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No. 7 Penn State vs. West Virginia: Game Preview

An old foe returns to kick off the highly anticipated 2023 season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Idaho at Penn State Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Penn State looks to pick up where they left off in Pasadena as they welcome an old-school rival back to Beaver Stadium.

(#7)Penn State (0-0) vs. West Virginia (0-0)

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA

The Betting Line: Penn State +20.5 (Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.)

TV: NBC/Peacock, 7:30 p.m. - Noah Eagle (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst), Kathryn Tappen (sideline)

Weather: A warm and sunny day with a high of 80, cooling to to 60s after nightfall. No rain is expected.


James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 78-36, 10th Year

OVERALL RECORD: 102-51, 13th Year


Neal Brown:


OVERALL RECORD: 57-41, 9th Year



Penn State leads the all-time series 48-9-2...this is the first meeting between the former rivals since 1992, the last season prior to Penn State joining the Big Ten...Penn State will be opening its 137th season of football...this will be the first non-Big Ten season opener for Penn State since 2019, as Penn State opened the season with Indiana in 2020, Wisconsin in 2021 and Purdue in 2022...West Virginia’s three non-conference opponents are all from Pennsylvania, as the Mountaineers will also face Duquesne and Pitt in the coming weeks.


The strength of the Mountaineers offense will once again be the offensive line after returning all five starters from the team’s best position group in 2022. Fortunately, Penn State boasts perhaps the nation’s best defensive end room who should be up for the challenge. This could be a good test for the defensive tackle group who are short on experience and size, but have the athleticism to pose problems. Keep an eye out for Jordan van den Berg, who should see time in the rotation and has earned praise for being a disruptive presence throughout the summer.

Garrett Greene is set to take over as QB1 after serving as the team’s backup last fall. He’ll need some polish after completing 55.1% of his passes with five touchdowns and three interceptions. Greene can make plays with his legs though, and can easily turn a broken play into a big gain if not contained.

Greene’s top target looks to be NC State transfer Devin Carter, who if you recall, committed to Penn State the night of the Rose Bowl before ultimately deciding to head to Morgantown. Carter is a big target at 6-3, 215 lbs. with the speed to stretch the field. Cortez Braham will start opposite Carter, and is another 6-3 target to give the Mountaineers an opportunity to use their size to create mismatches in the secondary.

Outside of defensive tackle, Penn State’s defense is stacked with experienced and emerging talent, including several players with legitimate All-American aspirations. Even with an experienced offensive line, the Mountaineers will have their hands full with what may be the nation’s best defense in 2023. Manny Diaz returns for his second season as defensive coordinator, and has the pieces in place to create chaos with varied looks to confuse the offense and pressure coming from any and all parts of the field.


The Nittany Lions are set to begin their first season since 2018 without Sean Clifford as the starting quarterback. Hopefully, it will be well worth the wait for Drew Allar, a five-star prospect and the top quarterback in the 2022 class. Allar gained valuable experience as Clifford’s back-up as a true freshman, appearing in 10 games, completing 58.3 percent of passes with four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Allar has already proved to have the special type of arm talent that is rare on college football fields. He has an immensly strong arm and can place it in specific spots that create a world of opportunities for the offense that have not been there for some time. However, he’ll need to up his completion percentage in year two and prove to be consistent as a full-time starter.

Allar’s main targets at receiver will be KeAndre Lambert-Smith, a strong veteran presence who seemed to break through as a regular threat after several seasons showing off sporadic big play ability. Tre Wallace is the other receiver that has constantly been mentioned along with Lambert-Smith as the top two receivers. After that, it seems that the Nittany Lions will need to wait for a third receiver to develop. The depth chart is rich with high potential prospects at receiver with little proven experience, so it seems inevitable that multiple options will carve out a role in the offense. Keep an eye out for Dante Cephas, a transfer from Kent State with the ability to be a big play threat once he becomes accustomed to the change of scenery.

Tight end Theo Johnson will also play a big role in the passing attack and established himself as a downfield threat in the latter half of 2022. Tight end Tyler Warren is perhaps the most underappreciated member of the offense. While he does not play a huge role in terms of touches, his athleticism has helped him make key plays when the offense needed a boost.

Penn State boasts one of the finest running back rooms in the nation with true sophomores Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen sharing duties. In year one, Singleton proved to be more of a big play threat while Allen did more of the dirty work between the tackles to keep the chains moving. After a full offseason, expect both to round out their skill sets and be more complete running backs this fall. The Nittany Lions also brought in Trey Potts from Minnesota, who will be able to fill in as needed and be a valuable short yardage option.

The Nittany Lions offensive line finally, FINALLY turned a corner in 2022, and return an abundance of talent. They will be replacing starting center Juice Suggs, a second round draft pick, with Hunter Nourzad, who excelled at guard for Penn State in his first season with Penn State after transferring from Cornell. Olu Fashanu, the projected first offensive lineman to be drafted in 2024, is back and will protect Allar’s bling side after missing most of the second half of the ‘22 season.

West Virginia mainly utilizes a Cover 4 defense to get 5 or 6 defensive backs on the field at the same time and limit big plays. Middle linebacker Lee Kpoga is the standout of the defense. Kpoga is a stellar athelete who made giant strides over the course of the season, becomming a difference-maker while leading the team in tackles.


As of press time, James Franklin has yet to announce a starting punter or kicker. If you follow “Franklinspeak,” he did recently mention unprompted that the competition at kicker has helped Sander Sahaydak. If Franklin did indeed tip his hat, then Sahaydak would be entering his first season as starter in his third season with the program. Sahaydak was ranked as the top kicker in his class in 2021 before redshirting that season and helping with kickoff duties in 2022. He connected on his only extra point attempt of his career, and made one of two field goals - the miss was a 50-yarder, while the successful attempt was 20 yards, so there’s not too much to go off of based on game experience. It’s also quite possible that Penn State trots out multiple kickers to see who reacts the best in live game action.

Riley Thompson seems most likely to be the starting punter based on his experience. Thompson had a standout season at Florida Atlantic in 2022 joining the Nittany Lions, averaging 45.4 yards per punt with 26 punts downed inside the 20 compared to just three touchbacks. The Aussie-style kicker had a long of 71 yards for the season.


Penn State-35, West Virginia-13

I’ve been preparing my “West Virginia is a scrappy opponent who will make things interesting” spiel ready all offseason. But now that it’s time for the teams to take the field, I just can’t envision Penn State struggling too much when looking how these teams match up on paper. This is the deepest and most talented team of the Franklin era, with true difference-makers that separate the good teams from those who contend on a near-annual basis. From all accounts, this team also has the leadership and drive and are on a mission to finally break through and make the program’s first-ever playoff apperance.

West Virginia throws some stuff at Allar early and gets just enough out of the running game and Greene’s legs to make it interesting for the first quarter. But eventually, the Nittany Lion offense finds its rhythm and the defense forces a couple turnovers to make things comfortable by the third quarter.

Theo Johnson starts off with a bang with two touchdown catches, while Singleton breaks a 60-yard score to get Beaver Stadium rocking. On defense, Dani Dennis-Sutton leads the way with two sacks, Abdul Carter gets a strip-sack, and true freshman linebacker Tony Rojas gets his first career interception. It doesn’t take too long for Penn State to get rolling.