No. 11 Penn State righted the ship after a two-game road losing streak and will put a 13-game home winning streak on the line in its finale at Beaver Stadium on Saturday against a reeling Nebraska squad. Narrow setbacks at Ohio State and Michigan State delivered a damaging blow to the Nittany Lions’ chances in the College Football Playoff system, but they crawled back to No. 10 following a 35-6 win over Rutgers last week.
A strong finish against the Cornhuskers and the following week at slumping Maryland - as well as some chaos elsewhere - could push Penn State back into the Big Ten and CFP races. “I think we’ve all kind of grown and learned through last year and this year, and our best model to keep the team on the path that I think we need to be on is taking the 1-0 mentality and not focusing on anything else, trying to limit as much of the noise in the conversations as we possibly can,” coach James Franklin told reporters. “I feel good about that. We’ve done that since (the loss to Michigan State).” Nebraska opened Big Ten play with two wins but it has dropped four of five ever since and was embarrassed at Minnesota last week. Athletic Director Bill Moos said this week that head coach Mike Riley “deserves to finish the 2017 season,” which could result in no bowl game for just the third time since 1968.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1. LINE: Penn State -26
ABOUT NEBRASKA (4-6, 3-4 Big Ten): Quarterback Tanner Lee is in concussion protocol after leaving the 54-21 loss at Minnesota, which could give freshman Patrick O’Brien his first start. “Patrick is a talented guy that has never really taken a back seat and just floated back there as a backup quarterback,” Riley told the media. “He’s been engaged and really, really wants to be a player.” O’Brien, who has family in Pennsylvania and once attended a camp at Penn State, relieved Lee last week and completed 12-of-18 passes for 137 yards.
ABOUT PENN STATE (8-2, 5-2): Trace McSorley threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns last week and had a team-high 44 rushing yards as star running back Saquon Barkley (35 yards on 14 carries) continued to be bottled up, but Franklin has challenged his offensive line to open things up with a more physical, nasty style. “I actually met with some of the young linemen the other day about it, that they were brought in and told that,” Franklin told reporters. “They understood that, and they need to bring that, bring that in practice and bring that in the games.” Barkley, who is 101 yards away from his third 1,000-yard season, did find the end zone twice last week and needs two more rushing scores to tie Lydell Mitchell (38) atop the school’s career list.
1. Nittany Lions WR DaeSean Hamilton has a TD in three straight games and needs 141 receiving yards to move into second place on the school’s all-time list.
2. The Huskers are 13th in the Big Ten in rushing with 115.6 yards per game and leading rusher RB Devine Ozigbo is averaging just 35.3 over his last four games.
3. Nebraska owns a 9-7 series edge and has won the last four meetings, although each was by single digits.
PREDICTION: Penn State 48, Nebraska 20