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September 13, 2013

BWI Staff PIcks 'Em: Central Florida

The Nittany Lions continued their 2013 season with another win against Central Florida back at Beaver Stadium. How will the team fare when it plays its first night game of the season against Central Florida?

Find out who are we picking to win this weekend, and by how much, right here:

Nate Bauer
Blue White Illustrated Web Editor
2013 Record - 2-0

Simply put, Penn State is the better team between the two, but there are a couple of points that have to be noted when evaluating whether or not the Nittany Lions are going to come away with a 3-0 start to the season, or their first loss.

Central Florida has no one that can stop Allen Robinson, and if Christian Hackenberg has time to pass the ball, no one that can really completely disrupt his tempo in the backfield. The issue, of course, is that Penn State has had some struggles with unforced errors to this point in the season, including penalties and even the occasional bizarre turnover.

UCF, meanwhile, has a +1.5 turnover margin, and is tied for 11th in the country for fewest penalties per game with just a 3.0 average at 24.50 yards penalized per game. These numbers suggest a team that is mature, intelligent, and isn't going to kill its own chances at winning. If Penn State falls into the trap of hurting itself, it's going to severely hinder the Nitany Lions' opportunity for a win.

Like I posted in the pre game notes earlier Friday, I also firmly believe that Penn State has to avoid third-and-long situations that could open up Hackenberg to a pass rush and, defensively, the Nittany Lions need to bring the house on Blake Bortles to keep him uncomfortable through the course of the game.

My instinct is that Penn State will still make some offensive mistakes that could keep Central Florida in the game longer than it should be, but ultimately, the home field and sheer talent should be enough to pull out an ever-so-slight win.

Penn State - 24
Central Florida - 23

Tim Owen
Blue White Illustrated Assistant Editor
2013 Record - 2-0

Sure its a directional Florida school, but don't underestimate the talent on the UCF roster, especially on offense.

Quarterback Blake Bortles is a bona fide pro prospect and hasn't thrown an interception since last October. Leading rusher Storm Johnson is a former four-star recruit and Miami (Fla.) transfer who has compiled five touchdowns in two games.There's four reliable receivers and UCF is solid along the offensive line, anchored by guard Jordan McCray who is an NFL prospect, too. (McCray's twin brother, Justin, is the other starting guard.) The offensive line will be even stronger if tackle Torrian Wilson plays, but his status is questionable.

UCF doesn't have the same caliber of talent on the defensive side of the ball. It's led by a couple strong defensive linemen in E.J. Winston, a stout defensive tackle, and Deion Green, an effective edge rusher. The secondary is led by safety Clayton Geathers, a three-year starter, but otherwise the defense is fairly young. Twelve true or redshirt freshman have seen playing time in the first two games.

While UCF might have some undervalued talent, Penn State does, too. The Lions should be able to move the ball, will probably hit a deep pass or two, and DaQuan Jones and company should be able to continue their successful run-stopping effort. But they'll need improvement in the edge pass rush if they're to throw Bortles off his game. Which is something that needs to happen if PSU is to win.

This game will come down to turnovers. So far this season, UCF hasn't made any, Bortles hasn't thrown a pick in 217 pass attempts and it has a better turnover differential than Penn State. You get where I'm going.

Penn State - 24
Central Florida - 27

Ryan Snyder
Blue White Illustrated Recruiting Analyst
2013 Record - 2-0

Ok I admit, I'm pulling a Jake Waters. And don't worry, he'd be OK with me saying that.

After being on the UCF train throughout the week, I hopped off last night after doing some late night research.
For the most part, my reasoning for UCF was pretty simple.

A.) I think this game is more important for a team like UCF. In the new American Athletic Conference, Central Florida could become a true player going forward. No better way to send a message than to upset Penn State in Beaver Stadium before the conference schedule really gets going.

B.) If there's any current coach in college football that has the blueprint for out-coaching Bill O'Brien, it's George O'Leary.

However, like always, this game will be won and loss in the trenches, and I don't have any doubt that Penn State absolutely has the superior defensive front.

DaQuan Jones will most likely be double-teamed throughout the game, but that should allow everyone else the opportunity for a potential breakout game. I mean, if FIU was able to get pressure on the quarterback, then Penn State should be able to do that as well.

On the offensive front, I think Penn State has struggled. Sure, they had success in the second half last week, but to me, that was mainly because Eastern Michigan wore down. When you look at all the holding calls, plus a relatively stagnate rushing game, PSU's offensive line has to step it up this week.

One thing that absolutely has to be stressed is the turnover battle. UCF is currently +3 on the year, while Penn State is -3, so I think you'll see Hackenberg throw the ball away quite a bit more this week. If O'Brien's as good as a coach as we believe he is, then he without a doubt will drill it into Christian's head to throw the ball away and live to play another down. Penn State can't afford to turn the ball over more than one time in this game.

UCF's biggest strength is its rushing game, which Penn State should be able to control. However, if Storm Johnson is able to get into the next level, watch out. Players like Nyeem Wartman, Trevor Williams and Jordan Lucas haven't seen a player like Johnson yet. I think the front seven should be able to keep him relatively in check, but he's a very good player. One of the best athletes Penn State will see all year.

This will be a lower scoring game than most think, as I could see both offenses starting slow. The atmosphere in Beaver Stadium should also play a part, as I have no doubts that Ohio State's noon crowd last year won't be the same as a night game in Beaver Stadium.

This should be a really fun game. Central Florida will come here with confidence and the mindset that a win against Penn State could set the tone for a special season in Orlando. But from top to bottom, Penn State has more talent than Central Florida, and that should make a difference late in the game.

Penn State - 27
Central Florida - 21

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