Pregame Predictor: The ‘Return the Favor’ Game

Pregame Predictor: The ‘Return the Favor’ Game

"Georgia State," you say under your breath. Well, I’ve got two words for you that pretty much explain it all: Blake Gilliken. That’s right, Nittany Lion sophomore and punting extraordinaire Blake Gilliken. Did you see that punt he dropped inside the three-yard line last Saturday against Pitt? Have you caught a glimpse of his hang-time while speeding bullets in Blue and White race down and smother the punt returner? Have you noticed the difference in field position we have had since, oh say, 2015? A huge factor in that: Blake Gilliken. This week, if you find yourself asking why we schedule a program that’s only a few years old in Georgia State, I'm inclined to give you two words: Blake Gilliken. And to let you know it’s simply time we return the favor.

You see, long before Jim Harbaugh and his massive ego came along and ruffled too many feathers that essentially put an end to the practice, James Franklin spent his first summer as Penn State's head coach running what we now know as satellite camps. He held one in Florida, one in the coveted 757 area code of Virginia, and one in, you guessed it, Georgia. If you guessed that he held the Georgia camp on the grounds of Georgia State University, you'd be right once again. A direct result of that camp in the summer of 2014: Blake Gilliken. Born and bred in the Peachtree State, the Nittany Lion Special Teams Unit have not looked back ever since his arrival last summer. Pure genius on the part of FrankLion, those camps have clearly paid huge dividends and are likely to pay more down the road as that southern exposure continues to grow. There’s no denying James Franklin is master at recruiting and this is a prime example of why. Not only does he have the fire to venture into unchartered waters, but he gains their respect by returning the favor as well.


As for the game itself, Penn State enters this week as 38-point favorites. There is little intrigue as far as the outcome goes. The Panthers are in their infancy as a program; however, they’re not immune to the Big Ten-caliber challenge and actually led Wisconsin, on their home turf in Madison, 17-13 heading into the fourth quarter last September before succumbing 23-17. Other than that, not much else has gone right for Georgia State and all signs point to total domination on Saturday night as Penn State looks to work out its remaining kinks before plunging head first into conference play next week in Iowa.

It's hard not to look past this week and instead focus on the gauntlet that lies ahead. But once again, that FrankLion genius comes shining through if you just dig deep enough to find it. If Akron was a warm-up to Pitt, consider this one an audition. Many of those who have asked ‘why Georgia State?’ have also wondered why this one's under the lights instead of the usual noon start for the cupcake games. Look no further than next week’s road test in Iowa, prime-time, under the lights. See what he did here? After four years, I am finally starting to understand the method to his madness! Enjoy the audition and a chance to catch your breath, respect the ‘return the favor' game for what it is, and buckle your chinstraps Nittany Nation. For all his talk of one week at a time, I'm beginning to see that Mr. Franklin has a precise eye on the future as well. Penn State rolls 56-0.