Northwestern brings an undefeated record and a No. 22 national ranking to Beaver Stadium Saturday. Throw in the fact that it’s Homecoming and the ingredients for a big game are there.
As the Penn State season progresses it seems every game has gotten bigger – this week is no exception.
The Nittany Lions are 3-2 after three straight wins. Penn State hammered Illinois last week in a game that it clearly wanted much more than the Illini.
The good news is that last week was the Lions’ most dominating performance of the season. Additional good news is that there is still a lot to improve on. They still left too many points on the field and quarterback Matt McGloin, while ending up with some nice statistics, was clearly off early in the game.
Penn State will have to play its best game of the season if it expects to beat a good Northwestern team.
The Wildcats have an explosive offense and have found ways to win every time out this season.
That being said, Northwestern has played four of its five games at home. Its wins have come over Syracuse, Vanderbilt, Boston College, South Dakota and Indiana.
The Wildcats actually gave up 41 points to Syracuse, who lost to Minnesota 17-10. They gave up 29 to Indiana, who lost to Ball State.
In other words, Northwestern may be undefeated, but its not Alabama.
Penn State will be able to score against Northwestern. And, clearly, the Lions’ defense will be the best that Northwestern has faced.
The main question is, will Penn State be able to protect the football and not turn it over – something it has done a good job of so far this season.
Another question is can the Lions avoid a let down after exacting their revenge – and spending a lot of emotion – against Illinois last week?
One would think that a Homecoming game against an undefeated team should provide all the inspiration that this team needs.
Just in case, coach Bill O’Brien has implored the normally late-arriving students to be in the stadium by 11:45 for the noon kickoff. He knows that the added energy of the crowd will be needed.
So who wins?
This is the most difficult game to date to predict. Northwestern and Ohio are comparable and we know what happened in the Penn State opener.
It appears that Penn State has made great strides since Labor Day weekend but we find out if that is truly the case Saturday.
The games do keep getting bigger and if the Lions want night games with Iowa and Ohio State to be huge, then they need to beat Northwestern.
Prediction: Penn State 35, Northwestern 24.