Penn State sleep walked through the win over Central Michigan, which is exactly what I expected. Once again the depth on the Lion’s roster was able to see the field, and Penn State emerged from September undefeated and ranked in the top 15. From here, I expect the Lions to dial in again. Northwestern may be worse than CMU, but I don’t expect many more sleep walk games from PSU. They used September to iron out some kinks on both sides of the ball, get the entire roster valuable experience, and from here they’re going to buckle in and begin the real grind of the season.
As I said, Northwestern is likely worse than CMU, and is easily one of the two worst teams in the conference, slugging it out with Nebraska for that title. I expect Penn State to jump out to an early lead, but unlike last week, they won’t relent in the second quarter. PSU is up by 3 scores at the half, and the starters play one series in the third quarter before the backups come in to mop things up before the team heads to the bye week.
Penn State 49, Northwestern 14
Back in 2017, Penn State was highly touted and went into Evanston and methodically pulled away for a relatively pain free 31-7 win against the Wildcats. It was depth and athleticism that slowly wore down Northwestern. A year ago, Penn State was 4-0 when they played Indiana at home and slowly and methodically pulled away for a 31-0 win.
See where I’m going with this? The 2021 comparisons continue as Penn State improves to 5-0. But, I’m not expecting a ton of fireworks. I think Northwestern will have a solid plan to slow explosive plays. But athleticism and depth - James mentioned that a whole lot this week in his press conference - win out in the end.
Penn State 34, Northwestern 10
This won’t be your typical “closer than it should be” Northwestern game, especially after the way the Nittany Lions struggled against Central Michigan. Expect the running backs to again put on a show and the secondary to force at least one turnover.
Penn State 38, Northwestern 10
While I still feel better about the offense than I did entering the season, I certainly feel worse about the offense after last week. Sean Clifford still leaves a lot to be desired and will probably make a mistake or two that keeps points off the board this week, just as was the case last week. It will be a test for the offense as they likely face a defense that will be keying on the run for a second week in a row. Let’s see how the offensive line and running backs respond.
That said, Northwestern stinks. Especially their offense, and Penn State’s defense is very good. Chop Robinson, Adisa Isaac, Dani Dennis-Sutton, Hakeem Beamon, etc. spend the day harassing Ryan Helinski and stifling running back Evan Hull. Nittany Lions roll into the bye week at 5-0.
Penn State 34, Northwestern 14
(Originally appearing in the Game Preview)
You can find quality talent throughout the Central Michigan roster, as the team should compete for another MAC title after winning nine games a year ago. However, the defense has been porous, and the offense just won’t have the horsepower to hang with Penn State for long.
Penn State will likely continue to emphasize its running game, as we’ve seen it come alive with the improvement of the offensive line and additions of Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen in the backfield.
Clifford finds Brenton Strange and Parker Washington in the end zone, while Kaytron Allen and Nicholas Singleton each contribute touchdowns as well. On defense, P.J. Mustipher leads the team with 3.5 TFLs, while Joey Porter Jr. and Ji’Ayir Brown each get an interception.
Hopefully, we witness the best-case scenario - Penn State jumps to an early lead, clears the benches in the second half, and leaves the game with everyone in full health as the first month of the season comes to a close.
Penn State 49, Central Michigan 13
(Originally appearing in the B1G Preview and Degenerate Challenge)
The last time Penn State was this big a favorite at home against a Big Ten opponent, well, you know what happened no need to rehash. Luckily for the Nittany Lions, this Northwestern squad is incredibly more dreadful than that other team from the same state. But, if you believe in superstition, look no further than Northwestern’s 1-0 Big Ten record amidst a 1-3 start to the season to know what you need to know about the Wildcats. The two times Northwestern won the division, they did so without beating a single non-conference opponent.
Penn State 56, Northwestern 17