Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Complete Game Preview

Tim Tolley@@TimTolley_BRContributor INovember 20, 2013

Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers Complete Game Preview

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Senior Day at Beaver Stadium could present a classic similar to last year's version as the unpredictable 6-4 Nittany Lions will host the underachieving Cornhuskers.

    Nebraska is fresh off a 41-28 home loss to Michigan State that saw the Huskers turn the ball over five times.

    Penn State cruised to a 45-21 win over Purdue in Beaver Stadium, where they are 5-1 on the season.

    Bo Pelini's Huskers have won both matchups since joining the Big Ten, and Nebraska leads the all time series, 8-7. Last year's contest in Lincoln resulted in a 32-23 win for the home team despite 141 rushing yards from Zach Zwinak.

    The Nittany Lions will have the benefit of not having to face Taylor Martinez as the senior quarterback is out for the year. His replacement, Tommy Armstrong, has completed 53 percent of his passes this year and has seven touchdowns to go with his seven interceptions. 

    Due to the upcoming division re-alignment, Nebraska and Penn State are not scheduled to play again until 2017.

    Time: 3:30 ET

    Place: Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa.

    TV: Big Ten Network

    Radio: Penn State Network Affiliates

    Spread: Penn State is a slight favorite, giving 2 points this week, according to

Penn State Keys to Victory

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    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Control the Clock

    Penn State won the time of possession last week against Purdue, and the result was a fresh defense that gave up no points in the fourth quarter. Nebraska is giving up over 160 rushing yards per game and has allowed 17 rushing touchdowns in 10 games, which could feed right into the teeth of the Penn State offense.

    Take the Ball

    The Huskers have turned the ball over 23 times this year and quarterback Tommy Armstrong is prone to mistakes. If Penn State can get Christian Hackenberg and his offense some extra opportunities on Saturday, it will give the team an exponentially better chance at victory.

    Keep It Rolling

    Last week, the offense was clicking and couldn't do anything wrong. Adam Breneman had his first touchdown, Zwinak went for 149 yards, and even Hackenberg had a rushing touchdown. How much of that was the offense? How much of it was playing against Purdue? We'll see on Saturday.

Nebraska Keys to Victory

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Let Tommy Armstrong Loose

    Penn State has struggled mightily against mobile quarterbacks this year:

    Devin Gardner: 121 rushing yards.

    Braxton Miller: 68 rushing yards, two TDs.

    Tre Roberson: Two rushing TDs.

    Nathan Scheelhaase: 35 rushing yards.

    Philip Nelson: 40 rushing yards, TD.

    Armstrong has only rushed for 175 yards on 56 carries this year, but you can bet he'll be on the move more this weekend if the Nebraska coaches know what's good for them.

    Crowd the Box

    The Nittany Lions have had a lot of success running the ball lately, producing a 100-yard rusher in each of the last three games. They'll look to continue that streak, and the Huskers should try to force the ball into Hackenberg's hands. The young quarterback has shown a lot of promise, but as a defense, you'd rather make him beat you than try to tackle Zach Zwinak all day.

Penn State Players to Watch

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    Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

    WR Allen Robinson

    I've intentionally left him off this list for a few weeks now because, honestly, you can't help but watch "ARob." The best offensive Nittany Lion since Larry Johnson will likely be playing his last game in Beaver Stadium this weekend, and there's a good chance he'll want to go out with a bang. He's capable of anything.

    TEs Kyle Carter, Jesse James and Adam Breneman

    Last year against Nebraska, the tight ends played a big role, with three of them catching six passes for a touchdown and another should-have-been touchdown. The Huskers lead the Big Ten in sacks, so look for O'Brien to call a quick-passing game to keep the line away from Hackenberg.

    CB Jordan Lucas

    If the Nittany Lions are going to produce turnovers this weekend, Lucas could play a big role in it. He leads the team in interceptions and is a big-hitter in the ground game. 

Nebraska Players to Watch

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    Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

    RB Ameer Abdullah

    Leading the Big Ten in rushing yards with 1,336 yards, Abdullah also has 22 catches for 191 yards on the year. He's a true feature back, and the Lions defenders will need to limit him before he starts wearing them out. Stopping Abdullah on first and second down to force Armstrong to throw is their best shot at slowing down the Nebraska offense.

    WR Kenny Bell

    Limited his whole career by poor quarterback play, Bell is one of the more talented receivers in the conference. He's having a down year and is currently second on the team in receptions, but he's capable of a big play at any time. 

    DE Randy Gregory

    The sophomore lineman leads the team in tackles for loss with 12.5 and sacks with 7.5. He's a key component for the conference's leading pass-rushing defense.

What They Are Saying

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    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Bill O'Brien on this senior class:

    You know, the biggest thing to me is that they understand the word team work and working together...They continued to work hard in the weight room and on the practice field and do it with intensity, I thought that was a big part of it.  They continued to embrace their roles.  As long as you were clear with what their role was and defined it for them, they embraced that role.

    On Ameer Abdullah:

    He's a really good player.  One of the best players in this conference, explosive guy.  He runs with a great lean.  He's got great quickness.  I think he's obviously got a pro career ahead of him.

    Referring to the Husker secondary:

    They have tall, rangy guys, physical guys at every position," O'Brien said.  "They run well, they're explosive players.  They've played well.  In my opinion, recently they've played really well.

    Read full press conference notes at

    O'Brien says he thinks LB Glen Carson will have a future in the NFL

    — Tim Owen (@Tim_OwenBWI) November 19, 2013

    O'Brien talking selfies in celebrations with Jordan Lucas: "I'm going to take a selfie of him."

    — Collegian Footblog (@psufootblog) November 19, 2013

    CB Jordan Lucas said he thinks the Nebraska WR receiving corps is among the best the secondary will face all season.

    — Tony Mancuso (@GoPSUTony) November 20, 2013

    BOB: Robinson was a big, fast, competitive, wide-eyed, raw receiver. "You could tell right away he was going to be a good player."

    — Donnie Collins (@psubst) November 19, 2013

    Kyle Baublitz, Garry Gilliam, Alex Kenney & Matt Lehman all listed as being recognized on Sr Day despite eligiblity (or poss elig) remaining

    — Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) November 19, 2013


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    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    These two teams at this point in the season might be the two toughest squads to predict, and of course, they're playing each other.

    Nebraska is eighth in the conference against the run and ninth in time of possession, both of which are crucial elements to a Penn State win.

    On the other hand, Penn State's offense is 11th in the Big Ten when it comes to converting on third down, and the Nebraska defense is the third best at turning teams away on third downs.

    Last year on senior day, the Nittany Lions hosted Wisconsin in a game that few expected Penn State to win. Penn State was banged up, and the Badgers brought to town the Big Ten's leading rusher. 

    Wisconsin got up early, and things looked bleak for the home team.

    Then the football gods smiled down on Happy Valley, and Penn State came away with an overtime victory to send its seniors out on a winning note.

    How about some more magic this weekend?

    PREDICTION: Penn State 30, Nebraska 27

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