Penn State Opens Season at Purdue

The Penn State Nittany Lions got the luck, or the bad luck, of the draw. Starting their 2022-23 season on Thursday night at Purdue. The Big Ten West opponent finished the 2021-22 season 9-3 and 6-3 in conference play. Penn State ended the 7-6 season with a disappointing loss to Arkansas in the Outback Bowl. With six-year quarterback Sean Clifford back and a lot of young talent on the offense, this could be an interesting matchup to start the season. Penn State opens its season at Purdue, let’s take a look.

Penn State Opens at Purdue

The Nittany Lions play Purdue at 8:00 PM ET on Thursday at Ross-Ade Stadium. The game will air on FOX to kick off the season. Both the Nittany Lions and the Boilermakers are coming into this contest with veteran quarterbacks. Clifford and Purdue signal-caller, Aidan O’Connell both came back to college football for their sixth year. Clifford started the season well in 2021, but an injury against Iowa quickly derailed his, and the Nittany Lions, season. The difference between last season and this season at the quarterback position? There is depth. Penn State has true freshman quarterback Drew Allar as the backup against Purdue and returner Christian Veilleux ready as well. This is something that the Nittany Lions did not have a season ago.

Offensive Line Struggles Resolved?

The Penn State offensive line needs to be better in 2022 and fast. The Purdue defensive line has depth and the Nittany Lions had an abysmal run game in 2021. Largely in part due to the ineffective offensive line. Purdue is replacing George Karlaftis, who led the team in tackles for loss and was second on the team in sacks. However, the Boilermakers have a lot of talent returning. Kydran Jenkins returns at the linebacker position and led the team with five sacks in 2021 and had eight tackles for loss. The junior will likely play an even bigger role in 2022. Further, senior Jack Sullivan will take the spot of Karlaftis at the defensive end position. Sullivan played in 11 games a season ago and finished the season with five tackles for loss and three sacks. The Penn State offensive line will have its hands full in the first game of the season without a traditional “tune-up” game.

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Battle of the Sixth Year Quarterbacks

As we mentioned, both teams are returning their sixth-year quarterbacks in 2022. The differences? Clifford lost Jahan Dotson to the NFL, but he has a completely reloaded wide receiver, tight end, and running back groups. Whereas Purdue and O’Connell could struggle early in the season. O’Connell lost Purdue’s top receiver, David Bell to the NFL. Bell had nearly 100 receptions in 2021. The next closest receiver was Milton Wright with 57. Wright, however, is academically ineligible. The Boilermakers will now look to TJ Sheffield and Broc Thompson to pick up the slack. Both had good seasons in 2021 but were just outshined by Bell and Wright. Sheffield finished 2021 with 36 receptions and five touchdowns. Thompson finished with 30 receptions and four touchdowns.

Even with those two, the Nittany Lions still have an edge here. O’Connell had a great 2021 campaign, but he also had a whole host of receivers to choose from. Let’s see what he can do with limited resources. Clifford needs to stay upright. This leads back to the offensive line but also hinges on a much improved running back group. To the surprise of probably nobody, Nick Singleton has made his mark in Happy Valley, but there is another true freshman that is also turning heads. Kaytron Allen from IMG Academy made his name known this summer. Head Coach James Franklin stated in his availability to the media, “Both big, strong, powerful backs that can make you miss and break tackles.” They will just need to make it past the point of impact, something that the backs couldn’t do a season ago. With Keyvone Lee leading the way, look for the two true freshmen to start making noise sooner rather than later.

Where do they stand?

If the Penn State defense can contain the limited receiving unit for Purdue it will force the Boilermakers to run the ball into the Nittany Lions’ defensive front. This unit will be tested early under new Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz. If the new Penn State defense can hold, it will be up to Clifford and co. to score points. Penn State has the weapons, it will just come down to if it can get them going. We will see it Thursday under the lights at Purdue.

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