In case you missed it, Penn State football had a turbulent offseason. Despite that, or maybe because of the camaraderie it fostered, the Nittany Lions are 5-2.
In fact, the Lions have won five straight with victories over Navy, Temple, Illinois, Northwestern then Iowa.
Their quarterback, Matt McGloin, is 45th nationally in total offense, while he’s leading the Big Ten in passing yards per game. (He’s just 5th in the league in passing efficiency, however, even though he’s only thrown 2 picks.)
Unsurprisingly, the Big Ten’s leading receiver, in terms of catches per game, is also a member of the Nittany Lions. Allen Robinson is hauling in about 7 passes a contest, and he has 8 touchdowns on the season.
The Penn State running game took a big hit when Silas Redd transferred to USC. In the wake of his departure, Zach Zwinak has been carrying the load, but he’s only averaging 53 yards a game.
Overall, the Nittany Lions are ranked 77th nationally in rushing yards, 45th in passing and 62nd in scoring.
Given these numbers, it’s been the Penn State defense that the team has depended on. They only give up around 16 points a game. They ring up almost three sacks every time out. They are ranked 6th in the country in the red zone.
The stalwart of that defense is Michael Mauti. He’s 5th in the Big Ten in tackles, and he leads the Nittany Lions with three interceptions.
Penn State has tended to struggle this season is almost all areas of special teams (ranked 100 in kickoff returns, 91st in punt returns, 120th in net punting, and they’re just 4/11 on field goal attempts). Regardless, there are still plenty of reasons to expect Saturday’s game will be very competitive.
The Nittany Lions have outscored opponents by a combined 66-0 in the first quarter, while sometimes slow-starting OSU has been outscored 56-51. Penn State has only committed 32 penalties this season, and they are on the plus side of the turnover margin. They are even statistically converting a higher percentage of their third downs (46% to 43%).
The top two teams in the Leaders Division collide this Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on 97.1 The Fan.