Five things to look for as Penn State looks to rebound from last week's loss to Central Florida and regain some confidence heading into a bye week.
No. 1: Don't overanalyze
Let's be honest here, these are really the five reasons Penn State will win:
1. It's Kent State
2. It's not Central Florida
3. Blake Bortles isn't the opposing quarterback
4. UCF's receivers aren't playing
5. The Nittany Lions will tackle these guys
Central Florida was better than everyone who follows Penn State realized.
Kent State is probably worse.
That is all.
But, since this is the five keys story ...
No. 2: Start fast
Penn State's offense has to score touchdowns early against a poor Kent State defense, setting the tone from the outset rather than letting the underdog hang around and think it has a chance. If Kent State keeps things close into the third quarter, then the Lions actually do have bigger problems than many people realize.
Look for Christian Hackenberg to come out firing and have a big day through the air. The offense needs a big day, needs to solve its third-down issues and needs to work out any other kinks because the next game at Indiana could be a wild shootout.
No. 3: Tackle
This one doesn't need any explanation after last week's poor performance.
No. 4: KSU limited
The Golden Flashes are expected to be without their best offensive player, running back Dri Archer, a speedy and multi-talented threat who probably would give PSU's defense trouble.
Archer has an ankle injury, and without him, Kent State's offense will depend very heavily on the throwing and running skills of quarterback Colin Reardon. Running back Trayion Durham could pose some problems, but only if PSU's tackling efforts don't improve.
No. 5: Player to watch
There are any number of offensive players to choose from, but the big thing to look for today will be defensive improvement from Penn State.
Given that, keep an eye on defensive end Deion Barnes and on cornerbacks Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams. The Lions will need those three to play well in the Big Ten, and they can use a strong showing today after struggling last week.
Prediction: Penn State 40, Kent State 13