Kent State (1-2) at Penn State (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Beaver Stadium (106,572) -- University Park, Pennsylvania. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: KSU 1-1, PSU 1-1. Away Record: KSU 0-1, PSU 0-0. Neutral Record: KSU 0-0, PSU 1-0. Conference Record: KSU 0-1, PSU 0-0. Series Record: PSU leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: The Penn State Nittany Lions will make their final non-conference appearance when they host the Kent State Golden Flashes at Beaver Stadium.
Penn State got off to a 2-0 start with wins over Syracuse and Eastern Michigan. However, the Nittany Lions were tripped up last week by UCF, 34-31. This weekend's bout wraps up a stretch of three straight home games for Bill O'Brien's squad.
Kent State is trying to avoid a third straight defeat. One week after suffering a 41-22 home loss to Bowling Green in their Mid-American Conference opener, the Golden Flashes were on the wrong end of Saturday's 45-13 road loss to LSU. They are in the midst of a key stretch that will see them play three straight and four of five in unfriendly confines.
PSU won the most recent meeting in 2010 and holds a 3-0 edge in the all-time series with Kent State.
Through three games, Kent State's offense ranks among the least efficient units in all of the FBS. The Golden Flashes rank 108th nationally in scoring offense (17.3 ppg) and 113th in total offense (303.7 ypg).
Against a stingy LSU defense, they managed only 248 yards of total offense, including only 58 on the ground for a team average of 1.8 yards per rush. Kent State converted only 4-of-14 third downs and had to settle for field goals on two of its three trips inside the red zone. Colin Reardon completed an efficient 20-of-29 passes, but he finished with only 190 yards and no touchdowns as he seldom took shots down the field.
The KSU defense allowed LSU to have its biggest offensive output in a game since 2007, as the Tigers totaled 571 yards from scrimmage and averaged 10.4 yards per play, the second-best mark in school history. LSU racked up 26 first downs and gashed the Golden Flashes with 307 yards and three scores on the ground. LSU made seven trips to the red zone and came away with five touchdowns and a field goal. Luke Wollet paced the Kent State defense with nine tackles, including one for loss, and a pass breakup. Through three games, he leads the team with 24 tackles, followed by Matt Dellinger with 22.
Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg has earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors twice in his first three weeks under center. In the loss to UCF, he completed 21-of-28 passes for 262 yards with one touchdown an no interceptions. Hackenberg, one of only three true freshman quarterbacks over the last century to start Penn State's season opener, is completing an impressive 72 percent of his pass attempts. Three of his four scoring strikes have been for 45 yards or longer, and he leads all Big Ten quarterbacks with 22 completions per game. Of course, any quarterback would love to have the opportunity to throw to star junior wideout Allen Robinson, the reigning Big Ten Receiver of the Year. In 10 quarters of action this season, Robinson ranks among the national leaders with 23 receptions for 405 yards and three touchdowns. Zach Zwinak has also been featured offensively and is coming off a career-high three touchdowns on 128 rushing yards against the Knights.
After giving up a total of 24 points over their first two games, the Nittany Lions allowed 34 in the loss to UCF. The Knights converted 7-of-12 third downs and finished with 507 yards of total offense to send O'Brien's defense back to the drawing board. Safety Malcolm Willis came up with an interception late in the first half while Trevor Williams recorded six tackles and two pass breakups. However, UCF was able to frequently get to the second level and put pressure on the Nittany Lions, who were unable to come up with stops when they needed to.
Still, there are reasons for the Blue and White defense to remain optimistic. One of those reasons is senior defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, who leads the conference with five tackles for loss to go along with his team-high 23 tackles. When Jones is able to impact the game at the point of attack, it frees things up for the Penn State linebackers to roam around and make plays.
Look for the Nittany Lions to come out with a purpose after last week's disappointing loss. Hackenberg and Robinson could both be in store for big days against Kent State's leaky defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Penn State 44, Kent State 14
09/18 10:33:22 ET