Penn State vs. Nebraska: What Nittany Lions Must Do to Pull off Upset

Ian BergCorrespondent INovember 7, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 06:  Zach Zwinak #28 of the Penn State Nittany Lions carries the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats during the game on October 6, 2012 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Penn State has marched to a very impressive 6-3 record this year despite facing adversity that was expected to spell disaster for this program.

The Nittany Lions have relied on the arm of Matt McGloin to win a lot of games this year, but Penn State will have to run the ball with consistency to pull off the upset over Nebraska this coming Saturday. 

Nebraska is currently the No. 31 total defense in the country, but the Cornhuskers are No. 87 against the run. Against the pass, the Huskers are No. 5 in the country.

McGloin has been good for Penn State this year, but there isn’t a need to force the pass against a very good secondary. He has only thrown three interceptions this fall and is very selective with his throws, but if McGloin puts more than 30 passes in the air, there could be issues. 

The Nittany Lions have to focus on the ground game this week.

Penn State has a trio of backs that can carry the load against the Cornhuskers and cause issues for the Nebraska defense. Zach Zwinak has rushed for 545 yards on 117 carries this season, Bill Belton has 59 carries for 259 yards, and Michael Zordich has 60 carries for 227 yards. All three backs have three touchdowns apiece. 

When looking back at the losses that Penn State has suffered this fall, they all have one major stat in common—there is no rushing attack from the Nittany Lions.

In the loss to Ohio to start the year, Penn State only rushed for 92 yards. Against Virginia, it gained 121 on the ground, but leading rusher Derek Day only averaged 2.6 yards per carry in the game. 

Matt McGloin had one of his best performances of the season against Ohio State, throwing for 327 yards. Despite his most valiant passing efforts, the Nittany Lions only mustered 32 yards on the ground, resulting in a loss for Penn State.

This game screams "Run the football" for Penn State. It is not only the weakness of the Nebraska defense, but when the Nittany Lions are able to run the football successfully, they win football games. 

Nebraska has a lot to fight for in this game. A win pushes the Cornhuskers one step closer to the Big Ten title game. A loss will tip the Legends Division back into the direction of Michigan—assuming that the Wolverines can beat Northwestern this weekend. 

The Cornhuskers will be motivated to get a big win at home over this Nittany Lions squad, sealing themselves into the top spot in the Legends Divison. Penn State just needs to find room on the ground to throw off Nebraska’s quest for a Big Ten title.