The Penn State Nittany Lions will have a chance to show the nation that they are still capable of playing high quality football as No. 24 Northwestern comes rolling into town this Saturday.
The Wildcats carry a perfect 5-0 record with them into this one, and they are fresh off an easy 44-29 win over Indiana in their Big Ten opener. However, they are not the only team entering this game fresh off delivering a trouncing in their league opener.
After losing their first two, Penn State is on a three-game winning streak, and their last time on the field they demolished Big-Ten rival Illinois, 35-7.
It's been an impressive turnaround for the Nittany Lions, and it will be a lot more impressive if they can execute the following three key factors, which will allow them to take down Northwestern.
Keep Kain Colter in the Pocket
Northwestern QB Kain Colter is a true dual-threat QB, and it is on the ground where he could really kill Penn State.
In the Nittany Lions embarrassing opening loss to Ohio, they were hurt by their inability to get Ohio off the field as quarterback Tyler Tettleton had some nice runs to extend drives. He ended averaging 5.2 yards per carry while gaining almost 50 yards.
Colter is a much better runner than Tettleton. On the season, he is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and he has rushed for 371 yards.
Penn State needs to keep an eye on Colter on every play. They cannot allow him to pick up easy yards with his feet, or they will never get the Northwestern offense off the field.
Matthew McGloin Going for Six
Penn State has just two rushing touchdowns from the running back position this season, and that number isn't likely to improve this week as Northwestern has allowed just three rushing touchdowns this week.
So when Penn State is looking for six, they would be well served to do so through the air.
Northwestern's defense is not nearly as stingy through the air. It has allowed seven passing touchdowns this season, which is actually three fewer than McGloin has thrown on the year.
So when it gets to the red zone, the Nittany Lions should not waste many downs trying to run the ball. Just attempt it enough to keep the defense honest and look to pickup touchdowns through the air.
Take an Early Lead
Penn State has been unbelievably good in the first quarter this year—having outscored opponents by a combined score of 49-0 in the first.
Given that stat, it is a shock they have lost two games.
Penn State will have a hard time opening an early lead in this one. The Wldcats aren't too shabby in the opening stanza themselves.
They have scored 37 in their five first quarters this year, and have allowed just 16 points.
Both of these teams will be looking to get off to a fast start, and the team that is most successful in that regard will have the inside track to setting the tone for the entire game.