Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
When: Saturday, September 10, 2016
Time: 12:00pm EST
Line: Pittsburgh -4
The Penn State Nittany Lions will head to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers in week two action Saturday afternoon from Heinz Field. Penn State got by Kent State easily last week winning by a 33-13 score, and Pittsburgh had no problem in week one, defeating Villanova by a score of 28-7.
Barkley Shines in Week One Win
The Penn State Nittany Lions disposed of Kent State in week one by a 33-13 score. New starting quarterback Trace McSorley threw several incompletions, going 16 for 31, but still tallied 209 yards in the air with two touchdowns and zero picks. McSorley was a backup in his 2015 freshman year and it may take time for him to get going. Penn State’s biggest weapon on offense is the dynamic running back Saquon Barkley, who rushed for over 1000 yards last season, and is one of the best backs in the Big Ten. Barkley looked great in week one, rushing for 105 yards off 22 carries and also found the end zone once. Penn State’s other big weapon is wideout Chris Godwin who led the way in the air in week one, catching seven passes for 67 yards. If McSorley can gel with his team quickly this team’s offense should be just as good if not better than it was last year. Penn State does not have a lot of depth at defensive linebacker, however they do have a solid secondary, and they were tremendous defensively last season, holding opponents to 21.7 points per game, ranking them 30th overall, and their defensive unit will be terrific again this season.
Conner Makes Emotional Return to Action
The Pittsburgh Panthers got off to a slow start in their week one tilt with Villanova, but turned it on in the second quarter and came out on top by a 28-7 score. The big moment was James Conner making his return to action after winning a battle with cancer. Conner played his first game in about a year and rushed for 53 yards off seven carries and one touchdown. If Conner can turn to his 2014 form where he rushed for 1765 yards with a whopping 26 touchdowns in 2014, then the Panthers offense will be a huge threat. Quarterback Nathan Peterman was effective, converting on 19 of his 32 passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Peterman didn’t fully take over as the number one QB until week three of last season, and from then on he was outstanding, racking up 2287 yards in the air with 20 touchdowns and only threw eight interceptions. The Panthers play a very aggressive style of defense with lots of blitzing which allowed them to average 2.5 sacks per game last year. The Panthers face a much bigger test in this matchup compared to week one and I think they have all the tools to be effective.
The Penn State Nittany Lions are:
- 0-5 ATS in their last 5 games overall.
- 1-5 ATS in their last 6 non-conference games.
- 2-13-2 ATS in their last 17 road games.
The Pittsburgh Panthers are:
- 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.
- 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games against Penn State.
I am going with Pittsburgh in this matchup. I like Peterman at quarterback a lot more than McSorley who does not have much experience and only completed 50% of his passes last week. Panthers QB Peterman is calm under pressure and a lot more experienced than McSorley. Both teams have a great running game but Conner was just getting warmed up last week after his long layoff, and I expect him to be much better this week. Pittsburgh was solid at defending the run last year as they had the 20th best run defense in the entire country so I think they can contain Barkley, and I think that will be a big difference maker in this one.
Our Pick: Pittsburgh -4
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