Penn State Football

The Case for Penn State Football vs. West Virginia as Annual Rivalry

There is a certain buzz when a new season begins and that’s what we have up at State College as Penn State Football gets ready to kick off the 2023 season against West Virginia from Beaver Stadium.

Each week, to get a feel for the Nittany Lions‘ upcoming opponent, we will get the perspective of someone who covers the team and knows them inside and out, including what might have Penn State on upset alert.

To begin the 2023 version of Behind Enemy Lines I spoke to West Virginia reporter Ryan Decker of Gold And Blue Nation, you can follow Ryan on X (formerly known as Twitter, @RyanDecker_)

Your Initial thoughts on Penn State Football vs. West Virginia

I’m glad to see this series get renewed.

Growing up in West Virginia, I have heard stories of the WVU-Penn State rivalry, but this is the first time the game will be played in my lifetime. So, not only am I glad to see it get renewed, but it’s awesome that the game will be played in prime time on a national network (NBC).

It will be great to see the rivalry return to Morgantown next fall, but until then this is a matchup we’ve been looking forward to all offseason.

Who on Offense should Penn State Football be concerned about?

Running back CJ Donaldson is the easy, or obvious, answer to this question.

Many outside WVU likely don’t know that CJ is a converted tight end who broke onto the scene as a running back both locally and nationally in last year’s season-opener against Pitt. He missed the end of last season due to injury, but even while only appearing in seven games he led West Virginia in rushing touchdowns (8) and was second on the team in rushing yards.

Of course, there are other players of note on the WVU offense — QB Garrett Greene, WR Devin Carter, C Zach Frazier to name a few –, but Donaldson is the type of player who has big-play potential every time he touches the ball.

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Do you want Penn State Football and West Virginia to play every year or every other year

Having games like WVU-Penn State on the schedule every year, or every other year, would be great.

As many who cover and love the sport have said over the past several years, college football is losing so many regional contests like WVU-Penn State. So, yes, I would love to see the series continue past its scheduled date of 2024.

I’m not sure how feasible that is with how rapidly and monumentally college football is changing, but it would be great to see games like this get played more often in the nonconference slate for both teams.

For those who don’t follow West Virginia what makes this matchup very interesting

Season No. 5 of the Neal Brown Era gets started with arguably the program’s toughest test since he took over.

One thing that seems clear the closer we get to kickoff is that WVU is planning to play a number of its young players. Three, in particular, on the offense that West Virginia fans are excited by are wideouts Rodney Gallagher III and Traylon Ray, and running back Jahiem White. Gallagher and Ray were two of WVU’s highest-rated recruits in the most recent recruiting class, and both appear to have bright futures. White is the youngest member in West Virginia’s running back rotation which appears to be as strong as it has been in a long time.

Aside from those players, this is a good chance for veteran Mountaineer players like LB Lee Kpogba, S Aubrey Burks, and DL Sean Martin to prove they can play against one of the top teams in the nation, as all three have pro football aspirations.

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What is one reason why West Virginia defeats Penn State Football

If WVU is to pull the monumental upset against Penn State, it feels like almost everything will need to go West Virginia’s way.

If WVU wins, three things likely happened early in the game: 1. West Virginia established its running game, and got a couple of big touchdown runs from CJ Donaldson, Jahiem White, and others, which will also take pressure off the quarterback; 2. By comparison, WVU’s defense limited Penn State’s running game, or at least didn’t let Allen and Singleton run rampant, as they are certainly capable of doing; and 3. West Virginia successfully dealt with the crowd noise, and didn’t let the 100,000-plus Penn State fans become a proverbial 12th man.

 

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David Malandra Jr.

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