No. 7 Penn State has legitimate College Football Playoff aspirations heading into the 2023 season, and that quest begins on Saturday night when the Nittany Lions square off with West Virginia. Penn State coach James Franklin has built his program into a threat in the Big Ten East while consistently providing a challenge to division juggernauts Ohio State and Michigan.
On the other side of the equation, West Virginia coach Neal Brown is entering this season on one of the hottest seats in the country. He’s 22-25 over four seasons leading the program with school leaders giving him the dreaded vote of confidence after last season. That’s not good news. What is good news, however, is that the Mountaineers are incredibly experienced up front, which will help an offense that was inconsistent last season.
Penn State leads the all-time series 48-9-2 but the two programs haven’t met since 1992.
What will happen on Saturday night in Happy Valley? Let’s break down the game and make picks straight up and against the spread.
Penn State vs. West Virginia: Need to know
It’s Allar time: Drew Allar has received plenty of hype since stepping on campus, and the 6-foot-5, 243-pound sophomore will get the start at quarterback after Sean Clifford left for the NFL. Allar, a five-star prospect and the No. 3 overall prospect in the Class of 2022, threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games last season and added 52 rushing yards with one score on the ground. Franklin has always had solid quarterback play, but this is the first time in his tenure that he will have a potential superstar taking the snaps. Allar will have a veteran offensive line protecting him, but he needs to develop a go-to receiver to take some pressure off of the stellar Nittany Lion rushing attack.
Dynamic duo: Speaking of that rushing attack, Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen comprise one of (if not “the”) best backfields in the nation. It’ll be fascinating to see how that rushing attack has developed after the two became the centerpiece of the offense as freshmen last season. The good news for West Virginia is that its defensive front seven has plenty of experience and finished last season with the Big 12’s fourth-best rushing defense in terms of yards per attempt (4.14).
Who will take the snaps for the Mountaineers? Brown was non-committal on his starting quarterback when he met with the media earlier this week. Junior Garrett Greene and Nicco Marchiol have been vying for the top spot on the depth chart. Brown said earlier this month that he has made a decision on who will take the snaps, but that he wasn’t sure if he will officially release it to the media. That has left plenty of mystery surrounding the race. Greene threw for 593 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions in nine games last season, which included starts in the final two matchups. Marchiol played in two games last year, including the season finale against Oklahoma State when he completed two of his nine passes for 29 yards.
How to watch Penn State vs. West Virginia
Date: Saturday, Sept. 2 | Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Beaver Stadium — University Park, Pennsylvania
TV: NBC | Live stream: Peacock, fubo (Try for free)
Penn State vs. West Virginia prediction, picks
Odds via SportsLine consensus
The Nittany Lions are loaded, and there’s no chance the Mountaineers will be able to slow down this offense. Allar will light up the porous West Virginia secondary and turn this one sideways by the end of the third quarter. The hook on the line makes this one even more attractive since a 21-point win will allow Penn State tickets to cash. Prediction: Penn State (-21.5)
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