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No. 6 Penn State vs. UMASS: Game Preview

The Nittany Lions return from the bye week for its final non-conference game of the season.

Delaware v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The Nittany Lions look to remain unbeaten in their final non-conference game of the season with something big on the horizon...

No. 6 Penn State (5-0, 3-0) vs. UMASS (1-6)

Kickoff: Noon, Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The Betting Line: Penn State -42.5 (Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.)

TV: B1G Network, 3:30 PM - Mark Followill (play-by-play), Jake Butt (analyst), Brooke Fletcher (sideline)

Weather: A cool and very wet day, with showers throughout the day resulting in about a half-inch of rain. The high for the day is 52 degrees with winds about 5-10 mph.

COACHES:

James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 83-36, 10th Year

OVERALL RECORD: 107-51, 13th Year

VS. UMASS: 3-0

Don Brown:

UMASS RECORD: 2-17, 2nd Year

OVERALL RECORD: 97-62, 13th Year

VS. PENN STATE: First Meeting

FUN FACTS

UMASS OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE

Taisun Phommachanh has taken the quarterback job in his first season at UMASS after three seasons at Clemson, before spending last year at Georgia Tech. Phommachanh has played well the last two weeks, completing 49 of 69 attempts for 541 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked six times in that span which accounted for -47 rushing yards, but he is a capable rusher as shown by his 96-yard rushing performance in the week one victory over New Mexico State.

Phommachanh has some solid options on the perimeter with three receivers who have 20 or more catches on the season. Anthony Simpson leads the way with 33 receptions, and has had three 100+ yard receiving yards in three of the last four weeks, including a huge game against Toledo with seven catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.

UMASS relies almost exclusively on running back Kay’Ron Lynch-Adams in the ground game, who is averaging nearly 100 rushing yards per game and an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. The offensive line is giving up 2.43 sacks per game, and allowed four against Toledo last week. Unless Phommachanh is able to get the ball out of his hands rather quickly, Penn State’s relentless pass rush should be able to top that number, as they enter the game second in the nation in sacks.

PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. UMASS DEFENSE

The biggest name to know on the UMASS defense is Billy Wooden. Similar to Illinois’ Jer’Zhan Newton, Wooden is an incredibly athletic defensive tackle who regularly disrupts plays and causes fits for the interior line. Wooden leads the team with 4.5 sacks, 8 TFLs, and has forced two fumbles that he also recovered. He is the leader of the defense in his fifth year, and should be playing on Sundays at this time next year.

Outside of Wooden, the UMASS defense hasn’t found much success. They rank near the bottom of the nation in just about every category except for pass defense, where they come in at #74. Overall, they are allowing 452.1 yards and just under 40 points per game.

The biggest question marks surrounding Penn State’s offense are if another receiver can step into a more reliable role outside of KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Trey Wallace, who has been unavailable the last several weeks with an injury. The other is if Penn State’s lack of explosive plays are by design, or just the inability to create them. It’s been a regular topic of conversation during the bye week, so I’ll just leave my thoughts here.

We probably won’t get an answer for either this week. For one, this looks like another game that will be played in heavy rain that could limit the offensive side of the ball. Secondly, UMASS is likely going to scheme to take away the big play. The Nittany Lions have been facing this approach all season, and have been able to methodically drive down the field and get points while eating up clock. While there have been few plays that make a splash on the highlight reels, the end result is averaging more than 40 points per game while leading the nation in time of possession.

SPECIAL TEAMS

UMASS kicker Cameron Carson has connected on 30 of 44 field goal attempts in his five seasons, with a career long of 49 yards. He has made all 33 extra point attempts during the past two seasons. Punter CJ Kolodziey is averaging 42.5 yards per attempt and has had six of 29 attempts downed inside the 20.

PREDICTION

Penn State-45, UMASS-7

There are three keys to this game: win, get the starters off the field relatively early, and no injuries. Outside of that, there is too much of a talent disparity to expect a competitive game unless Penn State somehow completely falls apart. We’ve seen enough of this team to know they have a business-like ‘1-0’ approach that they take very seriously.

Penn State moves to 6-0, and then things get interesting...