Penn State vs Wisconsin: Season Opener

It is Penn State vs Wisconsin in the season opener for the Nittany Lions. Sean Clifford and company head to the Big Ten West opponent.

It has been a long time since college football was normal. That all changes this weekend when Penn State travels to Wisconsin to take on the Badgers. James Franklin and company will open the season with a Big Ten West match-up at Camp Randall Stadium. The game will be played at 12:00 pm ET on FOX. So, let’s take a look at the Penn State vs Wisconsin season opener.

Penn State vs Wisconsin: Season Opener

This is a Top 25 match-up with Penn State sitting at 18 and the Badgers at #12 in the nation. With this being a Penn State vs Wisconsin game, fans should be prepared to see a battle up front for both teams. Further, the quarterbacks on both sides have to prove themselves after inconsistent play in 2020. Sean Clifford needs to forget the first half of the 2020 season and build off of his performance in the second half. Finally, we will look at both defenses and what each brings to the table.

The Offenses

Both Big Ten schools are historically run-heavy with a lot of talent at the position. Even though the Nittany Lions have a new offensive coordinator who likes the pass, don’t be surprised if the talented running back group gets involved early and often. Further, Wisconsin is highlighted by Clemson transfer, Chez Mellusi, at the running back position. Mellusi played sparingly in his first two seasons, scoring one touchdown through nine games in 2020. The Nittany Lions are looking to start off strong in the run game with the entire group being healthy. Highlighting the running back spot for Penn State is Noah Cain. Cain is back after missing almost every game in the shortened 2020 season.

Penn State is returning nine starters on the offense. Including standout wide receiver Jahan Dotson and Parker Washington who had a very strong season for the Nittany Lions in 2020 as a freshman. The wide receiver position is finally looking up for Penn State after years of inconsistency. Dotson boasted eight touchdowns and 884 receiving yards through nine games last season. He will look to improve on that in 2021. The Badgers have experienced receivers as well. Returning for Wisconsin is tight end, Jake Ferguson. Ferguson led the Wisconsin offense with 30 catches a season ago and tallied four touchdowns.

The Defenses

There will be several new faces on the Penn State defensive line this season. Normally this would be an area of concern against a historically strong Badger offensive line, but Wisconsin struggled in the passing game in 2020. Jesse Luketa has moved to defensive end this season and his first test could be a tough one in Wisconsin. Further, Temple transfer, Arnold Ebiketie, is going to be important coming off of the edge this season. On the inside is captain PJ Mustipher. These guys will need to get to Badger quarterback Graham Mertz early and often on Saturday. Regardless, Saturday is going to be a good game to get a look at a hopefully much improved Penn State secondary.

On the flip side, Wisconsin returns eight starters on defense. That includes the top five leaders in tackles in 2020 and one of the best linebacker groups in the Big Ten. However, there will be two guys on the defensive line that aren’t returning starters. If Penn State can open up the run game early against a still-gelling Badger defensive line this will take the pressure off Clifford to hopefully utilize the pass consistently throughout the game. This would leave Dotson and Washington to contend with a talented Wisconsin secondary in Colin Wilder and Scott Nelson. Nelson had two interceptions, one sack, and four tackles for loss in 2020.

Penn State Season Opener

It is poised to be a hard-fought game on Saturday in this early Big Ten match-up. Clifford has a lot to prove with talent surrounding him in both the run and pass game. In addition, there are a few transfers that are looking to make their mark.

 

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