In an exciting Big 10 contest, the Penn State Nittany Lions travel to Evanston, Illinois, to take on the feisty Northwestern Wildcats. The #4 ranked Lions look to remain undefeated on the season by taking down the Wildcats on the road. Kickoff inside Ryan Filed is at 12 PM ET.
Penn State (5-0, 2-0 Big Ten) looks like one of the best teams in the country. They’re coming off a 45-14 victory over Indiana where the Lions dominated the game on both sides of the ball. PSU looks to continue their stellar 2017 season by defeating a Northwestern team that can’t be overlooked.
Northwestern (2-2, 0-1 Big 10) is coming off a 33-24 road loss to Wisconsin. The Wildcats stormed back late in the game after being down 31-10 in the 4th quarter. They had the ball with a minute left, but took a safety that effectively ended the game. Northwestern will need a perfect game this week to have a chance at beating Penn State.
The spread opened at -14 for the Penn State Nittany Lions and it has remained unchanged.
Northwestern has taken the previous 2 games against PSU, but their last encounter was in 2015. Neither team is the same as they were 2 seasons ago, and you can expect Penn State not to lose sight of the fact that they haven’t beaten NW since 2012. This might just be the motivation for PSU this week as they look to remain undefeated on the season.
Penn State has the best duo in college football with quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. This tandem has led the PSU offense to one of the best in the Big 10 and the nation. Last week, Indiana set out to prevent Barkley from beating them. And, they actually did a decent job at it. Barkley was held to just 56 yards on the ground. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they forgot that Saquon returns kickoffs and he took the opening kick 98 yards for a touchdown. Additionally, Barkley threw a touchdown pass late in the game. So, despite his low yardage output for this game, he was still effective in other ways. This is bad news for the rest of the Big 10 teams that might have thought they could do the same thing.
In addition to Barkley’s contributions, Trace threw for 315 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also ran one in from 1 yard out. Receiver DaeSean Hamilton was the big winner of the day as he tallied 9 receptions for 122 yards and 3 touchdowns. So, even with Barkley being contained on the ground, PSU found other ways to stomp the Hoosiers. This is what makes them so dangerous on offense.
In Northwestern’s 2 losses on the season, they gave up 844 total yards and 74 total points. You can expect PSU to come close to their average of 471 yards per game as they should find success both on the ground and in the air against an average NW defense.
For Northwestern, they will have to rely on their offensive tandem of Thorson and Jackson. Unfortunately, this duo isn’t having as much success as the Penn State duo:
Thorson – 1061 passing yards, 7 TD and 5 INT
Jackson – 376 total yards and 4 TD
McSorley – 1352 passing yards, 12 TD and 4 INT
Barkley – 960 total yards and 9 TD
I expect the Penn State defense, which is only allowing 9.4 points per game and 289 total yards per game, to make life difficult for Thorson and Jackson all game. Look for PSU to hold Jackson under 100 rushing yards and to harass Thorson into some turnovers and forced throws.
Penn State is 12-1-1 ATS in their last 14 games, 4-2 ATS in their last 6 road games and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games against Northwestern.
Look for PSU to get out to a large lead in this game before Northwestern puts up some garbage time points. I expect the combination of McSorley and Barkley to have a big game as each should eclipse their season averages. NW is giving up 145 yards on the ground per game, so look for Barkley to dominate this contest, which will allow McSorley to pick apart the beaten NW defense. (Penn Sate 42 – Northwestern 20)