Although it had loftier expectations - especially after a 7-0 start - Penn State still has a chance to carry plenty of momentum into bowl season. The 11th-ranked Nittany Lions seek their third straight victory to close out the regular season when they visit Maryland in a Big Ten clash Saturday afternoon.
Behind a big game from Saquon Barkley (224 total yards, three touchdowns) and Trace McSorley (325 passing yards, three TD passes and one rushing score), Penn State rediscovered its dominant offense in a 56-44 win over Nebraska last week, and it now faces a team that’s surrendered at least 31 points in six of eight conference affairs. “Offensively from a positive standpoint, rushed for 263 yards, zero turnovers, which I‘m really proud of as a coach,” coach James Franklin told reporters this week when he discussed defeating the Cornhuskers. “The weather conditions weren’t great. Not putting the ball on the ground at all, not making any poor decisions with the ball, things like that, I was really proud of that.” The Terrapins have dropped three in a row but they gave No. 22 Michigan State all it could handle in a 17-7 loss at East Lansing last week. In snowy conditions, Maryland allowed the Spartans to complete 2-of-14 passes for 20 yards.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network. LINE: Penn State -22
ABOUT PENN STATE (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten): While the offense is chugging along, the Nittany Lions’ defense has sprung some leaks amid a rash of injuries, and it allowed Nebraska to put up 34 second-half points. “Got to be better in our man-to-man coverage, especially at the line of scrimmage,” Franklin told the media. “We didn’t have any takeaways. I think this is the first week we didn’t have any defensive takeaways. I think the week before we had a special teams takeaway. We got to be better there.” In addition to the injuries, Penn State will play a third straight game without standout linebacker Manny Bowen (violation of team rules) and will play the first half without senior safety Troy Apke, who was ejected for targeting last week.
ABOUT MARYLAND (4-7, 2-6): Sophomore Max Bortenschlager, the fourth-stringer to start the season, returned from a one-game absence to make his eighth start of the year last week and was 13-for-25 with 121 yards. Ty Johnson leads the way on the ground with 805 yards and five TDs, but he has failed to reach the 100-yard mark in the last seven games. Fellow junior D.J. Moore, the Big Ten’s leader in receptions with 72 and yards with 933, needs six grabs to set the single-season school record.
1. Franklin served as assistant head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterback coach during a tenure with Maryland from 2008-10.
2. McSorley needs nine yards to become the first Nittany Lions quarterback to have multiple 3,000-yard campaigns.
3. Penn State has a 37-2-1 series advantage, including a 38-14 victory at home last year.
PREDICTION: Penn State 38, Maryland 17