Plenty of motivation exists for home finale

Five keys

Five things to look for as Penn State wraps up the regular season against Maryland with a lot riding on the line.

No. 1: Plenty to play for

Talk about story lines. It’s senior day, Trace McSorley’s final home game and a chance to play for a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl game (including an outside shot at the Rose Bowl).

It also could be James Franklin’s final game as Penn State’s coach, although a lot of things would have to happen for that to be the case, and the guess here is Franklin will be staying put at PSU.

There certainly will be a lot of emotions for the Nittany Lions, and one thing that’s always important in these kinds of games is to control the emotions as much as possible and just play the game.

If Penn State has a tough time doing that, Maryland is certainly capable of flirting with an upset here, regardless of what the two-touchdown point spread would indicate.


No. 2: Terps can run

Maryland has an excellent running game, led by Anthony McFarland, who had 298 yards rushing in last week’s OT loss to Ohio State.

The Terps are not much of a passing threat with Tyrrell Pigrome, however, and this is the third straight team PSU has faced that really struggles throwing the ball.

It’s tough to beat PSU with a one-dimensional offense, and the Lions also have improved throughout the year against the run. They should be able to make it tougher on the Terps on the ground from down to down, but they can’t get burned on some long runs like they have been at times.

No. 3: Young studs

Look for everyone involved to try and go out on a big note today, with Franklin wanting a big win and McSorley wanting big numbers.

So, let’s see if Ricky Rahne will dial up a bunch of aggressive playcalls getting the ball in the hands of excellent young receivers KJ Hamler, Jahan Dotson and Justin Shorter, as well as tight end Pat Freiermuth.

The deep passing game hasn’t been a major factor lately, but if Rahne allows McSorley to chuck it a bunch, the Lions could roll in a big way.

No. 4: Time to say goodbye

Franklin is correct in saying this senior class has been very special.

Coaches say that about every senior class, but when all is said and done, this group, led by McSorley, will have been responsible for the most incredible turnaround in program history.

A win today likely locks up a New Year’s Six bowl bid, probably the Peach Bowl, and even though the Lions don’t really have a signature victory this year, a chance to win 10 games would be memorable.

No. 5: Players to watch

PSU: Let’s go out on a limb and say heralded freshman WR Justin Shorter has the first big game of his career, whetting the fans’ appetite for next season.

Maryland: If the offensive line blocks well, the Terps’ running game is capable of having a big day.

Prediction: Penn State 32, Maryland 23

Follow @CoryGiger on Twitter for live updates and analysis throughout today’s game.