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Penn State Starts 2023 With West Virginia

Penn State looks for its 43rd with against West Virginia to start the 2023 season. This is a series that dates back to 1904.

Penn State hasn’t faced the West Virginia Mountaineers since October 24, 1992. That is 31 years without going head-to-head. The Nittany Lions prevailed in that last game 40-26. Overall, Penn State is 42-6-1 against the Mountaineers. The series started in 1904 and ended with a four-game win streak. Not only will the Nittany Lions be facing a former foe, but they will be starting the 2023 season at home. Penn State is 27-1 against West Virginia at home. The Nittany Lions haven’t started a season in Beaver Stadium since 2019. That season started with a 79-7 win over Idaho. Since then the boys in blue have been on the road to start the season. The Nittany Lions went 2-1 against Big Ten opponents. Fans are excited to be home, starting the season at night, under the lights, in a Helmet Stripe game against an old foe.

Penn State Looks for Win 43 Against West Virginia

There will be a new-look offense and several new faces on defense for Penn State in 2023. Gone is longtime starting quarterback, Sean Clifford. Clifford will be the backup for the Green Bay Packers in 2023. While Head Coach James Franklin has yet to name a starter, it will likely be sophomore Drew Allar under center this season. With redshirt freshman Beau Pribula backing him up. As a freshman last season, Allar appeared in 10 games in relief for Clifford. He threw four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and 344 yards. Fans saw flashes from the young signal caller but will be looking for more this season after getting some quality experience in garbage time in 2022.

Run or Pass Against West Virginia?

Look for the sophomore, Allar, to lean heavily on running back duo Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen early in this season opener before testing the ball through the air. With the wide receivers, outside of the tight ends, being relatively unproven, Singleton and Allen will be a safety net for Allar to start the season, and he will likely use it. Singleton and Allen ended their freshman campaigns with a combined rushing yard total of 1,928 and 24 total touchdowns. Singleton ended his freshman season as a 1,000-yard rusher, both will look to accomplish that in 2023.

Look for them to get a nice start against a West Virginia defense that allowed an average of 149.6 rushing yards per game a season ago. With Clifford at the helm, the Penn State offense averaged 181.1 rushing yards per game in 2022. That average should be steady in 2023 with a veteran offensive line in front of a very strong running back duo and a highly anticipated quarterback.

On the other hand, don’t be surprised if Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich decides to test the Mountaineers’ secondary early. The West Virginia secondary is also unproven, with many young and inexperienced faces. However, there are two players in the secondary for the Mountaineers for fans to pay attention to. Aubrey Burks and Marcis Floyd are the only two with meaningful playing time a season ago. Burks ended the 2022 season with 46 solo tackles throughout 11 games. Floyd was right behind him with 44 solo tackles through 12 games.

Penn State Defense Against Mountaineer Offense

The Nittany Lion defense will look to silence any doubters early in this first contest. Several starters along the defensive line and in the secondary have left for the NFL, leaving some young players to fill big shoes. However, notably, these young players made their own impact a season ago and Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz will not allow the defensive standard to drop in 2023. All eyes will be on Chop Robinson this season and in this opening game. The former Maryland transfer ended his first season with the Nittany Lions with 10 tackles for loss and five-and-a-half sacks through 12 games in 2022.

He’s not the only defender that the Mountaineer offensive line will have to account for. Sophomore linebacker Abdul Carter is looking to build off of a productive freshman campaign. As a freshman in 2022, Carter was responsible for 56 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and six-and-a-half sacks. Even with an improving offensive line, with a healthy mix of veterans and young blood, West Virginia will have its hands full with Robinson and Carter under the lights to start the season.

The Mountaineers are involved in a quarterback battle of their own heading into this contest. There is dual-threat Garrett Greene, who is the likely starter. Then there is 2022 four-star quarterback Nicco Marchiol. Of the two, Greene has more experience. While the quarterback is important, all eyes will actually be on the running back position and Head Coach Neal Brown’s rush-heavy approach.

West Virginia was 5-0 when rushing for over 200 yards last season. Even with the Nittany Lions having some trouble with the run last season, the unit only gave up over 200 yards rushing one time. That was to eventual Big Ten champion Michigan. The Penn State defensive line and linebackers must key in on the run and trust the secondary to take care of business through the air.

Final Thoughts

The first game of the year is stressful for all programs. This is why you see schools scheduling what fans call “tune-up games”.  The Nittany Lions haven’t had a tune-up game since 2019. West Virginia is an opponent that fans cannot take lightly. Yes, the season opener is at home. Yes, it is under the lights. Finally, yes, it is essentially a White Out. However, there is a young quarterback for the Nittany Lions. Look for him to rely on his running backs and offensive line. The Penn State defense should start where it left off in 2022 but must keep the Mountaineers’ rushing attack in check. Look for Kalen King, Carter, and Robinson to have big starts to 2023.



Photo courtesy: Dan Rainville / USA TODAY NETWORK


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