WNUR’s Predictions of Northwestern vs. Penn State
The WNUR Sports staff offers their predictions of Saturday’s football game between the #24 Northwestern Wildcats and the Penn State Nittany Lions in Happy Valley.
Raise your hand if you thought at the beginning of the year that the Northwestern Wildcats would be 5-0, the Minnesota Gophers would be 4-1, the Arkansas Razorbacks would be 1-4 and that Taken 2 would actually be cool. If you have your hand in the air as you maintain a straight face, you should consider a career in politics. One person that may have legitimately had his hand up is WNUR’s Danny Moran. Last week, Danny predicted right here that Northwestern would defeat the Indiana Hoosiers by a score of 41-28. Chew on that, Lee Corso. With Northwestern’s 44-29 victory, Danny took home the victory for the week and will get to lead off this week’s predictions.
Danny Moran (@DannyJMoran): Northwestern 20, Penn State 17. The Wildcats excel in close games and this will be no different. Penn State will get some breaks to keep the game tight but NU’s most reliable player, Jeff Budzien, will come through with the game-winning kick. Player to Watch: Ibraheim Campbell.
Zach Kisfalusi (@zKisfalusi): I will not be picking a score this week because I am doing play-by-play. (Editor’s note: The broadcast can be heard right here at WNURSports.com or on WNUR 89.3 FM in the Evanston/Chicago area with the WNUR Sports Kick-Off show starting at 10:00 and kick-off from Happy Valley at 11:00. Zach knows his stuff, so be sure to check him out behind the mic.) I am looking for a grind of a game with not much offense through the air. The battle in the trenches will win this game. My player to watch is the man with a limitless motor: Tyler Scott. I believe Scott has a huge game with lots of pressure and dare I say a sack or two.
Jim Sannes (@JimSannes): Northwestern 27, Penn State 23. As a Northwestern fan, this game makes me extremely nervous. Matt McGloin has had a BIT of success against Northwestern in his career (combined 35-55 for 417 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions in two games), and the Northwestern pass defense is still ranked last in the Big Ten, allowing 289 yards per game. However, the ‘Cats have found ways this season to keep their opponents out of the end zone on a fairly consistent basis, so I believe their running game will be just enough to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1962. Player to Watch: Patrick Ward. His running blocking has been dominant the last two weeks.
Michael Anders (@MikeAnders819): Northwestern 27 Penn State 20. This is probably one of the first times ever that it could be said with a straight face, but Northwestern will be the toughest team Penn State has had to face so far this season. It won’t be an easy match-up for the Cats though, travelling to Happy Valley for the Homecoming whiteout. Having said that, the NU offense should control the ball and show that the Nittany Lion defense (ranked 14 in the nation in points against) is a bit overrated. Player to Watch: Venric Mark.
Sam Block (@Blockless): Northwestern, 24-21. Although Northwestern will probably lose (McGloin can throw the ball and NU’s secondary is the weakest part of the team), I’m taking the LSAT and the ‘Cats wouldn’t do that to me, would they? Player to Watch: Matt McGloin. If he’s not being his usual ‘Cat-killing self, then NU should have enough offense to come out on top.
Jon Rosenberg (@BigJonRosenberg): Northwestern 31 – 20 Penn State. Northwestern controls the clock with the two-headed hydra running attack of Venric Mark and Kain Colter. The defense gets cut up by McGloin early but holds when it matters, in the 4th quarter. Heck, Kyle Prater might even catch his first TD. Player to Watch: Jack Konopka. He’s been a stud in his first season at RT.
Tralon Williams (@TralonWilliams): NU – 27 Penn State – 17. It’s a close one but I think the pre-Indiana, post-Syracuse defense will come back. The offense will keep Penn State’s defense on their heels for the game and the defense will not relent. Matt McGloin will be faced with pressure and make bad throws. The defense should be able to capitalize. Player to Watch: Nick Van Hoose.
Cameron Songer (@CameronSonger): 35-20 Northwestern. I think Northwestern jumps on the opportunity to make a statement on national TV. Penn State has a solid defense highlighted by its linebackers, but the ‘Cats have too many weapons on offense. I think the near-disaster last weekend will wake the defense up. Player to Watch: Nick Vanhoose. He needs to step up after the injury to Ibraheim Campbell last week.
Nick Petro (@NickyPetro): Northwestern 27, Penn State 24. But it won’t be easy. The Nittany Lions are riding some serious momentum on a three game win streak and will be playing in front of a whiteout home crowd in Happy Valley. While the Penn State defense is holding opponents to a mere 13.6 points per game, they have yet to witness an offense with as many weapons as Northwestern (Colter, Siemian, Mark, Jones, Fields, etc.). Player To Watch: Jeff Budzien (until he proves he can miss a kick).
Cameron Albert-Deitch (@c_albertdeitch): Penn State, 24-17. Northwestern hasn’t started 6-0 in 50 years, but this year is not the year to remedy that statistic. The ‘Cats turned the ball over three times against a hapless Indiana defense, so what will happen against an opportunistic Penn State defense that has a plus-10 differential in their last four contests? The Wildcats have historically struggled to contain Penn State QB Matt McGloin, and unless the secondary can turn in a huge game, McGloin will be the difference here. Player to Watch: Matt McGloin.
Brandon Wilson (@bwilmedill): Northwestern, 31-30. PSU will come into Saturday’s home game intending to pound the ball down NU’s throat and juice the clock, since Northwestern’s seemingly unstoppable ground game headed by Kain Colter and Venric Mark presumably can’t do much dominating if they’re confined to the sidelines for most of the contest. What this game comes down to is whether Northwestern can continue to play smashmouth defense, stuff PSU’s run, and run their stuff on offense. This one may start slow, but I see it ending up as a track meet. I have a hunch that Budzien, 11-for-11 on FG attempts this year, kicks a game winner. Player to Watch: Jeff Budzien (He should see a healthy dose of attempts in this game.)
Eric Klaus: Northwestern 24-23. Matt McGloin has killed the Wildcats each of the past two seasons, and given that the Wildcats’ secondary still a weakness, I expect McGloin to have another big game on Saturday. Ultimately though, it will be the Northwestern offense that decides this one. Although the Penn State defense has been strong all season (14th in the nation in scoring defense) they have yet to face a team with as many weapons as the Wildcats. Look for the ‘Cats to try and control the game with their running game, spearheaded by both Kain Colter and Venric Mark. A late Northwestern TD wins it. Player to Watch: Venric Mark.