Quarterback Matt McGloin has historically been very successful going up against the Wildcats, recording 6 TDs and zero interceptions, and is 2-0 in his first two meetings. McGloin is leading in the Big Ten in passing with 243 ypg to go along with 1217 total passing yards with 10 TDs and 2 interceptions. Running back Zach Zwinak had a surprise game last week in the 35-7 rout over Illinois by having 100 yards rushing on 19 carries and 2 TDs.
Senior linebacker Michael Mauti had one of his best games in a Nittany Lion uniform recording 6 tackles, 2 interceptions, as well as the Big Ten defensive player of the week award. During Penn State’s three game winning streak the Nittany Lions defense have only allowed opponents to convert 11-42 (26%) on third-down plays.
The Nittany Lions defense will be put up to the test against the 9th ranked rushing attack in the Northwestern Wildcats. Last week in their Big Ten season opener against Indiana, the Wildcats set a school record with 704 yards of total offense in their 44-29 win.
Northwestern, one of the surprises so far this year, is ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2008. The Wildcats are led by do-it-all playmaker Kain Kolter. Last week Kolter threw the ball three times, ran the ball for 161 yards on 14 rushes, and caught nine passes for 131 yards. Sophomore quarterback Trevor Siermian also threw for 308 yards last week in their 44-29 rout over Indiana.
What to Watch For: Northwestern leads the Big Ten in red zone offense with a 92% conversion rate. This week, they will be facing the Big Ten leaders in red zone defense in the Nittany Lions. Penn State’s defense is led by line backers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges, who will be expected to stop the dangerous Kain Kolter and the Wildcats spread offense. The Nittany Lions are second in the Big Ten with 11 turnovers thus far.
Keys To Win: Penn State will have to depend on a strong offensive performance from senior quarterback Matt McGloin. The Wildcats are ranked last in pass defense but first in run defense. Look for a steady running attack with bruising running back Zach Zwinak and speedsters Bill Belton and Derek Day as well as short quick routes by receivers Allen Robinson and Kyle Carter as it there is a 50% chance of rain on Saturday.
For Northwestern, one of their biggest concerns will be cutting turnovers. Last week they had 3 against a lowly Indiana squad. The Wildcats will also need a strong performance from their defensive backs as they rank 109th in the nation in pass defense. Covering Allen Robinson (32 REC 439 yards 5 TDs) will be no easy task.
Prediction: Penn State 24 Northwestern 20