Penn State looks to continue to light up the scoreboard this week with another home game after putting 79 points on the board last week against Idaho. This week, the Nittany Lions welcome MAC contender Buffalo to Beaver Stadium for the third meeting between the two programs.
Both Penn State and Buffalo opened the year with easy wins against FCS opponents, and it might be difficult to really gauge where each team stands after Week 1. However, both teams showed some strengths that should carry through the season. Both had solid debuts running the football, and the defenses were up to the task. Should we expect more of that in Week 2? Perhaps, although we could see a few more wrinkles in each team’s offense as the degree of difficulty increases.
Buffalo at Penn State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Penn State -29.5
When Buffalo has the Ball
Like Penn State, Buffalo also broke in a new starting quarterback last week. Freshman Matt Myers became the first freshman to start at the position for Buffalo in nearly three decades, but he didn’t quite light up the box score (5-of-10 passing for 69 yards, two touchdowns). Of course, throwing the football wasn’t exactly needed against Robert Morris, an FCS opponent, so it remains to be seen just how effective the passing game will be against the Nittany Lions.
Buffalo did rely heavily on the running game last week with a team rushing total of 285 yards with three touchdowns. Jaret Patterson led the way with 90 rushing yards on 12 carries with a touchdown, and Kevin Marks added 75 yards on 13 rushing attempts. Expect the Bulls to try and get the running game going on the road to control the clock as much as possible, but running against Penn State’s defense may be difficult.
Penn State held Idaho to just four total rushing yards, although that includes yards lost by sacks of the quarterbacks. Idaho and Buffalo are also on different levels, so it stands to reason that the Bulls should have more production on the ground. Yetur Gross-Matos picked up 2.5 of those sacks last week and should be counted on to bring pressure again this week up front.
When Penn State Has the Ball
Penn State was able to get both quarterbacks — Sean Clifford and Will Levis — on the field last week, and if all goes well this week, that could happen again. But Clifford is the guy for the Nittany Lions, and his 280 passing yards, two touchdowns and 57 rushing yards against Idaho show he’s ready to contribute in a variety of ways if needed. Clifford did have room for improvement with his completion percentage, but maybe that can be chalked up to some first-game jitters for him and his receivers.
Penn State should have a strong running game this season as well. Starter Ricky Slade had just five carries last week against Idaho for nine yards and a touchdown, and he caught a pass for 26 yards. But last week was a good chance to get everyone involved against an overmatched opponent. Expect Slade to get more carries and more production this week. Journey Brown scored twice on the ground as Penn State rushed for 331 yards. Don’t expect quite that same output this week, but Penn State’s running game should be a strength again this week.
For the second straight week, Penn State has a clear edge in talent, skill and depth. Penn State’s defense should not have much trouble disrupting Buffalo’s freshman quarterback, who will be making his second career start in front of at least 90,000 fans this weekend under the lights. While this may not be a signature White-out extravaganza, a night game at Penn State can still be intimidating no matter the situation.
Clifford and the Penn State passing game should get on track early and often to help build a quick lead, and the running game and defense will handle it from there for the rest of the night. Penn State should be a comfortable winner Saturday night in Happy Valley.
Prediction: Penn State 49, Buffalo 17
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Patreon, on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.