From the involvement of Tommy Stevens to streaking on the field (no, it’s not what you’re thinking), there’s plenty to look out for when No. 5 Penn State hosts Georgia State on Saturday night.
Take a gander at five things to watch here:
Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens had one reception against both Akron and Pitt, which begs the question — how will the redshirt sophomore be utilized against Georgia State?
With Penn State expected to be up big at halftime, Trace McSorley could be resting in the third and fourth quarters. That’ll leave Stevens plenty of reps at quarterback.
But what’s almost more interesting are the different ways Joe Moorhead can employ the 6-foot-4 signal-caller.
Could we see a touchdown pass from McSorley to Stevens? It’s not out of the realm of possibility.
From the get-go
Penn State gained a reputation for being a second-half team in 2016 — but so far this season, the Nittany Lions have been more effective in the first quarter than it has in quite some time.
Penn State tallied 14 points in the first quarter in each of its first two games this year, something the Nittany Lions haven’t done in nearly a decade.
Back in 2008, Penn State actually accomplished the feat in its first three games: vs. Coastal Carolina, vs. Oregon State and at Syracuse.
The Nittany Lions can make it three in a row in 2017 against the Panthers on Saturday.
Going streaking on the field
A couple of Nittany Lions — McSorley and Saquon Barkley, who would’ve guessed it? — have active touchdown streaks that rank among the best in the country.
Barkley is tied with Southern California’s Ronald Jones for the longest ongoing streak of games with a rushing touchdown at nine. It’s the longest streak for a Nittany Lion since Larry Johnson had 11 straight scores in 2002.
As for McSorley, he has thrown a touchdown pass in 17 consecutive games — a Penn State record. The streak, which goes all the way back to the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl, is the third-longest active run nationally.
Tough (betting) cover
This is an expected blowout; like, a really, really lopsided blowout. Specifically, Penn State opened as 38.5-point favorite over the Panthers, according to Bovada Sportsbook.
Yes, it’s Georgia State — but that’s a lot of points to lay.
In fact, this is largest opening number for Penn State as a favorite in at least a decade, according to OddsShark.com. And when the spread has been around 38.5 recently, the Nittany Lions have had mixed results from a bettor’s perspective.
Penn State was favored by the same amount against Florida International in 2007 and won 59-0. A couple game later, the Nittany Lions beat Buffalo by only 21 when favored by 33.5 points.
Penn State didn’t cover in 2011 when it beat Indiana State 41-7 as 37-point favorites, and just a couple weeks ago, the Nittany Lions handled Akron 52-0 while 30.5-point favorites.
All four games, of course, were at home in Beaver Stadium.
Now, the only result that’s directly applicable to Saturday’s matchup is the most recent one. But it just goes to show how difficult it is to cover that large of a spread.
Going off that, Georgia State has been consistently overmatched in its contests against Power 5 opponents. Until recently, that is.
Georgia State — an FBS program for all of four full seasons — lost its first four games against Power 5 schools by a combined score of 159-24. Those contests against West Virginia, Alabama, Washington and Clemson took place in 2013 and 2014.
However, the Panthers scored four touchdowns at Oregon in 2015 and actually led Wisconsin in the fourth quarter last year before falling 23-17.
It’s not indicative of what’ll happen Saturday; just an interesting look at how quickly Georgia State has become competitive.