What you need to know: Penn State vs. Pitt
This week, we’re telling you everything you need to know about the upcoming and fully-charged Penn State vs. Pitt game, this Saturday, September 8.
Game details: at Heinz Field, 8 p.m. kickoff, broadcast on ABC.
Records: Penn State 1-0 at Pitt 1-0.
Last week: Penn State and Pitt both outpaced overmatched opponents, with the Nittany Lions beating Appalachian State 45-38 and the Panthers upending Albany 33-7.
Venue: Heinz Field, which Pitt shares with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Two years ago, the Penn State-Pitt contest featured the largest attendance for a sporting event in the history of the city of Pittsburgh; nearly 70,000 fans filled the stands, many of them Penn State supporters.
Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 79 degrees and mostly cloudy.
Overview: Here it is, the rivalry that doesn’t feel like a rivalry to everybody involved. To Pitt’s credit, the series is close, thanks to a stretch from 1914–29 when the Panthers largely dominated the Nittany Lions. Over the last few decades, however, Penn State has clearly outdistanced Pitt in terms of recruiting, fan attendance, national relevancy and a host of other factors. Ordinarily, fans could expect Penn State to win by two-plus touchdowns, and be right, though anything can happen when a team is playing at home in front of a national audience.
The line: Penn State –8.5
All-time series: Penn State leads 51-43-4.
Last time they met (2017): Penn State collected a 33-14 victory, highlighted by two Saquon Barkley touchdowns, two Trace McSorley-Mike Gesicki scoring connections and a safety by Marcus Allen that should go down in history alongside the Lavar Leap for memorable defensive moments.
Throwback classic (1981): Penn State routed top-ranked Pitt 48-14, sidelining the Panthers’ title aspirations. Todd Blackledge outdueled Dan Marino, and Penn State roared back from an early 14-0 deficit to earn a victory—beating the No. 1 ranked team by 34 points—that’s unheard of in college football. In an all-time classic quote, after the game, Joe Paterno said, “I didn’t think was an upset. Who says so?” The quote is part of this recap from The New York Times.
Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions ignore all the hoopla that’s sure to surround the game. Given James Franklin’s mantra of the upcoming game being the most important game of the entire season, that should happen, and the Nittany Lions should return home 2-0.
Pitt wins if: the Panthers put the totality of their energy into the game, and quarterback Kenny Pickett can excel against a Penn State defense that may still be finding its footing.
Count on: a “lively” crowd. Yes, there’s a reason we put the word “lively” in quotes. With fans on both sides having all day to prepare for the game, the atmosphere will be much more charged than a typical Pitt home crowd. That shouldn’t shake Penn State. Remember, the Nittany Lions routinely play in front of 100,000-plus crowds on the road at Ohio State and Michigan, so this won’t be anything new.
Keep an eye on: Miles Sanders. Penn State’s junior running back is now the focal point of the Nittany Lions’ rushing attack, and this game represents a Homecoming of sorts, as he starred at Woodland Hills High School before coming to Penn State. Miles doesn’t need extra motivation, but don’t be surprised if he’s amped up a little more than usual for the primetime clash in his home area.
Trivia tidbit: Forty Penn State players were on NFL training camp rosters, including four for the Pittsburgh Steelers, tied for the most with one team with the Miami Dolphins. The Nittany Lions with the Steelers are Marcus Allen, Parker Cothren, Malik Golden and Jesse James.
Prediction: Penn State 41, Pitt 21
*Season record: 1-0
*Season record against the spread: 1-0
*HappyValley.com season records