Breaking it down: Penn State has to adjust vs. Buffalo
Who: Buffalo vs. Penn State
When: 12 p.m. ET
Where: Beaver Stadium, Penn State
TV: Big Ten Network
Spread: Penn State -21
Matchup to watch: Joe Licata vs. Anthony Zettel
The Buffalo quarterback can sling it. The program’s all-time touchdown pass leader isn’t afraid to hang in the pocket and let it fly. That should present Zettel with plenty of chances to get some hits. The Penn State defensive tackle can generate inside pressure like few can, which will be especially important against the Bulls’ productive offense. Zettel doesn’t necessarily have to get sacks, but the more he reminds Licata of his presence with hurries, the more the Buffalo offense will be limited.
Thing I’m excited to see: James Franklin’s offensive adjustments
Nothing worked last week. Rip up whatever game plan that was and come up with something new. I understand that if you can’t block anybody, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. But with the pressure Hackenberg faced in last week’s 10-sack drubbing, maybe James Franklin could’ve called for a few halfback draws. Akeel Lynch only had five carries after the first quarter. You know, when he scored a 41-yard touchdown. I get that Lynch is not much of a pass-blocker, but he needs to be getting more work than that. Penn State ran the ball on consecutive plays ONCE vs. Temple. That stat should never happen for a Big Ten team, especially one struggling to protect the quarterback. Changes must be made on the play-calling side.
Number to remember: 0
That’s the amount of full-time starters Buffalo returns on its defensive line. Combined, they have 13 career starts. In other words, if Penn State can’t block the Bulls, the defense and special teams are going to have to do all the scoring this year. An inexperienced MAC front four — in the second game with a new coach — should not be able to push around a Big Ten offensive line. Period. Preparation, communication, and execution…all three have to happen up front before the Lions can look like a Power Five team again.
Prediction: Penn State 28, Buffalo 10
Call me crazy, but it cannot get any worse than last week. Franklin is too good of a coach to have this group unprepared mentally or physically this week. At home, I say the Lions run for 200 yards and take some of the pressure off Hackenberg. The defense forces four turnovers and prevents Licata from having much success downfield. It won’t bury the memory of Temple, but at the very least, Saturday will give Lions fans a reason to move on.