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October 5, 2012Northwestern arrives
Find out who are we picking to win this weekend, and by how much, right here:
Blue White Illustrated Web Editor
2012 Record - 3-2
Earlier this week my thinking was that Penn State would be able to get to 31 points against this Northwestern team, but I also believed the Wildcats and Kain Colter would manage to get near 30 points themselves.
I don't think that anymore.
After further reflection, this is a Penn State team that continues to have a dominant defense, save for a suspect secondary that likely won't be tested much against these Wildcats. I expect Colter to have plenty of carries, along with Venric Mark, their shift running back. But, Penn State has been focusing on cutting off the corner and containing the run all week. Throw in an added boost of motivation from Bill O'Brien, who has been lighting these guys up all week to try to keep the focus and energy high, and I'm not predicting a lapse by the defense this weekend.
Offensively, I'm not going to be surprised by a 300-plus yardage afternoon by Matt McGloin. This is a team he is extremely confident playing, and with Northwestern's secondary still suspect itself, I think McGloin is going to have a huge day throwing the ball to Allen Robinson, in particular.
Whether or not the likes of Bill Belton, Zach Zwinak and Derek Day get going on Saturday could be inconsequential, though I do believe a healthy mix of runs with the strong passing effort will just keep the Wildcats even more off-balance.
Penn State - 31
Northwestern - 21
Blue White Illustrated Recruiting Analyst
2012 Record - 4-1
Just like many of you, I'm looking at Saturday's game as a complete tossup. For starters, neither team has played an elite opponent this year, so while we still may not really know where these two teams rank nationally after this week, I think it will give Penn State fans an idea when it comes to where O'Brien's program really stands at the moment.?
I do think this Northwestern squad is deeper than a few years ago when Dan Persa was leading the way. I also think Pat Fitzgerald is still one of the top rising coaches in not only the conference but the country, meaning O'Brien and his staff will have to be at their best.?
I sound like a broken record here, but really what this game should come down to is the secondary on both teams. Just like Penn State, Northwestern's defensive backs haven't been that impressive this year, so whoever can make the big plays when needed should be able to come out on top.?
McGloin has also been pretty good against Northwestern in the past, so I expect another solid performance. Like always, if Penn State can rush the ball a bit they shouldn't have too many problems driving down the field. Of course, getting points on the scoreboard is a totally different story, but I could see Penn State's defensive front seven shutting down Kolter and Co. when Northwestern gets down towards the red zone as well.
I was wrong last week when I said that the kicking game could play a major part, so I'm going to try again this weekend and say that a poor performance by both Ficken and Butterworth could come back to hurt Penn State. I'll predict a Nittany Lions win, but realistically, this could go either way.
Penn State - 28
Northwestern - 27
Blue White Illustrated Assistant Editor
2012 Record - 3-2
Northwestern is dangerous, no doubt. There might not be a more dominant offensive weapon in the Big Ten than Kain Colter. Venric Mark is a home-run threat anytime the ball is in his hands, and the Wildcat defense is suffocating against the run, led by playmaking linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo.
But I have to side with history on this one. This is the third time in five years that Northwestern has begun a season 5-0, but it's been a half of a century since the Wildcats were 6-0. Do they break the trend Saturday in front of a homecoming crowd in Beaver Stadium? Unlikely.
Penn State is improving in each of its last five games, the offensive line's cohesion is almost there and this Michael Mauit-led defense is playing like its "hair is on fire," as Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald put it. I see the Wildcats breaking a couple long plays, but they're not posting another 700-yard performance like it did against Indiana last week. This is the strongest defense Norhtwestern's faced thus far in the season, and that's something it won't be able to overcome.
Penn State - 28
Northwestern - 24
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