Penn State Football: Go Behind Enemy Lines with Northwestern

Penn State Football
Penn State Football Defensive End Chop Robinson (44) and Safety Jaylen Reed (7) and Cornerback Kalen King (4) and Safety Keaton Eillis (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

No. 11 Penn State Football aims to remain unbeaten, as the Big Ten schedule resumes with the Nittany Lions playing host to Northwestern, on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. inside Beaver Stadium.

For this week’s edition of Behind Enemy Lines, we spoke with Louie Vaccher of 

Vaccher opened up about Northwestern’s keys to pulling off an upset, what should worry James Franklin and the Lions, and more.

What are your Initial thoughts on Penn State Football vs Northwestern?

Vaccher: This is not a good matchup for the Wildcats.

NU is coming off of three straight home losses to underdogs.

Defensively, they’ve missed assignments and allowed a lot of big plays, and Penn State has the type of talent at skill positions that can take advantage of them. Offensively, they’ve turned the ball over at inopportune times all season.

In NU’s one win this season, they had a 3-1 turnover advantage and beat Nebraska. Since then, they’ve been on the wrong end of the turnover ratio in all three of their losses for a combined total of 9-2.


2. Who on Northwestern’s offense should Penn State be concerned\

Vaccher: Northwestern doesn’t have any real game-breakers that will keep Manny Diaz up at night.

Ryan Hilinski has been inconsistent, but he’s a pretty good quarterback. He can make all the throws, but he’s not very mobile and the offensive line could have issues with Penn State’s front.

The Wildcats’ best position group is running back, where Evan Hull and Cam Porter give them a formidable 1-2 punch. Hull is the Wildcats’ No. 1 rusher and receiver, with more than 300 yards in each category. He’s a one-cut guy with some long speed, while Porter is more of a power back.

Northwestern’s best chance on Saturday will be to get the ground game going, which will enable them to control the clock and shorten the game.

3. For those who don’t follow Northwestern, what makes this matchup very interesting

What could make this otherwise lopsided matchup intriguing is that Northwestern has been in spots like this before and managed to turn things around. In 2016, they started 0-2 with a loss to Illinois State and wound up winning the Pinstripe Bowl. In 2018, they were 1-3 with an ugly home loss to a bad Akron team to start the season and then won seven straight Big Ten games to capture the West title. And, Penn State fans might remember 2014, when the Wildcats were 1-3, including a loss to Northern Illinois, and then went into Happy Valley to knock off 4-0 Penn State, 29-6, in James Franklin’s first season.  You never know what you’re going to get with the Wildcats.

4. What is one reason why Northwestern defeats Penn State

Vaccher: Short of a COVID outbreak on Friday in State College? It’s hard for to make a case for the Wildcats winning this one.

If they can take care of the football and play a clean game (which they haven’t done all year), and can force a few turnovers (Penn State has one all season), then maybe they can keep it close.

But, to beat the Nittany Lions in their first true road game, as a 26.5-pound underdog, and coming off of consecutive losses to FCS and MAC teams? That’s a big ask.

I think the Wildcats could make it interesting for a while, but, if they continue to play the way they have so far this season, the potential for an epic beatdown is definitely there.

Penn State Football
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David Malandra Jr.

David Malandra Jr.

I am Sports Reporter that covers Pro & College Sports in Philadelphia