Pregame Predictor: ARMY
The Jet Sweep became this year’s version of the "Wildcat", much to some fans chagrin and a kid named Saquon Barkley hurdled his way into our wildest expectations. We lost a starter in Nyeem Wartman-White, but gained a good hold on the future of Linebacker U with Jason Cabinda and Troy Reeder. In Week 3, the book was closed on one perceived rival and a primetime audience was once again given the gift of the best crowd in College Football with the debut of the Penn State Stripe Out. To top it all off, the month was closed in style as the biggest Wild Dog of them all, Austin Johnson, rumbled his way for a 71yd TD. All 320lbs of him! It wasn't always the prettiest, but the first quarter of Penn State Football MMXV has already proved a memorable one.
As the leaves change, the beaches fade into memory and Hurricane Joaquin makes its way up the east coast, we enter the second quarter of the season in style. The Army Black Knights come into town and the Nittany Lions will welcome them in the highest honor with Military Appreciation Day at Beaver Stadium. Despite the threat of high winds and rain, the events surrounding the game makes this one a must-see event. Head Coach Jeff Monken and his squad are coming into this one off their first victory of the season, a 58-36 dismantling of Eastern Michigan. In that contest, Army ran up over 500 yards rushing, led by their QB Ahmad Bradshaw who has tallied 341yds and 4 TD's on the season, along with his 190yds and 3 TD's passing.
Army lives and dies by running the triple option on offense and could be going into Saturday without its star quarterback who left last week’s win late with an undisclosed injury. As of mid-week Bradshaw was listed as the starter, but has not yet been confirmed to play. If Bradshaw can't go, look for Aaron Kemper (241yds rushing) and Joe Walker (156yds) to pick up the slack. Defensively, the Black Knights have struggled and come into the contest with an 84th ranked overall defense.
With Army averaging a very healthy 5.9 yards per rush attempt, the Nittany Lion front seven will have their hands full once again. Carl Nassib (the nation’s leader in sacks with 7), Garrett Sickels, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson will be active against the run all day. Starting safeties Jordan Lucas and Marcus Allen are both expected to make their return after missing last week’s win. Their availability should make a huge difference helping corral the Black Knight weapons. Offensively, I expect both Barkley and Akeel Lynch to sit this one out as they nurse last week’s injuries. A name to keep an eye on in their place is Jonathan Thomas. Mark Allen and Nick Scott are the starters but Thomas should get his number called for the first time all year. Under normal conditions, given Army's porous pass defense, this game would be an opportune time for Christian Hackenberg and his receivers to spend 60minutes playing pitch and catch. Unfortunately, the weather is going to dictate that so expect to see a heavy dose of running on both sides.
It's not often that an opponent comes into Happy Valley that brings more respect and admiration from the home crowd than one of the service academies. The cadets out of West Point are the epitome of honor and dignity. The sacrifices they make in the name of freedom is what makes them the true heroes of America. Be loud, be Penn State proud as always, but make sure you give a thank you to the visiting team. They've earned it. Penn State 41 Army 12.