NCAAF Week 2: Pittsburgh @ #4 Penn State, Preview & Prediction

After winning their opening match-ups, the two in-state rivals meet on Saturday for an epic showdown that will determine who reigns supreme in Pennsylvania.

Saturday, September 9 2017, 3:30 PM ET – Pittsburgh and No. 4 Penn State meet in Happy Valley at Beaver Stadium for the battle of Pennsylvania. This will be a game college football fans will not want to miss, as the two in-state rivals have very talented teams. While Penn State is ranked as one of the best teams in the country and Pitt is still unranked, this match-up could wind up being very close.     

Week 1 Recap

Pittsburgh Panthers – While the Panthers won their season opener, they certainly did not open their season on a high note. What should have been an easy blowout win against Youngstown State ended up as a very close 28-21 overtime victory for the Panthers.  

The Panthers’ offense simply could not get it going last Saturday. Quarterback Max Browne struggled to make much of an impact in the passing game, finishing with just 140 passing yards and a touchdown. It was not a strong performance for the USC transfer. Running back Qadree Ollison had a very good day and helped carry the team to victory, as he ended the game with 91 rushing yards, 35 receiving yards, and two rushing touchdowns.  

Pittsburgh’s defense did not have that great of a day either, as Youngstown State had 418 total yards on offense. If the Panthers want to put up a fight against the Nittany Lions, they must step it up on both sides of the ball. Their offense must put on a better performance, and their defense needs to contain Penn State’s explosive offense.

Penn State Nittany Lions – The Nittany Lions simply put on a show in their season opener against Akron. Their offense was electric and their defense was lights-out in their 52-0 shutout of the Akron Zips.

Penn State’s offense was simply on fire. Quarterback Trace McSorley played fantastically, throwing for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Star running back and Heisman Trophy candidate Saquon Barkley was elite, as he ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries. The Nittany Lions’ defense was just as good, if not better, as Akron failed to score any points all game.

If Penn State keeps doing exactly what they are doing, they will likely finish the game with a victory in hand. However, the Pitt Panthers will definitely be much more competitive than the Akron Zips. As long as McSorley, Barkley, and the rest of the Penn State offense keep up great play, the odds seem to be strongly in the Nittany Lions’ favor.

Keys to the Game

Pittsburgh’s running game – While the Panthers’ passing game looked fairly weak against Youngstown State, their running game actually looked pretty strong. Qadree Ollison and Quadree Henderson are two explosive backs who can make plays and change the game. They are very capable of moving the ball down the field and finding their way to the endzone. If the Panthers want to travel back home with a victory, their running backs must put up a strong fight against Penn State’s top-tier defense.  

Saquon Barkley – Barkley is easily Penn State’s best player and the Nittany Lions’ key to victory. He is flat-out explosive, as he accumulates a large amount of rushing yards on a small amount of carries. Getting to the endzone is pretty much second nature for Barkley. Barkley will face a decent challenge this week, as the Panthers do have a pretty good run defense. As long as Barkley can make his way past Pittsburgh’s defensive line, he should have no problem racking up lots of points for the Nittany Lions.  

Penn State’s defense – A week after shutting out the Akron Zips, the Nittany Lions’ defense will look to put on a strong encore performance. That will not come easy though, as the Panthers have a much stronger offense and quite a strong running game. It will be key for Penn State’s defensive line to prevent Qadree Ollison and Quadree Henderson from getting past the line of scrimmage. Max Browne did not have a strong performance last week, so the Nittany Lions’ defense should have him and the Panthers’ receivers contained.  

Matchup to Watch

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley vs. the Pittsburgh defensive line – The Panthers held Youngstown State to just 107 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown last week. However, Saquon Barkley alone ran for 172 yards and two touchdowns against Akron last week. Both Barkley and the Panthers’ defensive line will have bigger challenges this week, as Barkley will be playing against a better defense and the Panthers will be tasked with containing a better running back. It will be very interesting to see whether it will be Barkley or Pittsburgh’s defensive line who comes out on top Saturday afternoon.

Prediction: Penn State 31-24 Pittsburgh

The Panthers will put up a valiant effort, but it will ultimately not be enough to defeat the No. 4 ranked Nittany Lions. Penn State’s defense will not have the same performance they did against Akron, but they will limit the damage caused by the Panthers. On the other hand, Saquon Barkley will prove to be no match for the Pittsburgh defense. Barkley is simply a beast who cannot be contained by any defense. He will be the key to the Nittany Lions’ victory. This game will be very close and fought to the very end, but Saquon Barkley and the Nittany Lions will ultimately come away with the victory on their home turf.

Who wins the game and why? Discuss in the comments below!

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Justin Boguslavsky

Columbia University student, NFL and NCAAF writer, die hard Philly sports fan #FlyEaglesFly

Hot takes are my specialty