WNUR Predictions: Northwestern at Penn State

Greg Mroz (1-1) (@wizard_of_mroz): Penn State 35, Northwestern 14. People are talking about Penn State’s passing attack being the difference, but the Nittany Lions rush defense is allowing only 49.5 yards per game and 1.8 yards/carry. NU has to be able to throw in order to keep this game close. Player to watch: Trevor Siemian.

Jeffrey Eisenband (0-0) (@JeffEisenband): NU 27 PSU 24. Christian Hackenberg and the linebackers are great, but the rest of the team is just good. If UCF and Rutgers don’t choke, this is a 2-2 team that looks a lot different. Trevor Siemian turns into the NFL’s Eli Manning and proves he’s not as washed up as people think. Player to Watch: Garrett Dickerson.

Tralon Williams (1-1) (@itsyaboytray): Penn State 45, Northwestern 17. Yeah, this should be rough. Northwestern has yet to have an impressive performance and they let Western Illinois QB Trenton Norvell rack up nearly 300 yards in the air. Insert Christian Hackenberg, who is arguably the best QB in the Big Ten and has already shown great poise in leading two 4th quarter game winning drives. This game can be less ugly that I predict if Northwestern can display a stout 3rd down defense, but if Hackenberg gets into a rhythm, Pat Fitzgerald will have some difficult questions to answer in the near future. Unit to watch: D-Line. Has to stop run and get pressure of Hackenberg without blitzing.

Nick Scoliard (1-2) (@NickScols): Penn State 35, Northwestern 17. Before the season, I was excited to see how Northwestern did in conference games, thinking they’d get more wins than last year in conference. Now, I’ll be impressed if they get more wins at all than last year. Hackenberg will be hacking through Northwestern’s D, and unless Siemian can play to his absolute best (has he had a good game since the Gator Bowl? Did the team waste all of their energy in the Gator Bowl, and spent the past two seasons catching their breath?), Northwestern will be flying back with another one in the L column. Player to Watch: Nick VanHoose. The pass defense is going to have to step up to stop Hackenberg, so VanHoose will have to lead the secondary to play a lot better than they did against Trenton Norvell.

Michael Stern (1-2) (@michaeljstern23): 23-10 Penn State. Frankly, NU’s offense didn’t look terrific against Western Illinois. Running backs struggled to break off big runs against the Leathernecks, how will they fare against a Big Ten defense? I’ll say not well, but the under-rated ‘Cats defense should keep NU in this game. Player to watch: Dan Vitale. When the super-back is involved in the offense, good things happen. If the ‘Cats can get Vitale the ball on third downs and in the red zone, they can stay in this game.

Jason Dorow (1-2) (@jasondorow): Penn State 20, Northwestern 10. Happy Valley hasn’t been a joyous location for Northwestern in the past couple decades, and that won’t change Saturday. ‘Cats fall as their offense again fails to produce. Player to watch: Nick VanHoose. He looked good last week after a lackluster first couple games. We’ll get to see if NU’s most reliable corner is ready for conference play.

Ari Ross (1-2) (@aross50): Penn State 31-20. I don’t think Northwestern’s offense can hang with Penn State, especially after the way they played against Western Illinois, an inferior opponent, whereas Penn State is arguably better. If Northwestern’s defense can limit Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions, the ‘Cats will have a chance, otherwise Northwestern will start Big Ten play with a loss. But I just don’t know if NU can slow Hackenberg down, even though the defense has been better as of late. Winning the turnover battle could be the difference in this game. Player to Watch: Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE, Northwestern. Odenigbo had a huge game against WIU. Northwestern’s going to have to put pressure on Hackenberg if they want to win this game and Odenigbo’s just the man for the job. If he has a big day, the ‘Cats could pull off an upset in Happy Valley.

Kevin Harris (0-1) (@KevinGoesCats): 31-10 Penn St. Northwestern won’t stand a chance in this one as NU’s offense and Trevor Siemian will once again struggle to put points on the board with their vanilla, predictable play calling. While the defense will have an admirable showing through the first three quarters, the ‘Cats will learn they’re far from ready to handle the Big Ten this year. Player to watch: Garrett Dickerson has been seeing more and more action each week, which should continue this week due to a depleted receiving corps.

Ben Goren (1-1) (@BenG412): What if I told you fans bereft of hope could have one shining moment? What if I told you that a quarterback on the brink of benching could lead his team to victory in the most hostile of environments? ESPNs 30 for 30 presents: In the Lion’s Den: The Northwestern Story. NU to win 21-17 thanks to a job saving game by Trevor Siemian. Irrational optimism can’t hurt, right?

Zach Pereles (0-0) (@zach_pereles): Penn State 24, Northwestern 10. Christian Hackenberg has been up-and-down to start this season, but he will be boosted by a raucous home crowd for PSU’s Big Ten home opener. Look for the ‘Cats to struggle to get the ball downfield, as the case has been all season, and the running game to be limited as the Nittany Lions will stack the box. Penn State only gives up 11 points per game on the season, sixth best in the country. I doubt Northwestern will even get that. Player to Watch: Ifeadi Odenigbo. Can he show last week’s dominant effort wasn’t a fluke? If so, he could force Hackenberg into some bad decisions.

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