Penn State Football

Previews, predictions and features on Penn State-Northwestern football

Folks, Penn State-Northwestern is upon us.

Everyone remembers the last time Penn State went on the road. Will we see Iowa 2.0 in Evanston? Or will the No. 4 Nittany Lions take care of Northwestern with ease? How will Trace McSorley look? What about that staunch Penn State defense?

Whatever you’re looking for from a Penn State coverage angle, we’ve got you covered right here:

Previews (Looking at the game from different angles)

Defense’s speed parlaying into takeaways, gang tackles: Penn State’s collective ballhawking nature is a trait that’s carried the Nittany Lion defense through five games. “To me, that’s what good defenses do,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “They play aggressive, they go for the tackle, they go to make the big hit, and if they miss, there’s guys there to cover for them.” Don’t be surprised to see it turn up at Northwestern on Saturday.

Five things to watch for during Penn State-Northwestern: The No. 4 Nittany Lions are 14.5-point favorites over Northwestern, who are 7-0 against the spread and have won five games outright as double-digit underdogs since 2014. A fast start and a pick or two could help make covering a reality, but one particular Wildcat has the ability to cause Penn State some problems.

Q&A with Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein breaking down Northwestern: To help break down Northwestern’s up-and-down start to 2017, we spoke to the Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein for this week’s “Ask the Beat Writer.”

Mike Gesicki’s status hazy while Holland impresses: Gesicki watched his fellow tight end perform well at Wednesday’s practice. James Franklin said at his Tuesday press conference that he expects Gesicki, who sustained a hit to his lower left back against Indiana, to play at Northwestern.

Penn State will get field goal situation “fixed”: Senior placekicker Tyler Davis has converted only 5 of 11 field goal attempts. Two of them have been blocked. The unit is disappointing so far, and James Franklin knows it needs to be corrected.

Penn State-Northwestern podcast: Johnny and Josh analyzed Trace McSorley’s 2017 season and broke down the Wildcats, while looking ahead to the 2018 NFL draft and debating where the Nittany Lions fit.

Features (Getting to know the Nittany Lions)

Two football-playing twins, two far-apart Big Ten teams: Bragging rights, brothers and a supportive family — Saturday has it all for twins Blake and Tyler Gillikin. Blake, Penn State’s punter, faces Tyler’s Wildcats, and their family will be there. The grandparents bought an RV to travel and watch, while Blake and Tyler’s parents come, too. It’ll be a family affair at Ryan Field.

Trace McSorley’s improved reads taking offense to next level: Thanks to McSorley’s patience and enhanced feel for the Penn State offense, the Nittany Lions have clicked, if not yet exploded. “I think it’s not forcing things and taking what the defense is giving me, doing a lot better job of reading defenses,” McSorley said Wednesday, of his biggest improvement from 2016. “I feel like I’m doing a better job of going through my progressions and finding the open guy.”

Why is Penn State’s defense dominating? Brent Pry explains: The Nittany Lions’ defensive coordinator joined the media on a Thursday conference call, breaking down Penn State’s leadership on his side of the ball. Penn State’s starting defense has an average age of 21 years, 9 months and entered 2017 with 119 total starts. “When you look out there, you know what you’re going to get from everybody that you’re putting on the field,” Pry added.

Right tackle situation proving to be problematic: Penn State has plenty of depth at right tackle, but ideally one guy would be the full-time starter. The Nittany Lions haven’t had that luxury, as injury has forced all three — Chasz Wright, Will Fries and Andrew Nelson — to start at some point this season.

Koa Farmer ‘frustrated’ by lack of production: Pry explained why the redshirt junior linebacker isn’t too happy with his start to the season. But Pry is confident in Farmer. “There haven’t been the plays coming his way that maybe he’s hoped, but he’s doing a very solid job out on the field,” Pry said.

‘5 Questions’ with Gregg Garrity Sr.: The former Nittany Lion wideout — who hauled in the decisive touchdown catch in Penn State’s 1982 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia — talked about bringing Happy Valley its first national title, being a letterman and Penn State dad and more.

Miscellaneous (Other PSU stuff you might be interested in)

Penn State football wins half of Big Ten’s weekly awards: Of the four conference honors, the Nittany Lions took home two. DaeSean Hamilton and Saquon Barkley were named the Big Ten offensive and special teams players of the week, respectively.

Predictions (For Penn State-Northwestern and elsewhere in the Big Ten)

No. 4 Penn State at Northwestern, noon ABC

Josh Moyer: Penn State 34-17

John McGonigal: Penn State 38-14

Gordon Brunskill: Penn State 29-23

Ryne Gery: Penn State 42-24

Nate Cobler: Penn State 33-21

Illinois at Iowa, noon BTN

Josh Moyer: Iowa 28-10

John McGonigal: Iowa 35-10

Gordon Brunskill: Iowa 26-13

Ryne Gery: Iowa 24-7

Nate Cobler: Iowa 35-20

Minnesota at Purdue, 3:30 p.m. ESPN2

Josh Moyer: Purdue 31-26

John McGonigal: Purdue 42-21

Gordon Brunskill: Purdue 34-31

Ryne Gery: Minnesota 27-24

Nate Cobler: Purdue 20-17

Charleston Southern at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. BTN

Josh Moyer: Indiana 45-10

John McGonigal: Indiana 56-0

Gordon Brunskill: Indiana 45-10

Ryne Gery: Indiana 41-14

Nate Cobler: Indiana 45-10

Maryland at No. 10 Ohio State, 4 p.m. FOX

Josh Moyer: Ohio State 49-31

John McGonigal: Ohio State 38-17

Gordon Brunskill: Ohio State 48-3

Ryne Gery: Ohio State 35-10

Nate Cobler: Ohio State 41-13

Michigan State at No. 7 Michigan, 7:30 p.m. ABC

Josh Moyer: Michigan 24-17

John McGonigal: Michigan State 24-21

Gordon Brunskill: Michigan 24-20

Ryne Gery: Michigan 31-21

Nate Cobler: Michigan 24-21

No. 9 Wisconsin at Nebraska, 8 p.m. BTN

Josh Moyer: Wisconsin 31-24

John McGonigal: Wisconsin 31-10

Gordon Brunskill: Wisconsin 33-13

Ryne Gery: Wisconsin 28-17

Nate Cobler: Wisconsin 28-14

OVERALL PREDICTION STANDINGS: Nate Cobler 38-8, Ryne Gery 38-8, John McGonigal 37-9, Josh Moyer 37-9, Gordon Brunskill 33-13