Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
Beaver Stadium, State College, PA: 12 p.m. ET
TV Coverage: ESPN
The Nebraska Cornhuskers travel to State College, Pennsylvania on Saturday to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Nebraska is coming off of a devastating defeat to Northwestern. Nebraska controlled its own destiny in the Legends division before last Saturday’s game. All the Cornhuskers had to do is beat a Northwestern team that had previously only won one game in the Big Ten Conference. Nebraska failed to show up and Northwestern walked out of Memorial Stadium with a 28-25 victory over the Cornhuskers.
Nebraska must win their remaining games and hope that Michigan State loses one of theirs. It will not be easy for the Cornhuskers with three tough opponents remaining on their schedule. The journey begins Saturday against the No. 12-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions.
Nebraska and Penn State have played 13 times. Penn State has won seven of the 13 games. Although the two teams have only played each other 13 times, they do have a history together.
In 1982, No. 8-ranked Penn State defeated No. 2-ranked Nebraska in a controversial game. Penn State was awarded a touchdown on a catch that was clearly out of bounds.
In order to settle the controversy from the 1982 game, Nebraska and Penn State were matched up the next year in the first-ever Kickoff Classic. Nebraska was able to obtain revenge on the Nittany Lions by beating them 44-6.
Although the two teams did not play each other in 1994, they were linked together. Both teams were undefeated on the season, but Nebraska was awarded the national championship while Penn State finished No. 2 in the polls.
The last time the teams met was in 2003. Nebraska won that game 18-10.
Fans of both schools have been waiting to see these two gladiators of college football meet since their last game in 2003. The game cannot be played without acknowledging the elephant in the room, the sexual abuse scandal taking place at Penn State.
Will the scandal interrupt Penn State’s ability to be prepared for one of their toughest games of the year? We will find out Saturday.
Here is a how I see this game breaking down…
Nebraska Total Offense Ranking: 53rd
Penn State Total Defense Ranking: 8th
Nebraska has shown no consistency on offense this season.
The Cornhuskers have looked like an offensive juggernaut in some games, while their offense has looked inept in other games. Last week the stats suggest that Nebraska’s offense should have had no problem against the Northwestern defense. That was not the case, as Nebraska was unable to get their No. 8-ranked rushing offense going against the Wildcats.
This week Nebraska plays a much better defense. Penn State is ranked No. 8 in the country in overall defense. Penn State only gives up 283 yards per game, but are these numbers a true reflection of how good the Penn State defense is?
The Nittany Lions have only played one ranked team this year and they lost that game. Penn State hasn’t beaten any team this year with an offense ranked in the top 50 in the country. The best offensive team that the Nittany Lions have beaten is Illinois. Their offense was ranked No. 55 and was struggling two weeks ago when Penn State beat them.
Fans will find out Saturday just how good this Penn State defense is. Nebraska brings the No. 2 scoring offense in the Big Ten Conference to Beaver Stadium. The Cornhuskers will try to establish the run with quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead. If Nebraska is able to run on Penn State, Nebraska will come out of the game with an easy victory.
I do not see this game as an easy one for Nebraska, though. Penn State is one of the better teams in the country at defending the run. Penn State is ranked No. 24 in the country in rushing defense. The Nittany Lions only allow 111 yards per game on the ground.
Nebraska will need a combination of passes and a steady dose of Burkhead to keep Penn State off balance. Penn State does not give up many big plays so the Cornhuskers will have to be patient and stick to their game plan as they move the ball down the field.
I give the edge in this matchup to Penn State.
Although we do not know how good the Penn State defense is because of the weakness of their schedule, we also do not know which Cornhusker offense will show up on Saturday. I look for Nebraska to be more prepared for this game than they were against Northwestern, but Penn State defense will make it tough for them to move the ball.
Nebraska Total Defense Rank: 41st
Penn State Total Offense Rank: 88th
The Nebraska Blackshirts defense has one job to do on Saturday: stop Penn State’s running back, Silas Redd. He is the only weapon the Nittany Lions have. The problem is that the Cornhuskers have had their problems stopping the run this year. Nebraska is ranked No. 64 in the country against the run.
Penn State has had problems in their passing game. Quarterback Matt McGloin is ranked No. 10 in the conference in passing yards per game and No. 9 in passing efficiency.
Nebraska has had problems generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The Cornhuskers are ranked No. 10 in the conference in sacks. They must be able to put pressure on McGloin or else he may have a good game Saturday.
I give the edge in this matchup to Nebraska.
Yes, Nebraska had a letdown last week against Northwestern, but that happens every year under Coach Pelini. Just like in the past, I look for Nebraska to bounce back and play a good game on defense. The return of defensive tackle Chase Rome will help the Cornhuskers in this game.
Nebraska started the season as one of the best teams in the country in special teams. In the month of October, Nebraska’s special team dominance has disappeared.
Nebraska’s kick/punt returner, Ameer Abdullah, has not had a big kick return in three weeks. He still ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten Conference in kick return average with 31.7 yards per return.
Nebraska has been good in their kicking game as well. Brett Maher is ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten Conference in punting with an average of 45.5 yards per punt. Maher has also made 15-of-18 field goals this season, which ranks him No. 1 in the conference.
Penn State also has a good kick returner in Chaz Powell. He is ranked No. 3 in the Big Ten Conference in kick return average with 31.3 yards per return.
Penn State’s kicker/punter Anthony Fera is ranked right behind Maher in the conference.
Fera is No. 2 in the Big Ten Conference with an average of 42.1yards per punt. Fera has made 8-of-12 field goals this season, placing him No. 2 in the conference behind Maher.
I give the edge in this matchup to Nebraska.
Both teams lead the Big Ten Conference in special teams play. I give the edge to Nebraska because of Ameer Abdullah. His numbers have decreased the past three games because teams have failed to kick him the ball. If Penn State does decide to give Abdullah a chance to return a kick or punt, it could be the game-changing play Nebraska will need to win the game.
Nebraska and Penn State have a long history together.
Saturday’s game begins a tradition of the two teams playing each other every year. This will be a close game. Nebraska must be patient on offense and try to wear down Penn State as they did to Michigan State. If the Cornhuskers are able to accomplish that feat, they will win a close game at the end.
Nebraska wins this game 17-14.
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