PSU will need to rely on ground game
Five things to look for as Penn State plays its final home game of the season — and almost certainly the final home game of Saquon Barkley’s career — against a struggling Nebraska team.
No. 1: Run, run, run
It would be great to see Barkley have a huge day, and it’s certainly possible given how bad Nebraska has been at stopping the run.
The Cornhuskers, who play a 3-4 scheme, are 105th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 200 yards per game. The Nittany Lions have had lots of trouble running the ball the second half of the season, but that absolutely should not be an issue today. If it is, well, the problems are bigger than anyone imagined.
Let’s put the over/under for Barkley’s rushing yards at 150, with at least one huge run.
No. 2: QB Lee cleared
Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee was in concussion protocol all week but has been cleared to play, coach Mike Riley told reporters Friday.
Lee is dangerous. Give him time to throw, and he will do some damage against PSU’s defense. He had 431 yards passing at Purdue and 303 against Ohio State (albeit in a 56-14 loss). He’s thrown for 2,539 yards this season, which is nearly as many as Trace McSorley (2,666).
The Lions have had issues pressuring the quarterback, so they’ll need to do some things with their rush schemes and blitzes to make sure and get to Lee.
Despite Lee’s return, the point spread remained at 27 as of late Friday night, a bit of a surprise. Usually that kind of news moves the needle a bit in a team’s direction.
No. 3: Emotional day
One potential issue on senior day is that players get so emotional beforehand that it can impact their play once the game starts.
This is a veteran PSU group, so that shouldn’t happen today. And the Lions have been so good in the first quarter all season, so they know how to turn it on when the time comes.
Still, a bad team like Nebraska will be hoping for any break to go its way early, so the Lions need to avoid letting that happen with a sloppy start.
No. 4: Enjoy this team
As Neil Rudel wrote in his column, this senior class has meant a lot to the PSU program.
There are so many quality seniors who play big roles and will be heavily missed next year. With their departures, the Lions will face numerous big questions, and there’s a good chance the program will take a bit of a dip after two terrific seasons.
Keep that in mind as you’re enjoying watching this special collection of talent today.
No. 5: Who to watch
PSU: It would only be fitting if Barkley has a monster day in his final home game.
Nebraska: The Huskers’ D-line, and front seven in general, have been awful against the run. Let’s see if they’ll have any success doing what several other teams have done against the Lions lately by placing heavy emphasis on stopping Barkley.
Prediction: Penn State 46, Nebraska 17
Follow @CoryGiger on Twitter for live updates and analysis throughout today’s game.