Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Must Rely on Offense for Strong Big 10 Season

Tyler Brooke@TylerDBrookeSenior Analyst IISeptember 7, 2013

Sep 7, 2013; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Zach Zwinak (28) celebrates with teammates Jesse James (18) and Ty Howle (60) after scoring a touchdown during the third quarter against the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Eastern Michigan 45-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State Nittany Lions had another big win to start their season, and they are going to need to continue playing well on offense if they want to make a run at the Big Ten title.

It was an easy win for Penn State this Saturday. They beat the Eastern Michigan Eagles 45-7 thanks to their offense.  Christian Hackenberg, the freshman quarterback out of Palmyra, Virginia, went 23-for-33 with 311 yards, a touchdown and an interception.  

A big part of the win for Penn State was the rushing attack.  

The team combined for 251 yards and five touchdowns on the day, averaging 6.4 yards per carry.  Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton each had 108 yards on the ground and combined for three scores.

The rushing attack looked much better than it did against Syracuse, but Eastern Michigan is a weaker opponent. Still, running for that many yards and being that efficient is a good sign for this offense.

When playing against the Orange, the running game struggled.  They averaged just 1.5 yards per carry, and things did not look pretty.  Zach Zwinak and Belton will need more games like they this week's in order to give the team some balance on offense.

However, a lot of the success of this offense will depend on Hackenberg.  

He was a top-tier recruit coming out of high school, and now he's the starting quarterback as a true freshman.  He's the ultimate pocket passer you look for and he has a big arm to go along with that.  He has great release and good size for a college QB at 6'4'' and 205 pounds.

As is the problem with most freshmen, Hackenberg will need to work on making the right decisions.  

He has three touchdowns on the year and his completion percentage is hovering around 70 percent, but he's also thrown three interceptions in two games.  He's young, but the team is relying heavily on him.

It will be interesting to see what this freshman QB can do over the next three games.  Penn State will be playing against UCF, Indiana and Kent State. These could be some good games for Hackenberg to get more in-game experience and be prepared for playing Michigan on October 12.

While the defense has looked solid so far, the Nittany Lions are going to need to score points in bunches against these top-tier Big Ten teams.  Contenders like Wisconsin and Ohio State have big play potential from a number of starters and can turn almost any game into a blowout very quickly.

The Nittany Lions may not be eligible for a bowl game this year, but that doesn't mean that they will roll over and accept defeat.  If this offense can keep playing like it did against Eastern Michigan, then they could ruin some weekends for the Big Ten's top teams.