Two games into the 2017 college football season, it's clear that Penn State is on a mission to prove that winning the Big Ten was not a fluke last season. After a blowout win against Akron and a solid showing against Pittsburgh last week, the Nittany Lions prepare for a prime-time clash with Georgia State in the first meeting between the two programs.
Penn State and Georgia State have established a working relationship through their work at satellite camps, but friendships will be put aside as Penn State looks for one final tuneup before entering Big Ten play on the road next week against Iowa. Do the Panthers have a chance to score a massive upset, or will Saquon Barkley and company keep the engines running for a decisive victory in Beaver Stadium?
Georgia State at Penn State
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State -37.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Getting Trace McSorley locked in
This may sound strange for a quarterback who has completed 62.3 percent of his passes for 444 yards and five touchdowns through two games (not to mention what he has done with his feet), but there have been a few moments where McSorley has looked just a tad off with his passes or decision-making. Fortunately for Penn State, it has not hurt them in the first two weeks, and a mistake or two in this game probably won't cost Penn State a win either. But heading into Big Ten play, it would be a boost of confidence if McSorley could connect with his receivers early against a sneaky-veteran secondary.
2. Big game for Saquon Barkley, or spread the ball around?
Georgia State is coming into Happy Valley with the nation's 116th-ranked rushing defense. The Panthers allowed 238 rushing yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening loss to Tennessee State. Even with a week to prepare for Penn State, there are a lot of holes to plug. The question is how long Saquon Barkley gets to pile up his yardage before James Franklin plays it wise and gets his deep running back roster involved. There's no need to use Barkley more than needed it this weekend, unless Georgia State finds a way to hang around and keep things interesting. The ideal situation for Penn State: Barkley will rush for 150 yards and a couple of scores in the first half before turning the ball over to Miles Sanders.
3. Georgia State's first game on natural grass since 2015
It may not make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, but it will be interesting to note that this will be the first time Georgia State has played a football on a natural grass surface since 2015. The last time the Panthers played on grass was in a Sun Belt Conference game against in-state rival Georgia Southern, but the last time they played on grass in a nonconference game was in 2014, at Clemson. This will mark just their eighth time on a natural grass surface in eight years of playing college football.
There should not be too much reason to overanalyze what is about to happen Saturday night in Beaver Stadium. Penn State's offense may be the best in the Big Ten, and the defense has played very well in the Nittany Lions' first two games of the season. More importantly, Penn State has not slumped out of the gates following a successful run to a Big Ten title a year ago, and the Lions appear poised to make another run at the conference championship this season. Georgia State won't do much to stand in the way, even if the Panthers secondary makes a few plays early on. Look for Penn State to start quickly and put this one on cruise control in the second half.
Prediction: Penn State 55, Georgia State 13
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.