Penn State scored one of the biggest wins in Week 1 of the college football season, and now the Nittany Lions are coming home to play the defending MAC champions, Ball State. After the Nittany Lions turned things up on defense against Wisconsin last week, it is time to see if the Penn State offense can get off to a better start at home.
Ball State isn’t the kind of team that should be expected to be a pushover opponent for Penn State, however. The Cardinals pack plenty of veteran experience with one of the most experienced teams Penn State will face this season. Head coach Mike Neu says his team will be ready for a challenge as Penn State opens the doors to Beaver Stadium for fans for the first time since the 2019 season.
Will Penn State be able to slow down a potent Ball State offense and avoid a major upset at home?
Ball State at Penn State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 11 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Penn State -22.5
When Ball State Has the Ball
Ball State packs plenty of upperclassmen across the entire offense, giving the Cardinals a unit that should be more than comfortable playing together. Quarterback Drew Plitt passed for 2,164 yards and 17 touchdowns in eight games last season and he has the NCAA’s active leader in career receptions yards in Justin Hall. Hall is closing in on the school record for most career receiving yards, but getting the 182 yards he needs against the Penn State secondary should be difficult.
Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker came up big for the highly-respected secondary last week, and it should be expected the defense will be a little more rested in this matchup. Penn State’s defense was on the field for nearly 43 minutes last week against Wisconsin, and they still only yielded 10 points.
When Penn State Has the Ball
Penn State’s offense was nowhere to be seen in the first half of last week’s game, which could be attributed to being the first game out under a new offensive coordinator going up against a vaunted Wisconsin defense. But things started to come together for the offense after halftime as Sean Clifford got in a rhythm, Jahan Dotson made some big catches, and Noah Cain started to get going on the ground with some momentum. Penn State has room to improve on offense and should have an easier time getting off on the right foot this week.
Penn State should be able to connect early and often through the air. Ball State allowed 367 passing yards and three touchdowns to FCS Western Illinois last week, allowing the Leathernecks to complete 70 percent of their pass attempts. If Penn State can’t get the passing game going early, that should be a tad concerning for the Nittany Lions.
Ball State isn’t just looking to show up to Beaver Stadium to receive a paycheck. The Cardinals are a confident team that will be more difficult to put away than some Penn State fans may want to admit. But this is a game that favors the Nittany Lions in every category down the list, with the notable exception of placekicking. But concerns about extra points and field goals shouldn’t come back to haunt Penn State in this one.
Prediction: Penn State 38, Ball State 17
Podcast: Week 2 Preview, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread