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Opponent Snapshot: Northwestern

Penn State will open up the home portion of their conference schedule by welcoming the Northwestern Wildcats to town

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Quick 2021 Recap

The 2021 season was a poor one for Pat Fitzgerald and his Northwestern Wildcats. After capturing two of the previous three Big Ten West titles, the Wildcats struggled to a 3-9 record in one of the worst seasons of the Fitzgerald Era. They averaged just 16.6 points per game, had a turnover differential of -6, and hit just 6 of 13 field goal attempts. Even the patent strong Fitzgerald defense was not there. Outside of holding Indiana State and Ohio to 6 points each, the Wildcats allowed 33.6 points per game. Northwestern was simply one of the worst teams in the Big Ten in 2021. To make things even worse they lost All-American safety Brandon Joseph to Notre Dame in the transfer portal.

Offensive Player To Watch: OT Peter Skoronski

Not very often will a team’s offensive player to watch be an offensive tackle, but that is very on brand for the Big Ten West. Northwestern lacks playmakers on offense, but Sokornski is one of the best offensive linemen in the country. Skoronski is well on his way to being a first round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and might be the best offensive linemen the Nittany Lion defensive line plays against all season.

Defensive Player To Watch: EDGE Adetomiwa Adebawore

Defensive end Adetomiwa Adebawore is one of the best defensive players in the Big Ten that no one talks about. The past two seasons he has 7.5 sacks, 14.5 tackles for a loss, 5 pass breakups, 2 forced fumbles and an interception. Adebawore is garnering early projections as going in the top 3 rounds of next spring’s NFL Draft. Caedan Wallace and Old Fashanu could have their hands full with Adebawore.

Northwestern Wins If

The Wildcats will have to muck this game up and make it ugly to win. Northwestern will need to slow the pace, control the clock, prevent explosive plays from Penn State’s offense, and likely force a turnvoer or two in order to pull the upset. Even if the Wildcat defense bounces back, which could easily happen under the coaching of Fitzgerald, you would be hard pressed to find reasons for optimism about their offense.

Penn State Wins If

As long as the Nittany Lions take care of the ball and do not get in their own way they should be just fine. While, yes, any team coached by Pat Fitzgerald should never be taken lightly, it’s hard to envision the Wildcats having the offensive ability to come into Beaver Stadium and score enough points to defeat the Nittany Lions. Even if the Wildcat defense can styme the Penn State offense, someone likely breaks a big play or two to help Penn State put the game away.