despite what our visitors from Auburn think, we all know the White Out is one of the toughest atmospheres in all of college football for opposing teams. Any opponent who has ever played in the White Out will tell you the same. Factor in the lack of a White Out last season with Penn State’s strong start to the season generating plenty of buzz around the Nittany Lions and Beaver Stadium should be ELECTRIC on Saturday night.
Electric road atmospheres and Bo Nix have never meshed well. Nix is what he is at this point for the Tigers, Sean Clifford lite. Unless Penn State’s stout defense makes a magnitude of mistakes or the Auburn running game goes off on Saturday night it’s tough to envision the Tiger offense find much success in this game. If there would be an early turnover by Nix, which is very possible, the crowd could come unglued leading to things snowballing in a hurry on Auburn.
As for the Nittany Lion offense, the Auburn defense may be the best they face this season sans Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio State. That said, this Auburn front 7 is not as fierce as the Badger front 7 that the Nittany Lions defeated on the road to start the season. This game will likely be a bit of a rock fight, but Penn State is the more talented team and will have a huge home field advantage. In the end, despite some early anxiety, that leads to a comfortable Penn State victory.
Penn State 27, Auburn 14
This game to me, comes down to PSU already being battle-tested from winning their rock fight in Madison and laying the beatdown on a feisty defending MAC champion that returned all of their key starters, whereas Auburn has beat up on a bottom-feeding MAC squad and an FCS program that hasn’t posted a winning record since 2015. Tank Bigsby will get his share of yards on the ground, but this PSU defense won’t allow Auburn to win the game solely based on him and will make Bo Nix have to make plays. Given Bo’s shaky track record on the road against ranked opponents (in 2019 when crowds were last a factor, he threw 3 TD’s and 4 INT’s combined against three ranked road opponents), I like PSU’s chances to get some pressure on him and either get themselves a strip-sack or an interception that gives the offense a short field TD drive. Offensively, I trust Mike Yurcich will have a plan in place to counter-attack Auburn’s defensive strengths and will adjust accordingly when things aren’t working. Look for this to be a close one throughout but I trust PSU to come up with more clutch plays on both sides of the ball and ultimately prevail.
Penn State 27, Auburn 20
You can’t take too much from Auburn’s two blowout wins against some of the worst teams in both FBS and FCS. What you can take, however, is the knowledge that like Penn State, Auburn returns plenty of experience to a team that probably didn’t see its season go the way they wanted last year. That means they’ll come with plenty of motivation, looking to make a statement early.
Unfortunately for Auburn, Penn State has played a challenging game already, and is prepared for anything the Tigers might throw their way.
Penn State 56, Auburn 17
Yes, Auburn has played a hilariously bad schedule through two weeks. And yes. Bo Nix has been nothing short of awful on the road in his career. But I tend to think this Auburn team is closer to 2019’s 9-4 team than last year’s 6-5 team. That being said, that 9-4 team was far from a world beater and is one I think the current PSU squad should beat. Expect the Nittany Lions to force at least one turnover and for at least one big play in the run game. Give my Penn State in a close one.
Penn State 27, Auburn 21
(originally appearing in the Game Preview)
We’ve learned quite a bit about the Nittany Lions in the first two weeks. The same can’t be said about Auburn though. They may be primed for a successful season after dominating on both sides of the ball. They may also just be overmatching inferior opponents with things shifting dramatically once the competition improves. It’s just too difficult to get a feel for the Tigers at this point.
I do see the similarities in the teams that will make for an intriguing, competitive match-up under the lights. Both defenses will play at a high level, causing lulls at times as the teams battle for field position with either offense being able to go the length and capitalize. This game will come down to big plays and turnovers, as well as which team is able to make plays when it matters most. If that is indeed the case, I like Penn State’s big play ability and tenacity on defense to outlast the Tigers best effort on Saturday night.
KeAndre Lambert-Smith has his best day as a Nittany Lion yet, with 90 receiving yards and a score, while Brenton Strange comes up with a score in the red zone as well. Noah Cain has a big night, with 100 all-purpose yards and a score, as well as many crucial third conversions throughout the game.
On defense, Ellis Brooks shines in the spotlight again with a team-high 11 tackles and a forced fumble, Jesse Luketa gets a sack and three TFLs, while Arnold Ebiketie forces a poor throw by Bo Nix that is picked off by Ji’Ayir Brown to seal the deal.
Penn State 24, Auburn 17