Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Pittsburgh Panthers Game Preview

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Joe Broback

Contributor at Champion Insiders
Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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Give us this rivalry every year, because it’s worth it. Yes, there were blowouts the last two games, but this is an underrated rivalry in college football. Honestly, any FBS team that has another team close to them should play every year. Teams can still schedule anyone else, but at least make a rivalry game happen. Pitt and Penn State are a perfect example of that. The Penn State Nittany Lions had quite the offseason, losing both Trace McSorley (expired eligibility/NFL Draft) and Tommy Stevens (transferred to Mississippi State). Losses of that magnitude would normally set a team back, but Penn State’s proving otherwise so far. After two dominant wins, they get a rival that will test them (at least early in the game).

How to watch: ABC
Start time: 11:00am CT
Line: Penn State -17.5
Location: Beaver Stadium (University Park, PA)

Penn State Nittany Lions keys to the game

  • Lay down the Hamler
  • Clifford the confident quarterback
  • Make a Pickett fence

Pittsburgh Panthers keys to the game

  • Force the pass
  • Establish the run
  • Give Pickett time

Penn State Nittany Lions players to watch

WR KJ Hamler (177 yards rec., 25.3 ypc, 2 TD)
TE Pat Freiermuth (124 yards rec., 2 TD)
DE Yetur Gross-Matos (3.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks)
QB Sean Clifford (559 yards passing, 6 TD – 0 INT)
CB John Reid (2 INT’s, 1 TD)

Pittsburgh Panthers player to watch

DT Jaylen Twyman (3.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks)
CB Dane Jackson (7 tackles, 2 PD)
QB Kenny Pickett (506 yards passing, 2 TD – 2 INT)
WR Maurice Ffrench (16 catches, 192 yards, 2 TD)

Why Penn State wins

Penn State’s been the better team this century, winning 13 of the last 17 matchups with the Panthers. Media members put a chip on the Penn State Nittany Lions collective shoulder this offseason because of the two quarterback departures. Sean Clifford’s given his team less to worry about with his play early this season. Throw in a defense that’s allowed just 20 points in their two games, and you see why the Nittany Lions are the favorite team. If Clifford can continue his confident play and unleash KJ Hamler, Penn State will light up the scoreboard again. If they can also get to Pickett (like Virginia did), the Panthers offense will stall.

Why Pitt wins

If we see the Kenny Pickett from the Ohio game, Pitt has a chance. If it’s the Virginia Pickett, they lose by a lot. They can help themselves by establishing the run with AJ Davis early, which will also open up the passing game. Penn State’s defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos already has three sacks to his name, and is looking for any way to increase that total. Keeping him honest will go a long way in helping Pickett. The last time Pitt won, they rushed for 341 yards in a 42-39 win. Another key will be winning the turnover battle. Pitt’s lost the last two turnover battles against the Nittany Lions, and both resulted in blowouts.


Even though the last two games went heavily in Penn State’s favor, Pitt won’t back down. There isn’t as much firepower on the Nittany Lions depth chart as in years past, but they’re still dangerous. Clifford appears comfortable in the starting role, and gives Penn State the edge. PENN STATE 34 PITT 14

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