What you need to know: Penn State V. Maryland
Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and when and where you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.
Photo: Christian M. M. Brady
Need-To-Know Details: Penn State vs. Maryland/Noon/BTN
Records: Penn State (3-2, 1-1 Big Ten), Maryland (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State has won nine of its last 10 games.
Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 66 degrees, with intervals of clouds and sun.
The Overview: Penn State’s Homecoming arrives during a critical month-long stretch for the Nittany Lions. After upending Minnesota in last week’s overtime thriller at Beaver Stadium, Penn State welcomes another mid-tier opponent to Happy Valley. In some ways, Maryland has risen as the best chance for Penn State to have a true rival — refusing to shake hands with Penn State before the 2014 contest is one reason. Another is that the Terps’ geographical location ensures constant recruiting battles and yearly match-ups while presiding in the Big Ten’s East Division. Still, when you’ve lost to an opponent only twice in the last century — the teams first met in 1917 — you can’t start swapping victories and expect to compete against the upper echelon of the conference.
The Line: Penn State +1.5
All-Time Series: Penn State leads 36-2-1.
Last Time They Met (2015): Penn State 31, Maryland 30. The Lions won a thrilling contest at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens.
Penn State Wins If: The Nittany Lions can protect Trace McSorley. In the victory against Minnesota, McSorley accounted for 408 yards of total offense — the third-most in school history — including a career-best 335 passing yards. Here’s one reason why: The offensive line allowed zero sacks. While the defense has proven capable, the Lions also haven’t completely shut down anyone, either. Penn State needs to score, which means McSorley needs time to engineer those drives.
Maryland Wins If: They overcome the crowd. Average attendance through the Terrapins’ first four games is 34,240. How Maryland adapts to facing a real crowd (and real noise) should greatly determine the outcome.
Count On: A tremendously huge ovation for kicker Joey Julius. Penn State’s hard-hitting kickoff specialist not only absorbed a cheap shot against Minnesota, he also posted an inspiring note to his Facebook page earlier this week. He was absent from the team during the spring and summer. Now, everyone knows why. After suffering from an eating disorder, depression, and anxiety, Julius entered a treatment center in St. Louis, and learned that for the past 11 years, he’s endured binge-eating disorder. He was candid in the note, and he ended by saying he’d help anyone going through a similar struggle, mentioning anybody could message him and he’d immediately respond and share his insight. So count on a tremendously huge ovation for Julius, who will deserve it.
Keep An Eye On: The first half. Penn State’s recent penchant for slow starts can’t continue if the Lions want to win eight or more games this season. That number might sound high, but with home games against Iowa and Michigan State appearing more and more winnable, the Lions can get there if they win Saturday.
Trivia Tidbit of The Week, Part I: Maryland has yet to beat a quality opponent. The Terps’ four opponents have a combined 7-12 record.
Trivia Tidbit of The Week, Part II: Penn State is unbeaten this season (3-0) when playing on BTN, which is broadcasting Saturday’s contest.
Saquon Barkley record book watch: After gaining 63 yards against Minnesota, Barkley moves up to No. 28 in all-time rushing yards at Penn State.
*Season Record: 4-1
*Season Record Against the Spread: 2-2-1
Prediction: Penn State 34, Maryland 27
*HappyValley.com season predictions